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The Pursuit of Happiness: Austrian conceptual artist Dieter N. Buchhart exhibits at Y Gallery
Dieter Buchhart, Choose, 2014. Water Color, 10” x 11” with frame.

Text by Heike Strelow, Flora Schausberger

NEW YORK, NY.- In the exhibition “The Pursuit of Happiness” the Austrian conceptual artist Dieter N. Buchhart reflects on freedom of choice in our time, the fast pace of our present society and its influence on our means of communication. The title of the show quotes from a line in the United States Declaration of Independence, in which it is stated as one of the unalienable rights given to all human beings. Dieter N. Buchhart’s works confront the viewer with their desire to own and possess – as a core characteristic of capitalist society – and reflect on the fictional idea of autonomy in our decisions.

Dieter N. Buchhart’s fascination with icons and representation is a persistent topic throughout his oeuvre. Through the years he has collected images and objects that construct, shape and influence the aesthetics of our fast-paced information society and its often superficial modes of decision-making. These modern as well as historic icons constitute a cultural heritage for the generation that Dieter Buchhart is a part of. He reuses and transforms these collected or found images in his works, or intervenes in and adds details to historic works, as in his series of paper works.

His series of watercolors appropriate the “smiley” icon – a symbol well known to the public, which is used as an indicator of emotions in our daily communications. In these works the artist plays with the smiley icon and thus creates unique imaginary symbols that cannot be found in the digital world and are not part of the smartphone vernacular. The two large works “Like” and “Hate”, made with spray paint, reproduce the icon of the smiley in huge sizes and thereby reduce the symbol to its pure form, deprived of its meaning.

The installation “Choose” invites the viewers to participate and become part of the exhibition’s constructed world. While the market seemingly offers solutions for everyone and everything, choosing has become more difficult than ever. Software apps based on the simple “swipe” mechanism such as Tinder emerge in direct reaction to this abundance of options. By leaving the choice to the viewer, Dieter N. Buchhart’s installation contemplates on the challenge to direct our attention from the position of wanting, choosing and possessing, to the state of being and thinking. Through these interventions, it becomes possible for the artist and the public to deconstruct and question the construction of culture and the thin line dividing reality and fiction.

Dieter N. Buchhart was born in 1971, in Vienna, Austria. He holds two Ph.D. titles in Biology and Art History. He has been active as an artist, curator and writer, and has exhibited and curated exhibitions in numerous renowned international art institutions. He has exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art Foundation Wörlen, Passau/Germany, and the Institute for Contemporary Art, Copenhagen among others. In addition, his work was recently included in the Collection MUSA: the contemporary art collection of the Department for Cultural Affairs of the City of Vienna, and Artothek des Bundes: the collection of the State of Austria.

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