02.12.2022 – 16.04.2023

Challenge Cultural Heritage

Klemens Wihlidal,
design for the redesign of the Lueger monument on the Ring

With his competition entry for the redesign of the Karl Lueger monument, the artist won the unofficial competition announced by the University of Applied Arts Vienna in 2009. The fact that his draft, which envisaged a 3.5 degree tilting of the monument to the “right”, was never realized reveals a lot about the awkward handling of the “difficult heritage” by politicians. For political anti-Semitism reached a peak with the election of the Viennese mayor Karl Lueger in 1897. It was not until 2020 that the Black Lives Matter movement, which triggered a storming of racially charged monuments during a police check in the wake of the death of George Floyd, brought back the hot debate about the Karl Lueger memorial. Critics have reacted with the graffiti lettering “Shame, Shame, Shame”, which a group of artists also placed on the monument creatively. A right-wing group dismantled it again, but now five toilet bowls “decorate” the monument, which since 1926 commemorates the mayor of Vienna, revered by Adolf Hitler.

Tatiana Lecomte, Anschluss [Annexation of Austria by the National Socialist German Reich in 1938]

Photographs taken before the “Anschluss” of Austria form the basis of Tatiana Lecomte's work “Anschluss”. She concentrates on photographs around Linz: the city in which the “Anschluss” was formally sealed in 1938, and in whose extended urban area one of the subcamps of the Mauthausen concentration camp was later established. Her work, in which she presents photographs on the one hand and the accompanying captions on the other, is not devoted to documenting the crimes of National Socialism. She is concerned dealing with the beginnings and in classifying and arranging these often loaded and burdened images, which tell of their power as a propaganda tool, but also of resistance and of examining and averting.

Belinda Kazeem-Kamiński,
Unearthing. In Conversation

She is followed by a series of historical photographs and just having a “colonial flashback”, one learns at the beginning of the film by Belinda Kazeem-Kamiński. The performer enters a stage and deals with the photographs of the Austrian-Czech missionary and ethnologist Paul Joachim Schebesta (1887–1967), who recorded his “surveys” of African peoples. The audience sees the images only over the shoulder of the artist, who has already edited and revised them with red, yellow and blue fields. At the same time, she talks with the colonized people and addresses an audience until she wants to allow a different perspective on history. “How can resistance be achieved by seeing?”, the artist asks, “what possibilities are there to tell colonial history and stories differently?”, not only from the point of view of the white colonizers.

Maja Vukoje,
Würfel [Cubes]
und 1 Kölner

The history of everyday foods such as coffee or sugar, but also that of tropical fruits such as mangoes or avocados, is at the center of a series of paintings by Maja Vukoje. In 2012, the painter replaced the canvas with jute, more precisely with jute sacks used for transporting commercial products such as sugar burlap. With the sugar cube, she refers on the one hand to the cycle of works Homage to the Square by Josef Albers (188–1976) and his many years of theoretical and practical involvement with color. On the other hand, the artist burdens on associates with the commercial product sugar with a very concrete story. After all, sugar production is closely linked to the emergence of capitalism: Meanwhile it is well documented, for example, the profits from sugar plantations, which were largely based on the exploitation of enslaved Africans, provided the capital to finance European industrialization. In her work, Maja Vukoje unites the various “heirs”: that of abstract art and painting with the “industrial heritage”, in the case of sugar production, which to this day is entangled in colonial and neo-colonial networks of exploitation and profit.

Anna Jermolaewa,

Due to Russia's attack on Ukraine, Anna Jermolaewa's work Leninopad is tragically very current. It includes a film, photographs and a statue of Lenin (with a broken head) that she found in the storage room of a Ukrainian town hall. After the country introduced a law on decommunization (that is, the removal of everything reminiscent of the Soviet Union or Communism) in 2015, Anna Jermolaewa traveled the country to ask the population for their opinion on removal of the monument, Leninopad (“listopad”, the falling of the leaves in autumn). The answers turned out differently: some welcomed the removal; others considered the Soviet past to be part of their biography.

“History is history. We can`t change it. You can puzzle it out. In hundreds of years everything will be different. ... Facts are relative, depending on how someone understands them from his or her emotional and educational background.” (Protagonist in: Leninopad 2017). “The statue in which you see a ghost of the past may have been removed” writes Christian Höller about the film. The question is which other, new values will fill these gaps that have been created.

Hannes Zebedin,

The sculptor Hannes Zebedin deals intensively with the Alps-Adriatic region, in which he was born and raised and in which he still lives partially today. In his work, he analyzes the effects of geopolitical structures on the landscape, including the fact that the speed of the wind Bora in the Vipava Valley in Slovenia is also reflected in the architecture – for example, the houses have no north-facing windows. In addition, the area is the birthplace of the first anti-Fascist movement in Europe (TIGR), which continued with the Slovenian partisan movement in World War II. The installation Rezistenca takes up both traditions: the craft traditions of this area, which had to respond to the top speeds of the Bora Wind, and the political tradition of resistance.

