2018 Kunsthalle wien Exhibition
Performative elements, works that transform over time, modifications of everyday objects and popular culture icons – as well as a rich field of reference to iconic moments in political and intellectual history – characterize his artistic practice. Employing different media, his practice continually questions our habitual ways of seeing things, reflecting on the ways the connection between meaning and experience constantly takes shape. He does not consider the relation between an art object and a viewer in a linear way but rather as a dynamic process.
“The method” as an artistic approach to work
There Is No Place Before Arrival focuses on issues arising from a particular “method”. This method not only determines the way Nicolai conceives and realizes his work, but also becomes a type of work itself. At Kunsthalle Wien Olaf Nicolai has commissioned several street and theatre painters to paint onto the floor a pool of twenty-two images of different kinds selected from his personal archive of newspaper clippings. The entire space is left empty without any artificial architectural intervention, presenting a gigantic “carpet” of images on which the visitors are able to walk over and around. The constellation of captivating and evocative images with both political and poetic connotations composes a tableau made of diverse sizes and scales. The audience is confronted with something that appears familiar yet it’s not exactly clear what it is. The conceptual gesture of translating photographs from public media sources into enlarged floor paintings is a way to incorporate these particular images into a different context, which affects the perception of them and thus their reception. Over the course of the exhibition, the installation will not only gradually change and slowly vanish, but it will also be activated by writers, dancers, choreographers, musicians, artists and performers invited to respond to this painted plateau and its individual images.
What do we see and how do we see?
Another aspect demonstrating Nicolai’s methodological approach is the way he engages with the context of the presentation of his artwork. In order to reflect on this context and call it into question, the exhibition will continue to take place outside of the institution, and develop in the form of interdisciplinary projects, thereby multiplying the references and interactions the works make with one another and to their environment.
In cooperation with museum in progress, the exhibition will find an extension within media, digital space and Instagram under a project titled media loop (#medialoop). By publishing photographs of the painted images included in the installation in international newspapers and magazines, the imagery will be exposed to a contextual feedback loop.
At the Sigmund Freud Museum Trauer und Melancholie (2009/12) a translation of Freud’s text into Arabic in both written and audio form is on show. The original publication together with a video describing the complexity of the process of translation is displayed and provides a glimpse of the preparations for the reading on the radio.
At ZOOM Children’s Museum Olaf Nicolai realizes a workshop for kids based on the piece A Coloring book for children after motifs by Arnulf Rainer (2002) which is on view. Drawings and collages from a portfolio of Rainer [Proportionsordnungen, 1954] were used to provide templates to be painted out or painted over in the children’s drawing book.
The Antiquariat Georg Fritsch however provides a perfect structure that connects with Olaf Nicolai’s interests in experimental literature and the book as a medium. Nicolai stages an intervention inside the bookshop and the window display, centred around the seminal manifesto Eight Point Proclamation of the Poetic Act written in 1953 by H.C. Artmann.
In 1967 Helene Weigel – actress and wife of Bertolt Brecht – bought a Mercedes-Benz Ponton as Director of the Berliner Ensemble and registered it as a company car. The original vehicle has now been rediscovered and made roadworthy. The Mercedes-Benz Ponton is not a marketing tool or “gag,” but is understood as a venue or actor in public space. The car is a particularly auratic fetish site/space/object. One can almost smell the story that happened in and around the car – especially given the acquisition of the car after the Berlin Wall was built by the GDR. It was literally about a borderline situation of consumption. The car was transported to Vienna and parked in a prominent place near the Viennese Burgtheater and Volkstheater – a kind of return of the Austrian Helene Weigel – recalling the Vienna “Brecht Boycott” (1953–1963), which ended with a performance in 1962/63 at the Volkstheater.
The Deserters’ Monument at Ballhausplatz will be another site for the wide-ranging exhibition activities. Based on a design by Olaf Nicolai and built in 2014, it is a memorial to people persecuted by the Nazis for refusing to serve in the military. Reactivated for the exhibition, the monument will play an essential role in the current project, serving as a venue for vocal performers to perform a cappella pieces. The work is a continuation of Escalier Du Chant realized in 2011 for Munich’s Pinakothek der Moderne. Nicolai commissioned eleven international composers to write songs based on political events that were of current relevance to them. Without prior announcement, the songs were then performed by Stuttgart’s Neue Vocalsolisten on the museum’s central staircase.
