Alexandra Baumgartner / Robert Devriendt / Sophie Jung / Mahony / Agnieszka Polska / Kevin Schmidt


Exhibition view Episode 5: in the beginning, 2014. Photos: insitu.

For centuries humans have used storytelling as a form of knowledge transmission. Studies have shown that any content that is mediated by a lively and interesting story is perceived with much more intense focus and concentration. With the group show »Episode 5: in the beginning« insitu presents six artists, whose works strongly deal with the notion of storytelling. The artists use narrative techniques to convey their own interpretation of an existing story or invent a totally new storyline. The exhibition focuses on different ways that a narrative can be constructed as well as on how factors like expectations and curiosity influence our inner need to imagine a possible story. Through different means, such as written text, oration or cinematographic fictions the artists analyse the process of transmission of information, the mystification of reality and the power of association.

The Austrian collective Mahony analyses within their piece »Operación pavo, version II« (2014) the possible conflicts that arise when a story becomes history. The artists refer to the unsolved question of how »El penacho de Moctezuma«, the featherwork headdress of the Aztec Empire Moctezuma, ended up in the Museum of Ethnology in Vienna. Following current discussions on whether the headdress should be given back to Mexican authorities, Mahony decided in 2012 to bring back a Tyrolian feather hat to Mexico and therefore add an additional layer to history. In that sense the hat itself has become a symbol for an unsolved storyline.

The stories of Robert Devriendt are revealed as sequences on small-scale canvases like a cinematographic storyboard. The scene is set, the characters are on the lookout for a possible danger to happen, a deliciously disturbing presentiment is in the air. In a universe filled with femme fatales, man hunters and silent witnesses, the spectator meddles with a crime scene and tries to connect the clues of a possible story. Every single painting suggests its own narrative and together they form pieces of a puzzle that can be assembled through the viewers’ imagination.

In Sophie Jung’s practice, photography, video, installation, performance and writing equally have their place. The work »Owl« (2013) combines audio with found objects in an associative story. The owl for example reminds the artist of her mother who resembles an owl. Jung mixes personal and subjective stories with fiction and abstract anecdotes. The flow of her narrative is well-structured and synchronised as well as intuitive at the same time. However the oddly sentimental result has a comic character that works on the edge of producing a serious smile or deep bewilderment.

For her installation »Entreakt« (2013), Alexandra Baumgartner was inspired by healing methods in mental hospitals in the late 19th century. Dr. Charcot, a renowned French neurologist practiced hypnosis to treat the disorder of hysteria and other abnormal mental conditions. Using photographs of this very theatrical hypnosis session Baumgartner stages a new story and invites viewers to witness a frozen action of occultism. The woman is suddenly no longer the patient of a debateable medical treatment but the protagonist of an open story.

Agnieszka Polska’s animations, photographs and collages are all linked together by a surreal and dreamlike atmosphere that oscillates between fact and fiction. The work »Plunderer’s Dream« (2011) tells the story of a thief breaking into an empty home and stealing all kinds of covetable items like jewellery, perfume bottles and even pralines. By using and combining mostly found images or images created by others, Polska creates a tableau-vivant-like work whose slow rhythm, spare audio effects and sequence of objects captures the viewers’ attention, wanting to know if the raid is successful or not.

The photograph »A Sign in the Northwest Passage« (2011) by Canadian artist Kevin Schmidt is part of a series that documents the journey of a large sign that displays ominous texts from the Book of Revelations, placed by Schmidt in the ice of Tuktoyaktuk, Canada. Describing in vivid detail the decimation of the earth and of humankind, the sculpture broadcasts a warning that it seems no one is actually present to receive. However, this barren landscape is actually the site of major oil reserves, and thus a site of potential devastating exploitation. When the seasonal ice melted, the sign floated away to parts unknown, bringing its cataclysmic message with it.

Alexandra Baumgartner (AT), Robert Devriendt (BE), Sophie Jung (LU), Mahony (AT) Agnieszka Polska (PL), Kevin Schmidt (CA)