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Agnieszka Kalinowska: Draughty House at Museum Moderner Kunst
Agnieszka Kalinowska, Doormen, 2006-2007, 57:39 min loop, Six-channel video installation (synchronized), © Agnieszka Kalinowska.

VIENNA.- Museum Moderner Kunst presents today Agnieszka Kalinowska: Draughty House, on view through June 14, 2009. Agnieszka Kalinowska (b. 1971) is one of the most successful artists of her generation in Poland. At the MUMOK Factory, she will be showing three videos and a sculpture, including a video installation that was created especially for the exhibition addressing the situation of asylum-seekers.

Kalinowska’s works often deal with human behavior in extreme situations: “If our life was an action movie, I would only focus on those moments where we show our strength and resiliency (…) where we resort to our sheer superhuman capacity to solve problems.” In her videos, sculptures and paintings, the artist distills individual quirks and unique locations into more universal symbolic images that relate to contemporary social and cultural trends. The exhibition presents the multifaceted spectrum of fields of observation and the interplay of different media in Kalinowska’s work.

In her most recent project the video “Draughty House” (2009) – which is also the title of her exhibition – the protagonists are asylum-seekers who have all fled to Austria for a variety of reasons. They talk about their respective pasts, about how they got to where they are and their expectations and dreams about what is to come. While they are talking, a fence-shaped sculpture (“The Fence”, 2009) divides the video from the audience. The fence hides the videos while at the same time suggesting a kind of transformative growth, making reference to the contradictory situation the protagonists are in. Object and video create a mixture of visual and intellectual points of reference reflected in the different forms of expression.

In “Doormen” (2006/2007), we encounter similar issues of communication barriers and lines of social demarcation. Kalinowska interviewed six doormen from luxurious hotels in New York, mounting the interviews together into one complete projection. The audience has the sense of taking part in a conversation with them, as this otherwise “invisible” profession recounts many of the fascinating things they have seen, felt and experienced. They talk about their work, but also about their own opinions about politics and their private lives. As representatives of a socially disadvantaged class – who talk both about themselves and the various wealthy hotel guests they have contact with – the doormen suddenly jump out from the background role they typically play and their conversation becomes a poignant representation of and statement about social conditions. Their outsider status gives them the distance necessary to make a critical appraisal of their own lives in contrast to those who pass by them everyday.

One of the most important aspects of Agnieszka Kalinowska’s video projections is their special concentration on the relationship between the viewer and space. “Emergency Exit” (2005) shows a woman cramping herself into a ventilation duct high up above. A rat nearby and the humming sound of the ventilator, along with the lofty position of the projection right beneath the ceiling of the exhibition space, accentuate the menacing realism of the scene. Like in a film, the duct is open in the front, making it possible for the audience to follow her movements. However, it remains unclear if her movements are part of a classic Hollywood-style escape or if it is in fact a question of somebody penetrating into a building.

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