• Poetry & Performance / The Eastern European Perspective
    22 December 2017 − 10 March 2018

    Nová synagóga, Žilina, Slovakia Poetry & Performance / The Eastern European Perspective 22/12/17 –  10/03/18 Loans by Kontakt: Vlado Martek: Ciklus Soneti / Sonnet Cycle, 1978-79 Raša Todosijević: Znak / Sign, 1971; Skulptura / Sculpture, 1971; Was ist Kunst, Patricia Hennings? / What is Art, Patricia Hennings?, 1976; Was ist Kunst, Marinela Koželj? / What is Art, Marinela Koželj?, 1978 Tamás St. Auby: Kentaur / Centaur, 1973-1975/ 2009 Curators: Sabine Hänsgen, Tomáš Glanc, Daniel Grúň Nová synagóga in Žilina presents the exhibition Poetry & Performance. The Eastern European Perspective curated by Tomáš Glanc, Daniel Grúň and Sabine Hänsgen. The exhibition brings together more than forty artists, poets and creative groups from the countries of the former Eastern Europe as well as contemporary artistic positions. The exhibition will be opened on December 22nd from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. by a series of several performances and will run until March 10th 2018. In the second half of the twentieth century, poets and artists in particular took up the challenge of reflecting on and investigating the instrumentalization of language for communicative and political-ideological purposes. They did so by drawing attention to the “made-ness” of language, its material and medial dimension, and by creating performative situations for themselves and their audiences within which possibilities of verbal expression could be tested and acted out. In Eastern Europe, poetry and performance played a significant role in the unofficial or partially tolerated cultural scene. The writing practice of samizdat and its relation to the devices of concrete and visual poetry have been treated and presented in a number of previous projects. Until now however, less consideration has been given to the circumstances of performance. In addition to the typescript literature of samizdat, subcultural milieus attached particular importance to the oral recitation of poems, exhibitions, and poetry actions. The interrelation between text and situation in poetic acts functioned as a trigger for performances and happenings. The exhibition presents authors from subcultures in socialist states along with contemporary positions that continue the legacy of combining poetry and performance. It shows the efforts of poets and artists to break free from controlled language and normative communicative now and then. Poetry & Performance. The Eastern European Perspective thus confronts the current social challenges in the post-socialist countries through the prism of language and ideology and looks back at their points of departure. Artists: Milan Adamčiak, Pavel Arsenev, Babi Badalov, Bosch+Bosch (Attila Csernik, Slavko Matković, László Szalma), Collective Actions Group, Ľubomír Ďurček, Else Gabriel / Via Lewandowsky, Rimma Gerlovina, Tomislav Gotovac, Group of Six Artists, Bohumila Grögerová / Josef Hiršal, Gino Hahnemann, Václav Havel, Jörg Herold, Semyon Khanin (Orbita), Kinship Moho (Zuzana Jasenková, Kristína Országhová, Magdaléna Scheryová), Dávid Koronczi, Katalin Ladik, Yuri Leiderman / Andrey Silvestrov, Vlado Martek, Andrei Monastyrski, Monogramista T.D, Ladislav Novák, Pavel Novotný, NSRD (Hardijs Lediņš, Juris Boiko, Imants Žodžiks), OHO Group (Nuša & Srečo Dragan, Naško Križnar), Boris Ondreička, Orange Alternative, Roman Osminkin, Ewa Partum, Bogdanka Poznanović, Dmitri Prigov, Lev Rubinstein, Nóra Ružičková / Marianna Mlynárčiková, Mladen Stilinović, Gabriele Stötzer, Tamás Szentjóby, Bálint Szombathy, Raša Todosijević, Jaromír Typlt, Jiří Valoch. Nová synagóga, Žilina, Slovakia J. M. Hurbana 220/11, 010 01 Wednesday — Sunday, 1 p.m. — 7 p.m. free entry (voluntary)


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Carola Dertnig

At the center of Carola Dertnig’s artistic work, her thinking, and her research1 stands the idea of performativity. Texts, images, live actions and videos join to establish interwoven performative levels on which Dertnig confronts the seemingly known with neglected flipsides and counter-concepts. Dertnig examines and reflects upon her themes from a critical and feminist perspective coupled with an explicit interest in the politicization of gender. The idea of the performative with which Dertnig infuses her conceptually diverse works is conceived broadly and draws on both “classic” action and performance art and the effects that media culture and the culture of tourism have on society.