There Is No Place Before Arrival
The exhibition title There Is No Place Before Arrival is based on Nicolai’s work Don’t Spend Time Searching the Colorful Layered Flood of Leaking Information, or: There is no place before arrival. It consists of a large stone slab made of Precambrian quartz sandstone that dates back to a time before the first appearance of living things on earth. There Is No Place Before Arrival suggests that when thoughts, words, pictures and gestures are conveyed, they don’t arrive in some pre-existing place as such, but create it upon arrival. At the same time, the title is a poetic paraphrase of the dialectic of desire – “hoped-for duration and permanent delay in motion,” as the artist says, commenting on the title of his Vienna exhibition.
Olaf Nicolai not only discloses his method in There Is No Place Before Arrival. In fact, he will connect performative elements, works that will transform during the course of the exhibition, and motifs from pop culture – all of which will interweave to form a dense web of references alluding to iconic moments in politics and intellectual history. At the same time, the exhibition will stage a set of changing
situations for visitors to explore and experience in a scattered, rather nomadic way as well as by appropriating the works in a very personal manner.
St. Gallen, Bielefeld and Vienna
There Is No Place Before Arrival at Kunsthalle Wien will be shown in conjunction with two other exhibitions presented at Kunsthalle Bielefeld (16/6 – 9/9 2018) and at Kunstmuseum St. Gallen (7/7 – 11/11 2018), respectively. Together, the three exhibitions provide an overview of the artist’s multifaceted work and reflect the interdisciplinary concepts he has used over the past twenty years. The focus in Bielefeld is on the museum’s architecture, which was designed by Philipp Johnson, and on themes such as proximity and distance, inclusion and exclusion. For the LOK, the second venue of the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, the artist designed a walk-through environment that looks like a desert but could also be a lunar landscape. Shifting relationships between the body, space and movement play a key role here, but so (and maybe even primarily) do the effects evoked by these shifts in our imagination. In 2019, the three institutions will collaborate and produce a comprehensive publication.
Artist Olaf Nicolai talks to curator Luca Lo Pinto about the ideas behind his exhibition "There Is No Place Before Arrival", the interventions taking place across different venues in Vienna, as well as the “method” that informs his artistic approach.
Curator: Luca Lo Pinto
Artist: Olaf Nicolai
(born 1962) lives and works in Berlin. He studied German language and literature at the Universities of Leipzig, Budapest and Vienna, and has worked as a visual artist since 1990. In addition to participating in many international solo and group exhibitions, he has exhibited at documenta X (1997) and documenta 14 (2017), and at the 49th, 51st and 56th Biennale (2001, 2005 and 2015). For his work In the Woods There Is a Bird..., which was commissioned by documenta 14, Olaf Nicolai was awarded the 2017 Karl Sczuka Prize for works of radio art.
Special thanks to Galerie EIGEN + ART, Leipzig / Berlin for their support to the exhibition
NO MATCHING PROJECTS
Curating contemporary art against the backdrop of a local context 2019 TEACHING
Heinz Frank. The Angle of the End Always Comes from Behind 2019 EXHIBITION
Kunsthalle Wien Prize 2018: Ting-Jung Chen & Hui Ye. Keep Me Close To You 2018–2019 EXHIBITION
Olaf Nicolai. There Is No Place Before Arrival 2018 EXHIBITION
Ieva Epnere. On water, wind and faces of stone 2018 EXHIBITION
Guy Mees. The Weather is Quiet, Cool, and Soft 2018 EXHIBITION