Toni Schmale,
The good enough Mother

Sigmund Freud psychoanalysis is part of humanity's intangible heritage. The sculptor Toni Schmale has dealt with the psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott and his theories on the transitional object. After that, a toddler who cuts the cord from his mother transfers his needs to a transitional object. In her work, the artist not only questions social power relations and the stereotypical gender attributions that exist in our society, but she also opens a playing field of desire with her “transitional objects”. For us, the sculpture is an example of the emergence of “unprecedented ideas and forms”: it oscillates between fitness equipment and SM toys and indicates the usability by a body. At the same time, it denies clear classification and recognition, thereby creating space for new associations.

Ricarda Denzer,
Reflections on a Star-Shaped Masque

“This oval object caught my attention. The regularity of the shape, the perfection of the star's shiny brass structure on the colorful, soft-looking angel feathers evokes a futuristic image”, Ricarda Denzer writes about the object she discovered at the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. When the Byzantine church was converted into a mosque, the faces of the Christian seraphim angels were covered with a star-embossed brass mask in accordance with the Muslim faith which does not permit representational religious images.For the exhibition What matters to us! the object is central. It refers to the ongoing rewriting and overwriting of cultural heritage that has been taking place for centuries (in this case an ornament in the Hagia Sophia that covers Christian iconography). Starting from this object, an accompanying audio piece makes Denzer's artistic practice of an “acoustic search movement” tangible, in which she does not start with a prefabricated theme, but by montage creates ideas, forms and possibilities that can be heard here: “...from the iron and ochre mines under the Forest of Dean on the Welsh border in Gloucestershire, I go to the dome of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, to the choirs of the Seraphim angels with their six wings flying to God around the firmament, burning and singing holy, holy, holy.”

Sara-Lisa, Bals,

Tradition is cultural heritage and cultural heritage is expressed in the values ​​of a society. So if there is no custom or holiday in honor of a woman who used willpower and magic to defend her claim to her own sexuality and free will, it is more than advisable to initiate one so that it can be brought into the present works.
"The fictitious Cumernus Day refers to the legend of the holy grief and is shown in the feast customs of the Bregenzerwald. The development and revitalization of the Bregenzerwald festival costume, the Juppe, plays a central role in this. The festive costume worn by the performers for Cumernus Day is somewhere between costume and traditional costume. The Juppe is modified and extended by a jewelry beard. Not only does the Cumernus robe break taboos, but the shapeshifting also brings with it the potential for freedom by reinforcing an attitude that the costume represents. An attitude that represents the self-determination of women.” (Sara-Lisa Bals)

Margarita Rozhkova,
the head

"The sculpture "the head" (2020) by Margarita Rozhkova reflects on the idea of "African Lace" as an ethnologically misleading term. The head refers to one of the bronze heads of Ife (the cultural and commercial centre of the Yoruba), which was excavated in Nigeria at the beginning of the 20th century and is still in the British Museum in London today. It has become a symbol of beauty and pride, but also stands for the controversy over the concealment and denial of its origins and its creators.

The head (ori) generally has a sacred meaning in Yoruba culture. Rozhkova embroidered the scarring of the head by hand, the so-called “Wheel Hood” is based on a traditional costume headdress from the Vorarlberg region. Originally hand-embroidered and made in the Lamee technique (Lamee lace), in this case it was machine-embroidered in a local embroidery."

https://s-mak.at/far-away-land/ (Zugriff 05.12.2022)

Nilbar Güreş
Yol Ayrimi TrabZone Serisi’nden / Junction

The examination of traditional gender roles as well as the search for identities beyond binary thinking play a central role in Nilbar Güreş's work. She works in a wide variety of media, whereby a performative element is characteristic of all her works. The photographs from the series TrabZONE (2010) were taken in a traditional part of Turkey, where Güreş staged the women of her family simultaneously beyond traditional patriarchal as well as Western clichés. They climb trees with their wide long clothes, climb haystacks or become one with the laundry hanging out in the garden. In a very humorous and yet critical way, Güreş addresses the visibility and invisibility of women. The present photograph shows two women wearing a headscarf together and pulling their “cultural heritage” in two different directions in an almost slapstick-like manner.

