Franz West began working actively as an artist in 1970, at a time when the Viennese Actionism Μovement was shocking Austrian society. He distanced himself from the Actionists’ performances that were defined by violence, nudity or sexuality, but not from the desire to provoke. Franz West wanted to break taboos, but those taboos lay within the art world itself, a world dictated by society and tradition.
By Efi Michalarou
Photo: 21er Haus Museum of Contemporary Art Archive
Central works by Franz West are on presentation in the exhibition entitled “Franz West – ARTISTCLUB”. The works on view were made by 36 different artists in collaboration with Franz West. “ARTISTCLUB” began as a participatory project started by the artist in 1999. Even though it did not achieve its desired form while the artist was alive, here it can be experienced as a curatorial idea in the sense of an interactive exhibition. Viewer participation and the collaboration with other artists play a central role in West’s artistic practice. He continually challenged the relationship between the artist, the artistic work, and the recipient. Although the artist’s early works consist of collages and paintings, West is best known for “Passstücke”, τhese portable sculptures of papier-mâché, cardboard, wire, gauze and white paint that can adopt all kinds of forms. They are meant to be carried by the viewer, whose involvement does not only complete the pieces, but transforms them into art, according to West. By placing mirrors and sometimes private mirrored booths in his exhibitions, the artist gives viewers the chance to see themselves interact with the sculptures. Through the years, the dimensions of Franz West’s sculptures have gradually increased. From portable pieces to monumental outdoor installations such as “The Ego and the Id” (2008), West has remained faithful to bulging biomorphic forms in bright colours that invite viewers to climb or sit on them. With a vivid sense of humour and a weakness for irony, Franz West pairs his clumsy prosthetic-like sculptures with philosophical or political sideswipes, through the titles or their geographical location. This 21er Haus exhibition aims to display and investigate the different scenarios by which this play manifested itself. With this in mind, it is important to note another significant work by West, named “Extroversion”, that was conceived for the 2011 Biennale di Venezia. In this work, Franz West practically turned the walls of his studio kitchen inside out. Made by friends, colleagues, and co-workers, it involves 43 different artistic works that similarly upend themselves. While retaining their autonomy, they also come together to form a larger, more complex work of art. In addition to the typical conceptual displacement between work and the author, the work also introduces a new and exciting aspect of West’s experience and treatment of space and architecture. The work itself, therefore, forms the starting point for an additional focus of the exhibition, one that concretely explores his approach toward space and architecture. The exhibition shows works by Franz West together with: Bizhan Bassiri, Elisabetta Benassi, Songül Boyraz, Jean-Marc Bustamante, Plamen Dejanoff & Svetlana Heger, Mathis Esterhazy, Marina Faust, Marco Fedele di Catrano, Urs Fischer, Herbert Flois, Gelitin, Douglas Gordon, Heiri Häfliger, Richard Hoeck, Peter Höll, Franz Kapfer, Mike Kelley, Leopold Kessler, Roland Kollnitz, Anita Leisz, Sarah Lucas, Otto Muehl, Albert Oehlen, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Rudolf Polanszky, Andreas Reiter Raabe, Anselm Reyle, Tamuna Sirbiladze, Josh Smith, Johann Szenizcei, Octavian Trauttmansdorff, Zlatan Vukosavljevic, Hans Weigand, Erwin Wurm and Heimo Zobernig.
Info: Curator: Harald Krejci, 21er Haus Museum of Contemporary Art, Arsenalstrasse 1, Vienna, Duration: 14/12/16-23/4/17, Days & Hours: Wed 11:00-21:00, Thu-Sun 11:00-18:00, www.21erhaus.at