'Domestic Drama' opens at Halle Für Kunst Steiermark
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'Domestic Drama' opens at Halle Für Kunst Steiermark
Aram Bartholl, Pan, Tilt and Zoom, 2018. CCTV Kamera, Kabel. Variable Größe. Courtesy der Künstler.

GRAZ.- In 1960, Austrian-American psychologist Ernest Dichter published The Strategy of Desire, in which he presented his most important thoughts on the development of market and motivation research. On the basis of Freudian psychoanalysis, Dichter developed methods that he called “the art of influence,” designed to continually increase our desire for new commodities. At the center of his thinking rests the assumption that humans make decisions not on the basis of rational considerations but of emotions.

The large group show Domestic Drama is an attempt to trace and conjure up the “souls” that Dichter described, which are allegedly resting in our everyday objects. The scene of this search is a place that is highly formed by emotions: the home. In hardly any other place than our own four walls, otherwise hardly tangible but nonetheless essential categories are revealed—such as our social, economic, ethnic, and gender affiliations. Living somewhere can very directly shape our social belonging and participation, and in particular precisely whenever this basic need is not fulfilled or is precarious.

In our immediate present determined by the ongoing Corona pandemic, this condition has become clearer than ever—the “home” has been transformed from a refuge to a place of permanent production, where the borders between the private and the world of work have disappeared and where the conflicts that result from this, which formerly were enacted outside, are now negotiated in the interior of our private realms.

Domestic Drama represents an attempt to understand everyday objects not as tools and objects for use, but as representatives of all of these conflicts, and of wishes and desires that shape our identities. In contrast to a purely educational and analytic approach to the theme, this exhibition intends to use direct and diverse aesthetic and conceptual strategies to create a physical and psychological space in which the processes and mechanisms described above can be experienced.

As well as the ideas of Ernest Dichter, the theories of the renowned architecture critic Beatriz Colomina also play an important role. In her essay The Split Wall: Domestic Voyeurism (1992), Colomina coins the expression “domestic drama,” from which the exhibition takes its name. Colomina explores architectural concepts of living spaces whose design derives from stage-like situations, and also makes the subjects and objects in these spaces into the protagonists of a “domestic drama.”

The architecture and the exhibition galleries of HALLE FÜR KUNST thus receive a theatrical “makeover.” The Portuguese artist Bruno Zhu (born 1991 in Porto, lives in Amsterdam and Viseu) develops a site-specific exhibition architecture in dialogue with the exhibited works. Beginning with his technological expertise in the fields of fashion and interior design, Zhu makes objects that also embody the tension between the “habitual” and the culturally unknown. His hybridized objects take up a permanently tense relationship to their environments, critically addressing the mechanisms of symbolic representation.

With the intentionally “theatrical” appearance of the artistic works, and the cross-genre enactment of a living space, Domestic Drama wishes to invite visitors to participate physically. In a further step, the exhibition recognizes emotional states as key factors in our behavior and actions, which has now long been controlled not by ourselves as autonomous subjects but by the objects and processes that surround us. The poetic and also subversive and critical narrative that is spun in Domestic Drama thus attempts to focus our attention on the complexity of the questions and mechanisms of our everyday lives.

Curated by Cathrin Mayer

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