From December 2009 to February 2010, the kestnergesellschaft
is presenting an extensive solo exhibition by the Austrian-German artist Elke Krystufek.
Elke Krystufek, who represented Austria at the Venice Biennale in 2009 along with Dorit Margreiter and Franziska and Lois Weinberger, stands in the tradition of feminist artists such as Carolee Schneemann and VALIE EXPORT, but also in the tradition of artists without a specific political program such as Picabia, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Francesca Woodman and Duncan Grant. The artist works in various artistic genres from painting past fashion all the way to photography. In her oeuvre, which has been constantly growing since the middle of the nineteen-eighties, Krystufek is engaged in the search for a lost time.
There are no central themes in Elke Krystufek's works. Instead of a focus on gender, the romantic aspect of feminism is investigated. The artist enters into contentual alliances with living and deceased models such as Bas Jan Ader, Jenny Holzer, Jack Smith, Tracey Emin and Katarzyna Kozyra.
A central theme, if there were any central themes in Elke Krystufek's recent artistic practice, could be found in the critical analysis of young men. But in fact there are only peripheral themes. The artistic production of the artist is extremely superficial and, in similarity to Andy Warhol, is oriented towards the appealing illusion of the "stars." Being a star in an Elke Krystufek video is possible for anyone who is somewhat interested in asserting a certain presence in front of a camera.
For the exhibition "LESS MALE ART," however, she was only slightly concerned with the camera and instead embarked in search of the women artists who have exhibited up to now in the Kestnergesellschaft. There have not been many. Their names shine with a reddish glow in a blue sea of men. Inasmuch as wall painting has already progressed relatively far, the artist is no longer surprised why, in so male-dominated an institution, it is difficult to trumpet forth a feminist position. It requires quite a lot of female wooden hammers to make it clear?to all seven exclusively male board members, to the curatorial committee consisting of eighteen men and one woman, as well as to the male director and the male curator?what constitutes contemporary feminist art in 2009/2010. Things are slightly easier with the to some extent female-staffed press office.
In her new video work, Elke Krystufek pursues an unknown goal. The intended start of the journey is the island Bora Bora, where Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau shot his final film "Tabu," but which is not visited because of the Dengue fever which has broken out there. Since the production time is limited, the archipelago of Palau, which is one of the South Sea islands closest to Europe and which was visited by Max Pechstein in 1914, becomes the substitute goal for the journey. Because of the massive budget deficits in the kestnergesellschaft, the video editing falls victim to the lack of funds. In an endeavor to attain autonomy?for example, the island of Palau only became independent in 1994?the artist renounces any support for the video project by her partner galleries and begins instead to investigate the symptoms of male attitudes to power within the kestnergesellschaft. The video work?originally entitled "SOUTH SEAS NORTH SEA-The Ocean of Bodily Liquids," then later simply called "Palau"?now comes to be called "Palau 1-below the male belt." Krystufek develops an interest in the obscure processes beneath the male belt line, namely desire, frustration, cutting an impressive figure, concealment. Men are controlled by their sexuality and not the other way around, she believes. She endeavors to translate this into video language. Whether she has been successful is something which you, dear audience, may judge.
"LESS MALE ART," however, is above all the painting exhibition of a painter?produced to ninety percent on the basis of photographic depictions of men. But how to explain these brushstrokes to the press? How to distinguish the difference between the panel paintings of the artist and the wall paintings of the house workers? A painting is an e-mail is a film. Or perhaps only a declaration of love with regard to the future.
With this exhibition, the kestnergesellschaft is continuing its interest in somewhat more special feminist artistic positions. Since its establishment, courageous exhibitions have been dedicated to only a few famous female artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Cindy Sherman and Maria Lassing. It remains to be seen whether, after the Elke Krystufek exhibition, the kestnergesellschaft handles feminist positions with somewhat more circumspection.