Andrés Ramírez Gaviria,
History’s Carousel

The artist deals with the history of the Kodak slide projector carousel, a kind of time machine. At least Don Draper tried to sell the carousel as such in the series Mad Men. Originally designed by Italian American inventor Louis Misuraca, Kodak launched the device in 1962. Misuraca was cheated with a one-time sum, with which he went on holiday to Italy with his family. Perspectives, forms of presentation or even technical devices and projections shape our view of the world and change our perception forever. A view can also be cultural heritage, as the debate about the Canaletto view in Vienna has proved. Due to the interference of the view of Vienna's city center from the Upper Belvedere by a planned high-rise building on the Heumarkt, Vienna's World Heritage status would have been threatened. But Gaviria's work is also reminiscent of shared holiday picture shows or slide shows that were common in schools and museums for a long time.

Aglaia Konrad,
Il Cretto

In her video Il Cretto, Aglaia Konrad documents an artistic project by Alberto Burri, who built a monument to the earthquake victims of 1968 in the city of Gibellina, Sicily. After about twenty years, Ludovico Corrao, mayor of Gibellina in the seventies, was a strong catalyst for the reconstruction of Gibellina and the entire territory of Belice. He invited important Italian architects and artists to create works of art for the New Gibellina, which was rebuilt about 15 kilometers away from the ruins. Alberto Burri was not interested in the new Gibellina but wanted to see what was left of the old Gibellina. Only there, in the ruins of the old city, which apparently moved him deeply, did he decide that this was the place where he would make his artistic contribution. He designed Il Cretto, one of the largest and most impressive landscape works of art in the world.

Vasilena Gankovska,
Moscow Cinema Project

During a scholarship stay in Moscow, Vasilena Gankovska dealt with the cinemas that were built in the outskirts of Moscow from the 1930s to the 1980s. It was about cultural and social participation and, of course, the spreading of propaganda. The cinemas were called Kirgizia, Volgograd, Tallinn, Orbita, Patriot, Prague or Budapest and thus spanned the entire Soviet empire into space. According to Simon Mraz, director of the Austrian Cultural Forum in Moscow from 2009 to 2021, they form a unique architectural ensemble that ranges from Constructivism, as with the cinema called Rodina (Motherland), to examples of modernism: “A journey through Moscow’s cinemas is like a journey through Soviet architecture”, says Mraz in the catalogue of the project. Today, most cinemas have been sold and converted into shopping malls. Only some are run by young initiatives as arthouse cinemas.

Gregor Eldarb,

Thinner than two ten-thousandths of a millimetre, Sound Florian Schmeiser

The video Thinner than two ten-thousandths of a millimeter by Gregor Eldarb is inspired by the German architect Frei Otto. Along with Richard Buckminster Fuller, he was one of the most important representatives of biomorphic architecture, an intelligent, light and sustainable form of construction that borrows its design and construction shapes and patterns from nature.

For Frei Otto, soap bubbles, which are also the basis of Gregor Eldarb's experimental set-up, were a means of researching static peculiarities in nature. In his video, he experiments with this architectural heritage, which Frei Otto has quite decidedly handed over to posterity for “license-free” further use, today one would say as “Creative Commons”: “Frei Otto did not patent his inventions but gave them to everyone so that future designers could benefit from them. He was a great humanist.“ (Kristin Freireiss)

Carola Dertnig,
Sans titre

Carola Dertnig takes her deceased mother's dresses as an opportunity to reflect on the fashion of the late 1960s, the bohemian life in Vienna at the time or the look of feminism: “Ma Mère”, the artist writes “ wanted to be a feminist only if she – like the feminists in Italy – could wear red lipstick.” She was the owner of the Viennese artists' club VANILLA, and her fashion came directly from Paris despite the lack of money. For the photo series Sans titre, the artist photographed her mother's inherited wardrobe. Her shoes, hats, dresses, skirts, jewelry, jackets and evening dresses show a very self-determined woman's life: “For Ma Mère, every revolution was necessarily associated with fashionable expression” writes Dertnig. “Clothes make people. They show who we are, how we think, where we want to position ourselves in society.”

Susanne Schuda,
Just Dying. Dying is the last thing

In her fanzine, the artist deals with the topic of “inheriting/bequeathing” and raises relevant questions in connection with inheritance in text and image collages: What does inheritance and bequest mean in distributional issues for society as a whole? How would our society change if property were not passed down within families, but transferred to the community? Would that reduce the motivation to build up something? What are the (socio-)psychological reasons for rejecting an inheritance tax, even by people who would not be affected by it?

But also: What emotional values can objects have? How do these emotions change in the course of time, when a human life is shorter than, for example, the lifetime of a building? What about the subjective meaning and evaluation of objects in an affluent society? What does this abundance mean globally and what losses will the climate crisis bring?

