Josef Dabernig

Josef Dabernig’s sculptures and films depart from the geometries that structure disciplinarian spaces, that allow these sites to invoke order, but also disguise their modalities of control as axes of circulation and systems of inventory, fusing coercion and serviceability. Dabernig’s grids and scaffolding are here installed in a figure/ground relationship: a set design for a disciplinarian psychodrama to which the film “excursus on fitness” is a disquieting prelude.

In “excursus on fitness” all elements – protagonists and extras, spatial settings that conflate a desolate gym and a dysfunctional office, gestures of absorption and hierarchy – are present. Separate disciplines – the self-discipline of keeping fit and an absurd exercise of surveillance, notation and archiving – temporarily intersect. The characters are choreographed in a rehearsal of hypnotic obedience, as if bureaucracy itself, an abstract body with living limbs, were preparing for its daily routine of efficiency.

The slide projection “Proposal for a new Kunsthaus, not further developed” appears as a laconic reflection on museum architecture and function. The further elaboration of the proposal is not hindered by a Kafkaesque impenetrability of the ‘institution’: it is rather the rhetoric of plurality and hospitability that is engaged and deflated, by pairing the multiple discursive and social functions that art spaces assign themselves with a composite of half-ruins and unwelcoming vistas.

Museum of Display; Extra City Kunsthal Antwerpen, 2011

Mihnea Mircan