Josef Dabernig

Josef Dabernig’s multifarious oeuvre of films, photographs, objects, public art projects and meticulously carried out handwritings suggest notions of orderliness embedded in conceptual artistic practice. The artist’s take on thoroughly planned plots in his films often leads to moments of absurdity, which derive from the specific locales and the situations his laymen actors are involved in. Absence and presence form some of the central themes in many of Dabernig’s films, stemming from a modernist logic of clear aesthetic patterns of pictorial creation. The predilection with sometimes fetishized cars and trains in remote villages challenges the living conditions in post-industrial times. Dabernig’s films often refer to an immediate Socialist past, where moments of modernity prevail, yet in a seemingly Fordist manner. Loneliness and fatigue are recurrent motifs, which heighten the viewer’s awareness for detail and the contours of the architectural settings. The films, which are mainly shot in black and white, reinforce a system of duality, where no intermediate emotions are at stake. Be it the dull landscape, which evokes stages of remembering the past or the silent characters reminiscent of the era of silent movies, Dabernig creates universal moments that stand between modernity and a present time which is still encumbered by the past. Simple actions are carried out to extremes, which seem to freeze moments of time or the plots, which tell about routine moments of life. Often, the films obtain qualities characteristic of road movies, where time elapses and protagonists have to deal with the given circumstances of their travels and surroundings. Dabernig introduces viewers to the history of film and at the same time anticipates notions of contemporary cinema, where sound compositions play a decisive role to support the protagonists’ actions. His subtle takes on the everyday, which is bereft of glamorous events, reveal the depths of human existence in ordinary situations. Hence, especially the filmic oeuvre stands in the tradition of a cinema d’auteur, where screenwriter and director unite, and in Dabernig’s case also become actor as well.


1956, Kötschach-Mauthen / AT


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