The exhibition series “Die andere Seite” [The Other Side] takes its name from Alfred Kubin’s eponymous novel, the only one he published. The artist himself illustrated the book in but four weeks and went on to become a pioneer of Surrealism in the German-speaking countries. The exhibition will be presenting a selection from the more heavily illustrated passages of the book that have been freely interpreted by artists from the following artists’ associations: Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Steiermarks, Künstlerbund Graz, and the Steiermärkischer Kunstverein Werkbund. The three exhibition venues will host the drawings, canvas paintings, and sculptures that correlate with the novel, with all works having been specially created for the 2013 exhibition round. All the three associations have intensively dedicated their efforts to exploring one volume each of the three-part novel.
Under the title “WEG” [Gone] the Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Steiermarks approximates the first two chapters of the novel’s first volume:
“The path from the familiar to the unknown. This ‘predestined’ path described by Alfred Kubin in the first two chapters ‘Besuch’ [Visit] and ‘Reise’ [Travel] serves to unite Styrian visual artists as both a reference and starting point for their own artistic paths to the ‘other side’—the yet unknown side. Here the fictitious destination of Kubin’s protagonist, the dream city called Perle, becomes a metaphor for divergent life-dreams/goals, even encompassing the ultimate destination in life: death. The journey thus becomes the absolute metaphor for life. The artistic projects dealing with this theme are just as rich in contrast as Kubin’s travel descriptions: ranging from realistic to surreal, naturalistic to abstract, glowing hot to frigidly cold, all the while immersed in a cool green.”
(Pamela Kircher, Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Steiermarks)
The Künstlerbund Graz, in turn, has selected the difficult fourth chapter “IM BANN" [Under a Spell] of the second volume:
“The continuous journey into the dreamworld comes to an end here—on the other side—scorched to a state defying supposed normality and the natural cycle of the world. The sun never shines here, nor does the moon— evoid of colour and entrapped in permanent fear, the realm dozes under a never-changing sky. Here one is under a spell, enchained, and bewitched by an unexplainable magical force that influences the masses and one another. Even individuals subconsciously find it increasingly hard to liberate themselves from the social network with all the system-relevant institutions and societal means of this surreal realm. Under the spell of silence and security the manipulation of foreign powers, people, laws, places, and universal forces plays out. One seems to be caught in this systematic dreamworld yet simultaneously enchanted in the artwork of life itself . . .”
(Michael Birnstingl, Künstlerbund Graz)
The Steiermärkischer Kunstverein Werkbund took on the last part of the dream journey in “HÖLLE” [Hell] from the third and final volume of the novel for their artistic pursuits:
“This oscillation in the debate, involving shuttered studio doors while artistic work is being pursued, on the one hand, and this visionary, chaotic satire on capitalism by Alfred Kubin as a template for the other. The difficulties in moving from the abysmal dreams of the Kubinesque dreamworld back into one’s own delimited reality prove to highly nourish creativity in this respect and in this gripping dialogue.”
(Curt Schnecker, Steiermärkischer Kunstverein Werkbund)
Text passages printed in the handout available at the exhibitions will additionally elucidate the surreal plot of Kubin’s classic. Nonetheless, any possible similarities between the location map of the city of Perle described in the novel and the actual geographic location of Graz remain coincidental.
Such specific questions involving an artistic treatment and critique of elements of narration, and the interpretation of narrative techniques and knowledge regimes in general, have represented for some time now an essential cross-media focus in contemporary art. As a result, these exhibitions revolve around these themes by taking up certain narrative moments of an especially diverse authorship within this series. It is not the one-to-one illustrations of a fantastically gloomy story that is meant to take centre stage here; an optional facet of the artistic investigation is also found in the reflections on one’s own practice and commentary on today’s current affairs.
A premodern narration with beginning, middle, and end with a claim to universal validity is today less possible than ever in view of the rampant media possibilities. Therefore, Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze’s onetime appeal, while primarily related to the reading of a book, can easily likewise be applied to any form of postmodern narrative. This appeal thus sketches an artistic approach that the series sets out to underscore:
“Find the parts . . . that make sense to you. We no longer read and write in the conventional way. There is no death of the book, only another way of reading. In a book there is nothing to be comprehended but a great deal on which one can draw. . . . The book is not a root-tree, it is a piece of a rhizome, the plateau of a rhizome for the reader it suits. The combinations, permutations, utilisations are never internal to the book, but depend on connections with a particular outside. Yes, take what you want.”
Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Rhizom (Berlin: Merve Verlag, 1977), pp. 40–41.
In conclusion, on the whole it is not the curatorial selection of individual positions for an annual exhibition that is at the heart of this exhibitions series by the artists’ associations, but rather the presentation of the diversity of artistic approaches in active engagement with a visually facilitated thematic focus. Beyond the limits of the individual dates, the series “Die andere Seite” with its collective nature can present itself to the public in an exciting and traceable arch.
Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Steiermarks
28.11.2013 – 10.12.2013
14.12.2013 – 05.01.2014 (closed 23.12. – 01.01.)
Steiermärkischer Kunstverein Werkbund
10.01.2014 – 23.01.2014