Aesthetics of Risk

“As a basic principle I pursue an approach of dialogue and try to collaborate with artists.”

Photo: Felicitas Thun-Hohenstein (left) and Renate Bertlmann (right) © Irina Gavrich

How is Felicitas Thun-Hohenstein going to curate the Austrian Pavilion for the 2019 Venice Biennale and expand the boundaries of the format in the process? What is special about the work of Biennale artist Renate Bertlmann? And what is Thun-Hohenstein going to discuss with RoseLee Goldberg, a US icon of performance theory, during VIENNA ART WEEK?

How do you approach the task of curating the Austrian Pavilion?
Felicitas Thun-Hohenstein: As a basic principle I pursue an approach of dialogue and try to collaborate with artists, in this case with Renate Bertlmann. She is developing a new work for our pavilion, a large installation. Bertlmann has been producing art for more than 40 years. Her œuvre forms the contextual background for her on-site work for the pavilion, and this is in turn reflected in the catalogue.

Are there any other initiatives apart from the pavilion?
Felicitas Thun-Hohenstein: I will expand the boundaries of the exhibition in terms of time and space, partly by organizing a series of “Biennale Lectures” with Andreas Spiegl and in cooperation with the Academy of Fine Arts. That means the Biennale will actually start in Vienna while the preparations are underway. Bertlmann’s work for Venice will be on display at the Upper Belvedere for another six months after the Biennale has ended.

What are the lectures about?
Felicitas Thun-Hohenstein: The Biennale will be critically examined and discussed as an exhibition institution that is culturally as important as it is controversial. This will take the form of lectures by scientists and artists. The series will begin in September with a lecture by Ralph Rugoff, the artistic director of Venice Biennale 2019. Artists Sophie Thun, Ipek Hamzaoğlu and Laura Nitsch will document all project activities with their cameras.

Is this format related to your previous research activities?
Felicitas Thun-Hohenstein: Examining how art is communicated has been part of my life for 20 years. I am also involved in a PEEK research project that addresses questions such as: What is a lecture? What is a panel, a workshop or an exhibition? The first Biennale lecture, “Art and the Artificial Boundaries of National Concepts of Culture,” will be given in the planetarium, for example. Jakob Lena Knebl will accompany the lectures with spatial interventions. The second topic, “Aesthetics of Risk,” will focus on feminist art. And the final lecture, “Politics of the Temporary,” will question the time corset imposed by exhibition formats, which ultimately contravene artistic practice.

What do you consider characteristic of Bertlmann’s work?
Felicitas Thun-Hohenstein: I would call it the “aesthetics of risk.” Her formal and conceptual radicalness and precision are as fascinating as her great interest in materiality in its willful obstinacy. A body of work consisting of objects, performances, films and videos, all accompanied by thousands of paper works since the 1970s. Permanent action with an artistic language of great intensity.

You will be talking to RoseLee Goldberg during VIENNA ART WEEK. How does your view of performance differ from Goldberg’s approach?
Felicitas Thun-Hohenstein: Goldberg has a background in modernist American theory, which in the late 1970s defined performance as a crossover generated from dance or theater. My approach defines performance art as an achievement of fine arts. For me, the live aspect is only one part, and often only a passage in the work of an artist. In the post-war years, European and American artists had very different concerns. In Vienna in particular the psychographics of the body were at the center, not in terms of analysis, but in terms of exposure after two world wars, and in terms of a reflection of social relationships.

Text by Helmut Ploebst:

Helmut Ploebst is a dance critic for Der Standard and other newspapers. He heads the Internet magazine CORPUSWEB. NET and has a teaching assignment for performance theory at the Anton Bruckner Private University’s Institute of Dance Arts in Linz.

Felicitas Thun-Hohenstein
About: born in Klagenfurt in 1964; now lives in Vienna.
Background: studied art history in Paris and Vienna. Curator; professor of art theory and cultural studies at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna since 2005.
Highlights: head of the Cathrin Pichler Archive for Science, Art, and Curatorial Practice; exhibition “Pro(s)thesis” in the Picture Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, co-curated by Berenice Pahl in 2016. Publications include “Performanz und ihre räumlichen Bedingungen. Perspektiven einer Kunstgeschichte” (Performance and its spatial conditions. Prospects of a history of art; Vienna, 2012). Current: curator of the Austrian pavilion for the 2019 Venice Biennale

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