The slapstick video series entitled True Stories (totaling seven videos, 1997–2003) features Carola Dertnig herself as the main protagonist of her subtly and ironically humorous “vignettes” about fleeting events. The golden thread in True Stories is embodied by the awkward or embarrassing situations that Dertnig stumbles into in the various scenarios. By resorting to the tradition of slapstick film, Dertnig almost casually injects elements of anarchy and destruction into quintessentially everyday situations. By melding filmic staging and live performance, Dertnig explores norms of social behaviors. This applies not just to the individuals that happen to be present at the scene of the action and their various reactions, but also to those watching the video, to whose imagination it is left to judge just what is staged and what is “real.” The protagonist’s provocatively clumsy behavior and the embarrassing predicaments into which she gets herself evoke desires to either help her or ignore her, as well as feelings of malicious joy and scorn. Precisely because the audience cannot quite tell where the film directing stops and bystanders’ reactions are actually spontaneous, Dertnig succeeds in building up a sort of tension that goes beyond comic effect to deliberately give rise to a quasi-existential uneasiness, albeit one that is counteracted by the comedy of the protagonist’s “Buster Keaton”-like role.

The intensity of Dertnig’s miniature scenarios is owed to more than just the situations they portray; indeed, the decisive factor consists in the filmic means she employs. These include shots from varied perspectives, as well as postproduction sound effects and editing sequences that support the buildup toward the events’ climax. Repetitions and loops blur the chronological sequence and give rise to irritations, as Friedrich Tietjen notes: “She [Dertnig] opposes this with a fragmented, fed-back and multilayered temporality that is of no use to progression, a temporality in which the past, more than being just a necessary and completed stage leading up to the present, remains constantly at hand—albeit perhaps repressed—in said present.”2

It is no coincidence that these videos simultaneously reflect on Dertnig’s situation as an artist, as well as on her precarious living conditions in New York, where she took on factory jobs to stay afloat. A recurring theme in her work is the World Trade Center, where she had a studio thanks to a grant; it was only due to a fortunate coincidence that she was not there when it was destroyed. Dertnig employs her critically analytical gaze to highlight an aspect of the global economy that is not typically publicized: run-down offices that were apparently abandoned in haste, alarming signs of economic failure. Her difficulties getting through the revolving door are quite ostentatiously caused by the equipment that she has on her person: the tools she needs as an artist. The videos shot in Vienna are about being a stranger and about coming back to the town from which she had been absent for several years. Her presentation of herself, ranging from the self-possession of her conformist café guest and rail traveler to the embarrassment of the snafus described above, hence goes beyond any individual insecurity to refer to the generally insecure status entailed by her living as an artist.

It is with all possible irony that the issue of gender also plays a constant role in Dertnig’s work. She deliberately belabors clichés—that is to say, certain types of conventions tied to the construct of “femininity” such as clumsiness with technical things, wardrobe malfunctions, and lady-like comportment taken to the point of being ridiculous. Carola Dertnig describes it as follows: “In these videos, I assume the clown-role much like Buster Keaton did. I am the protagonist, but I’m also a projective surface acting as a catalyst for the most varied reactions by inhabitants of the public realm. It’s about the attempt to be inconspicuous resulting in one’s actually being that much more conspicuous.”