WIENER TIMES  (Susanne Schneider und Johannes Schweiger), 
A Two-Person Rope Team Is the Least Favourable / B, 2022

For the exhibition Was uns wichtig ist! Susanne Schneider and Johannes Schweiger combed through the textile sample collection of Franz M. Rhomberg, which the Dornbirn City Museum saved from being sold abroad. The company, founded in 1832 as a dyeing plant, was one of the most important textile companies that had a lasting influence on the city of Dornbirn: its politics, architecture, but also daily routines and, last but not least, the fashion taste of the residents, most of whom worked in the labor-intensive textile company. In 1989, the textile sample collection was reorganized as a "trend-setting link between textile culture and industry in the form of a design archive". In 1993, the valuable collection was to be sold after the bankruptcy of the company. However, the Dornbirn City Museum has succeeded in preserving this "impressive testimony to Vorarlberg's textile history" as a textile heritage as a whole. In an installation that can be seen at the Dornbirn City Museum, WIENER TIMES brings out a selection of the historical "treasures": Among them are tablecloth samples, as exhibited in the Vorarlberg Museum, and particularly impressive finds, which the duo shows in the form of an installatively prepared fabric sample collage in the Dornbirn City Museum.

Viktoria Tremmel,
“Come again a bit, Freddy”, 18. Nov. 1819

Anne Lister (1791–1840) is not one of the best-known English authors. In her case, this is not only due to gender, but also to the fact that in her diaries, in addition to everyday aspects (such as her financial worries), she also recorded her erotic encounters with women in frank and explicit descriptions. Her biographer Angela Steidele states: “If she had been a man, you would have to call her a womanizer, a philanderer or marriage swindler, a lecher, a rake or just a scoundrel.” Such attributions make it clear that sexuality still follows norms and ideals that Anne Lister confidently disregarded, and this in a society at the beginning of the 19th century that had no place for lesbian women. She lived her life in relationships with women. In her diaries she created her own space and found a very clear language for her sexuality and desires, which is now an important part of gay history.

Muhammet Ali Baş,
I don't fall asleep at the keyboard, nor do I know the language

In his video work, Muhammet Ali Baş engages in artistic research of the poems of the Turkish author Kundeyt Şurdum (1937–2016), who lived in Vorarlberg. The artist explores the question, how the poetics of an author, who searched for newly emerging worlds in the fog on Lake Constance and in the fog in Istanbul, can be expressed in pictures. The artist experiments with image, editing and language and wants to create a fictitious place of overlays.

The title is based on the line of poetry by Kundeyt Şurdum I do not fall asleep at the machine, nor do I know the gallop and questions the terminology of so-called migration and migrant literature, in which the lyrical self or the narrator is often equated with the author. How can an author write if there is a constant marking of his/her position? Where can an author position himself or herself to deal with issues instead of identities?

The work shows very nicely how important the cultural heritage of the migration society, i.e., the passing on of knowledge and life experiences, is in order to be able to ask these important questions about possibilities of expressing yourself beyond identitarian stereotypes in the first place.


“The earth itself is known to be a heap of ruins of past future, and humanity is the motley quarreling community of heirs of a numinous past that must be constantly appropriated and redesigned, discarded and destroyed, ignored and repressed, so that, contrary to popular assumptions, not the future, but the past represents the true space of possibility.”

Judith Schalansky, Directory of some losses, Frankfurt am Main, 2018

Whether works of art, architecture, customs or crafts – a society defines itself not least by its cultural past. However, opinions on what is part of cultural heritage today differ widely. And they cause controversy if one thinks of the monument debate around the Karl Lueger statue for example. Cultural heritage is no longer dictated by tradition, it must always be renegotiated if it wants to be as inclusive as possible and thus creating identity.

Numerous artists contribute to this debate in the exhibition What matters to us!

Cultural heritage had immense political and cultural significance in the 19th century. The vorarlberg museum and Volkskundemuseum Wien were founded during that time to preserve what society has deemed important. We would like to situate the exhibition What matters to us! in this history and have therefore chosen old exhibition views of the two museums as a starting point for the exhibition design. As we have seen not only through the debate about the so-called Canaletto view in Vienna (it is considered instrumental in the city's World Heritage status), a sightline, certain forms of presentation or even technical aids can also shape viewing habits and thus make them an intangible cultural heritage.

In the scenography we therefore take up original elements of exhibition design in the 19th century. Based on these historical concepts, the contemporary works of art unfold their effect – in the sense of Isaac Newton, who wrote to a colleague in 1675: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”
 * Christa Benzer, Sabine Benzer and Gregor Eldar



Challenge Cultural Heritage

02.12.2022 – 16.04.2023


Editorial staff:
Sabine Benzer, Christa Benzer


Marie-Rose Rodewald-Cerha

Many thanks to Marie-Rose Rodewald-Cerha for the translations and Elisabeth Nelson and Eva Fichtner-Rudigier for proofreading and corrections and Kathrin Dünser for the curatorial ideas and suggestions. WIENER TIMES also in the Dornbirn City Museum: Part of the work by WIENER TIMES (position 18) can also be seen in the Dornbirn City Museum.