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First large-scale presentation of Maria Eichhorn's work in Austria on view at Kunsthaus Bregenz
Maria Eichhorn Public Limited Company, 2002. Installation view 2nd floor, Kunsthaus Bregenz. Photo: © Christian Hinz © Bildrecht, Wien, 2014 and Kunsthaus Bregenz.

By: Yilmaz Dziewior

BREGENZ.- There are only very few artists like Maria Eichhorn, whose work possesses such an extremely rigorous conceptual charisma but which also occasionally engages in a subtle humor, one with which she continually succeeds in being surprising. By means of visually minimal gestures, interventions, and large-scale works Maria Eichhorn analyzes, in vexingly enduring ways, behaviors that have been socially shaped as well as political and economic interrelationships. She frequently focuses her attention on the art system in particular.

A vivid example of this approach was her contribution to Documenta11 in Kassel (2002), when she used her project budget to found a corporation, the peculiar status of which prescribes that its capital may not increase. Since all the shares have been transferred to the corporation itself, that is, it holds all its own shares, the concept of ownership has now been resolved. This approach is diametrically opposed to the corporate structure’s usual goal, which is primarily that of increasing profits. Maria Eichhorn is exhibiting documents on the origins and continuation of her Documenta work, together with the founding capital of 50,000 Euros, neatly stacked in bundles of 100 brand new 500 Euro notes and presented in a display case let into the wall. The result is an eloquent and aesthetically impressive commentary on the relation of art and economics. As the artist has already done with other works, Maria Eichhorn Aktiengesellschaft (Maria Eichhorn Public Limited Company) has likewise been adapted to the exhibition environment. As a consequence she will not only be taking the architectural environment of the Kunsthaus into account, but is also extending the work to include documents that have been accrued in connection with the company’s continued existence and administration, since its last presentation at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven (2007–2010).

The breadth of Maria Eichhorn’s practice is again illustrated by her Film Lexicon of Sexual Practices: begun in 1999, she has produced 11 films to date, bearing such titles as Breast Licking, Cunnilingus, French Kissing, and Love Bite. These less than 3 minute long 16 mm films depict the activity named in the respective title, in detailed close-up. As part of the installation, visitors to the exhibition can choose a film from a complete list of titles attached to the wall, their selection will then be screened for them. The work, which is only activated by visitors making a selection, addresses both social norms and basic behavioral ones within an exhibition context.

Eichhorn’s work Curtain from 1989 is likewise based on the format of a series which spans a long period of time. To date it comprises a total of ten curtains, whose number and color were predetermined from the beginning, but which have only been realized piece by piece over the subsequent twelve years. In her exhibition at Kunsthaus Bregenz an existing denim curtain from this series completely covers one of the almost twenty meters long and over four meters high walls. Lectures on the anti- nuclear power movement and a library of materials dealing with this issue constitute an integral element of the denim curtain work.

In addition to updated versions of some of her best-known works, such as Maria Eichhorn Aktiengesellschaft (Maria Eichhorn Public Limited Company ), Film Lexicon of Sexual Practices, and Curtain (Denim) / Lectures by Yuko Fujita, Mika Obayashi, Maria Eichhorn’s exhibition at the Kunsthaus also includes a new work especially created for Bregenz. Despite all the rationality which seems, at first glance, to determine her work, not infrequent moments exist involving emotional and irrational questions, such as the relationship of people to money, sexuality, or, as in her new large-scale work especially produced for Bregenz, the locating of water with the aid of pendulums and dowsing sticks. For example what, on the third floor, at first glance looks like a floor piece in the tradition of Minimal Art, is on closer examination revealed to be the result of the measuring of various phenomena such as radiation from earth, water, and other emissions.

Following solo exhibitions in renowned institutions — in Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Japan, and Canada, amongst others — the exhibition at Kunsthaus Bregenz is the first large-scale presentation of Maria Eichhorn’s work in Austria.

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