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  [talk talk. The Interview as Artistic Practice]

Kunstverein Medienturm
Josefigasse 1, 8020 Graz

opening: 26.09.2009, 10 a.m.

Tue – Sat 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. &
Wed – Fri 3 - 6 p.m.

concept: Marc Ries

curators: Reinhard Braun, Hildegard Fraueneder, Marc Ries + IAG-Leipzig

Academy of Visual Arts [HGB], Leipzig:
26.05. – 27.07.2009
HGB Leipzig

Galerie 5020, Salzburg:
14.01. – 06.03.2010
Galerie 5020

steirischer herbst

curator's guides: Oct 3 and 17, 2009, at 3 p.m.

Lange Nacht der Museen: Oct 3, 2009, 6 p.m. – 1 a.m.

Press talk: Sept 25, 9 a.m. Kunstverein Medienturm
We live in a culture of incessant talking, of questions and answers, of public confession and suppression of testimony. At the heart of this spectacle of externalisation and expression is, after all, one of the oldest cultural techniques: the interview. The exhibition project talk talk sets out to explore in detail the power and the art of this method and technique – the interview – in the context of contemporary artistic forms as well as to exhibit it, with select positions, as aesthetic practice. Here it becomes evident how language, speech, idle talk, questioning, confession, testimony, and reporting are interlaced, in manifold ways, with visual practices. It is therefore a natural step to trace the genealogy of the interview within a practice of contemporary art, with the aim of fathoming the societal margins between self-discovery, interrogation, bearing witness, confession, outing, dialogue, and understanding.

It was with this particular form and method of gaining insight through the interview, if nothing else, that the rationality programme was introduced, the central medium of which is self-analysing language, or the logic of communication. Yet what is the state of this rationality programme today? Which function is assigned to the act of speaking in the framework of prevalent, medially enhanced and incessant ‘idle talk’ (Paolo Virno) which produces knowledge liberated for unrestrained circulation? Does this ensure that ‘all’ have an opportunity to speak, to find their own voice – or are both questions and answers increasingly becoming more uniform, stereotypical, inauthentic, redundant? Or is everything that is being said flowing into the planate pathos of equal relevance that spawns indifference? Or, rather, do not those exclusion mechanisms and discourse constrictions regulating and misappropriating the ability to speak and answer remain active?

The framework of the interview in this respect offers an opportunity to circumvent these regulations and misappropriations. Emerging is the chance to compare based upon the equal relevance of all of those speaking, which can simultaneously be viewed as a both political and aesthetic project. Once formatted as an interview subject in image form, one is positioned in image space with equal relevance to all of the other interviewees. Not only does the technique of interviewing intend to also give a voice to those who are not otherwise listened to or who are ignored by the dominant players – it likewise makes plain that it is actually exclusively about speaking per se, that is, about testimony, content, and arguments that the listeners can then contra- and cross-reference and reflect upon.

Along this vein, an exhibition display has been devised for the presentation of the 23 works which emphasises the joint image space of speaking, being listened to, and answering.

‘The ordinary becomes beautiful as a trace of the true. And the ordinary becomes a trace of the true if it is torn from its obviousness’, as Jacques Rancière has noted. The contributions to the exhibition ‘talk talk’ illustrate the extent at which artistic strategies liberate the idle talk, the questioning and answering, the public confession, the expert discussion, and other forms of the interview from their obviousness in order to provide us with insight into contemporary mechanisms of knowledge production, of the formation of convictions and values – insight that appears to be more important than ever for the present-day discussions revolving around a crisis-laden system.

Accordingly, in Yvon Chabrowski’s work the last official interview with HRH The Princess of Wales is turned into a transparent scenario that shows and exhibits an actress in a clinical set, having her imitate the gestures and facial expressions of The Princess of Wales, yet with all moments of the concrete situation omitted. This makes possible an unusually direct view of the person and her exposure, which the interview, as a mass-medially exploitable spectacle, is ultimately engendering. The interview becomes visible and readable as a cultural machine that ensnarls the respective person with publicity and politcs – from which the often privately staged conversations attempt to detract.

In Jörg Burger’s ‘Exploration’ we are following a conversation between two women that is starting to spin out of control. One of the women is obviously suffering from psychic disorders. Just as the viewers begin to think that they can follow the logic of this communication situation, they realise that they are watching therapists being trained. Thus, the interpretive possibilities of this intercommunication shifts more than once during the viewing of the film. It therefore becomes more than clear that not only pictures are in need of framing by a ‘cultural text’, so is communication.

In Kathi Lackner’s ‘I'm able to express myself in unique ways’ we believe that we are witnessing the exhibitionist statements of the artist about her interests, preferences, fears, plans, and perspectives until we come to the conclusion, due to the accumulation of stereotypical phrases, that we are being presented with a sample of self-representations and answers from Internet forums. Through this adaptation of a range of diverse and contradictory statements about oneself the artist creates a present-day panorama of identity conceptions and expectations, of self-representations that do not represent answers but instead appear to antedate the expectations of questions.

Antoni Muntadas highlights another central facet of the interview in a totally different manner: his increasingly media-related approach to staging and communicating. During a special news-network broadcast, the onetime translator of former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachov is being questioned on his role in the negotiations to end the Cold War. The translator is only visible on a monitor in the studio and speaks of his role as ‘medium’ for the most powerful leaders in the world. The entire constellation references the diverse translation and editing mechanisms employed to give an interview the form necessary to make it acceptable for being broadcast on television. We are forced to acknowledge that language not only refers to an individual but has also become a constituent of the mass-media machine.

Roozbeh Asmani, Ursula Biemann, Jörg Burger, Yvon Chabrowski, Dellbrügge & de Moll, Jeanne Faust, Andrea Fraser, Till Gathmann, Ronald Gerber, Jochen Gerz, Klub Zwei, Kathi Lackner, Katarina Matiasek, Alex McQuilkin, Bjørn Melhus, Oliver Ressler & Dario Azzelini, Daniel Pflumm, Julika Rudelius, Corinna Schnitt, Axel Stockburger, Kerry Tribe, Ingrid Wildi

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talk talk, The Interview as Artistic Practice, 2009. Exhibition view space 5, Kunstverein Medienturm, Graz. Photo: Rainer Iglar