1 One focus of Carola Dertnig’s research is Austrian action art and performance art of the past 50 years. Together with Stefanie Seibold, she released the following publication: Carola Dertnig and Stefanie Seibold, eds., let’s twist again. Was man nicht denken kann, soll man tanzen. Performance in Wien von 1960 bis heute / Let’s twist again. If You Can’t Think It, Dance It. Performance in Vienna from 1960 until Today, (Gumpoldskirchen / Wien: D.E.A. Kunstverlag, 2006).


2 Friedrich Tietjen, “Failing, Passing. Carola Dertnig’s Afterimages of a Non-simultaneous Present,” in Carola Dertnig. Nachbilder einer ungleichzeitigen Gegenwart, ed. Silvia Eiblmayr and Galerie im Taxispalais (Innsbruck-Bolzano/Bozen-Vienna: Skarabaeus im Studienverlag, 2006), 10. Exhibition catalog.

1963, Innsbruck / AT

Dertnig studied at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna (Austria) and at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris (France) from 1986 to 1991. In 1997 she was a participant of the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in New York City (USA). Since 2006 Dertnig is professor for Performance Art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. In 2008 she held a guest professorship at Calarts in Los Angeles (USA). 

Lives and works in Vienna, Austria, and New York City, USA.

Solo Exhibitions (selected):

2009 “Carola Dertnig“, CCS-Bard College, New York City, USA

2008 “Carola Dertnig“, Andreas Huber Gallery, Vienna, Austria

2006 "Carola Dertnig“, Galerie im Taxispalais, Innsbruck, Austria

2005 “Carola Dertnig“, Andreas Huber Gallery, Vienna, Austria

2004 “Equivok“, Vienna Secession, Vienna, Austria

2003 “Strangers – Handlungsräume 6“, Salzburger Kunstverein, Salzburg, Austria

Group Exhibitions (selected):

2011 “Austria Davaj“, MUAR Museum, Moscow, Russia

2010 “Lange nicht gesehen. Long time no see“, The Brno House of Art, Brno, Czech Republic 

2009 “Recollecting – Looted Art and Restitution“, MAK Museum für angewandte Kunst, Vienna, Austria

2008 “Why here is always somewhere else“, Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, Germany

2007 “Kontakt … works from the collection of Erste Bank Group“, Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade, Serbia

2006 “Why Pictures Now“, MUMOK Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna, Austria

2005 “Living and Working in Vienna“, Austrian Cultural Forum New York, New York City, USA

2004 “Site matters“, Independent Curators International, New York City, USA

2003 “inside it’s different“, Kunsthalle Exnergasse, Vienna, Austria

2002 “Fabulation of Form“, Arthouse, Dublin, Irland

This bibliography provides a list of books available in the
ERSTE Foundation Library

Books/Exhibition Catalogues


Eiblmayr, Silvia, ed. 2006. Nachbilder einer ungleichzeitigen Gegenwart = Afterimages of a non-simultaneous present. Innsbruck: Skarabaeus [Exhib. Cat., Galerie im Taxispalais Innsbruck (Feb. 2-Mar. 19, 2006)]


Seibold, Stefanie, ed. 2006. Let's twist again: was man nicht denken kann, das soll man tanzen: Performance in Wien von 1960 bis heute: eine psychogeographische Skizze = If you can't think it, dance it: performance in Vienna from 1960 until today: a psychogeographical map. Carola Dertnig. Gumpoldskirchen: D.E.A. Buch- und Kunstverlag.


Frank, Rike, ed. 2004. Carola Dertnig: Equivok. Vienna: Secession [Exhib. Cat., Secession Wien (May 1-Jun. 20, 2004)]


Frank, Rike, ed. 2002. A room of one's own. Essays by Carola Dertnig et al. Vienna: Secession.


Dertnig, Carola, artist. I don't wanna know your name = Ich will Deinen Namen nicht wissen. Vienna: T19. Galerie für zeitgenössische Kunst.

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