Kunsthalle Wien Prize 2017: Marlene Maier & Olena Newkryta: Everything a Hand Can't Take 2017–2018 EXHIBITION
Florian Hecker. Hallucination, Perspective, Synthesis 2017–2018 EXHIBITION
Publishing as an Artistic Toolbox: 1989-2017 2017–2018 EXHIBITION
Marlene Creates. To the Blast Hole Pond River 2017 EXHIBITION
Marcel Odenbach. Beweis zu nichts / Proof of Nothing 2017 EXHIBITION
Marcel Odenbach. Beweis zu nichts / Proof of Nothing 2018 PUBLICATION
Kunsthalle Wien Prize 2016: Margit Busch, Andrej Polukord 2016–2017 EXHIBITION
Kunsthalle Wien Prize 2016: Margit Busch. IF—THEN—ELSE. Welcome to Transciency 2016 PUBLICATION
Kunsthalle Wien Prize 2016: Andrej Polukord. The Sarcophagus 2016 PUBLICATION
Nathalie Du Pasquier. BIG OBJECTS NOT ALWAYS SILENT 2016 EXHIBITION
Wilfrid Almendra. Light Boiled Like Liquid Soap 2016 EXHIBITION
Wilfrid Almendra. Light Boiled like Liquid Soap 2019 PUBLICATION
Kunsthalle Wien Prize 2015: Karina Mendreczky, Anastasiya Yarovenko 2015–2016 Exhibition
Kunsthalle Wien Prize 2015: Karina Mendreczky 2016 PUBLICATION
Kunsthalle Wien Prize 2015: Anastasiya Yarovenko 2016 PUBLICATION
Charlemagne Palestine. GesammttkkunnsttMeshuggahhLaandtttt 2015 Exhibition
Charlemagne Palestine. GesammttkkunnsttMeshuggahhLaandttttt 2016 PUBLICATION
Individual Stories. Collecting as Portrait and Methodology 2015 Exhibition
Individual Stories. Collecting as Portrait and Methodology 2016 PUBLICATION
Pauline Boudry & Renate Lorenz. Future Light 2015 Exhibition
Function Follows Vision, Vision Follows Reality 2015 Exhibition
Flaka Haliti. Kosovo Pavilion for the 58th Biennial 2015 EXHIBITION
Pierre Bismuth. The Curator, the Lawyer and the Psychoanalyst 2015 Exhibition
Pierre Bismuth. Things I Remember I Have Done, But Don’t Remember Why I Did Them 2017 PUBLICATION
Tony Conrad. Two Degrees of Separation / Über zwei Ecken 2015 PUBLICATION
Gareth Long & Melton Barker. Kidnappers Foil 2014–2015 Exhibition
Kunsthalle Wien Prize 2014: Leander Schönweger. The Fog Disperses 2014 Exhibition
Leander Schönweger. Die Nebel lichten sich 2014 PUBLICATION
Hannah Rickards. Grey light. Left and right back, high up, two small windows 2014–2015 EXHIBITION
Isa Genzken. I’m Isa Genzken, The Only Female Fool 2014 Exhibition
Isa Genzken. I’m Isa Genzken, the Only Female Fool 2014 PUBLICATION
Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys. Das Wunder des Lebens (The Miracle of Life) 2014 Exhibition
Zin Taylor. The Story of Stripes and Dots 2013–2014 EXHIBITION
Zin Taylor. Lichen Voices/Stripes and Dots 2013 PUBLICATION
WWTBD – What Would Thomas Bernhard Do Festival 2013 EVENT
Act I: Beautiful from Every Point of View 2009–2010 EXHIBITION
John Kormeling. Dutch Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo 2010 2010 EXHIBITION
Liam Gillick. German Pavilion 53. Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte La Biennale di Venezia 2009 2009 EXHIBITION
Liam Gillick. How are you going to behave? A kitchen cat speaks 2009 PUBLICATION
William Hunt. Tempting Fate, Swimming Alone 2008 EXHIBITION
Liam Gillick. Three perspectives and a short scenario 2008 EXHIBITION
Isa Genzken. Deutscher Pavillon 52. Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte La Biennale di Venezia 2009 2007 EXHIBITION
Die Frage des Tages / The Question of the Day 2007 PUBLICATION
Michael Beutler. Nicht drinnen, sondern draußen 2004–2005 EXHIBITION
Gerard Byrne. Books, Magazines, and Newspapers 2003 PUBLICATION
Alex Morrison. Giving the Story a Treatment 2005 PUBLICATION
Adorno: The Possibility of the Impossible (Vol. II) 2003 PUBLICATION
Adorno: The Possibility of the Impossible (Vol. I) 2003 PUBLICATION
Marcel Odenbach. Even If The Driver May Be Different, The Truck Still Remains The Same 2002 EXHIBITION
Jeroen de Rijke and Willem de Rooij. After the Hunt 2000 PUBLICATION
Man muss ganz schön viel lernen um hier zu funktionieren 2000 EXHIBITION