Curator’s talk with Marlies Wirth

Again 2017 viennacontemporary offers an extensive program with solo exhibitions of young established artists in the special programs.

ZONE1 has established itself as an acclaimed format for the presentation of young artists and this year too offers a series of innovative projects.

I had the chance to talk with Marlies Wirth, curator of this exhibition at viennacontemporary. Next to explaining her concept, she’s talking about the challenge of curating an art fair exhibition and the development of the Viennese art scene. 

Atelier Judith: First of all, could you tell us how the idea of ZONE1 was born and how it has developed in the last few years of vienncontemporary?

Marlies Wirth: It is very important to have a strong focus on the new generation of emerging artists based in the city – with 10 positions selected by different curators each year ZONE1 gives visitors and collectors an insight into the current scene and the most recent works of artists under 40 born or educated in Vienna. Since ZONE1 has an age limit, the selection is made by varying curators and the choice of artists cannot be repeated, it is always a guarantee for new encounters! 

AJ: What is the challenge of curating an art fair format, in comparison to the curation of a gallery or museum exhibition?

MW: It is of course very different from conceptualizing an institutional exhibition, in many respects. ZONE1 is presented as a selection of solo-presentations on approximately 20 m2 – the artists are encouraged to show new or recent works, and of course the fair context is a very different setting also compared to a gallery show. Many artists then think about the art market also conceptually or thematically. The fair format provides a chance to invite artists who work in different themes and media, a very subjective mix.

What is the concept behind choosing appropriate artists for the fair’s special presentation at ZONE1?

MW: My approach was to invite artists I personally am interested in seeing a solo-presentation of at the fair – and I hope many people will see it the same way! Individual presentations offer the opportunity to delve deeper into the body of work of a single artist than on a regular fair booth showcasing only one or two works by the same artist.  Through site-specific installations or several works agglomerated in the solo presentation the viewer can really engage with the works and get a closer insight into the artistic concept. I consider this to be a very important aspect especially for emerging artists and it is a great opportunity to get noticed.

AJ: The program for ZONE1 includes all mediums of contemporary art production, ranging from drawings, sculptural installations to performances and tape recordings. Which are the topical connections between the artist’s projects?

MW: The selection always reflects also the curator’s subjective interests, with themes ranging from self-optimization, information, and data transfer on the internet, matter as information storage for human civilization, expanding the notion of painting and strategies of its spatial experience, or the basic conditions of artistic creation and the political and sociological dimensions of art itself. One could say that the connection is very obviously a strong conceptual, maybe also minimalist approach, as well as the artists’ commitment to their topics and its formal transfer in a very consistent manner.

AJ: Which artists would you reccommend visitors of viennacontemporary to put a specific eye on and why?

MW: Obviously all ten of the artists participating in ZONE1 🙂

The experience of engaging with Christian Falsnaes’ (PSM Berlin) performative contribution involving his audience will certainly be exciting for visitors. During this interaction, Falsnaes simultaneously activates the individual’s ability to act and makes them a part of a collective experience. Sarah Pichlkostner’s (Galerie Hubert Winter) “waiting room” for a fictional upcoming journey to the moon will invite visitors to think about the current hype around self-optimization and the struggle of holding up with the promise of it. Artist Peter Jellitsch (Galerie Clemens Gunzer) takes the history of the internet as the starting point for his new, site-specific overall installation. Inspired by Steven Brand’s „Whole Earth Catalog“ (1968), which Steve Jobs called the precursor of search engines like Google, Jellitsch examines the representability of information transfer on the internet in drawings of different formats. Concept- and media artists Maria Anwander and Ruben Aubrecht (Galerie Lisi Hämmerle), who live in Berlin and were born in Bregenz, join forces again for the presentation at ZONE1 and developed a new common project departing from stock photos (as available from shutterstock or gettyimages and the like) and the question of copyrights and ownership. Their work critically questions the “operating system of art” and the structural conditions of art production, of the art market, and the institutions behind it. With a new, performative installation, media artist Samuel Schaab (unttld contemporary) builds on his interest for inanimate matter as “storage for civilization”. The works are arranged in a procedural formation that is constituted by the elements of time and variability. For example, a heavy stone is shifted around, its movements following the time pattern of a 60-minutes tape recording. The analog sound carrier’s soundscape is only audible during short moments, in which the stone changes positions.

AJ: Next to ZONE1, which are your personal favorite projects at viennacontemporary?

MW: There is a lot that I am looking very much forward to: The special presentation of “Solo & Sculpture” (curated by Miguel Wandschneider), the very exciting and ambitious Talks programm titled “Borderline” (selected by writer and critic Kate Sutton), which I will also be part of in discussion with highly estimated international collegues Alanna Heiss, Maja Ciric and Irena Popiashvili (Friday, September 22, 5 pm: “The New Establishment: Building a Useful Institution”). I also look forward to seeing new works by the artists Philipp Müller (Carbon 12, Dubai), Michael E. Smith (KOW Berlin), Diogo Pimentão (ŻAK | BRANICKA, Berlin), Lena Henke (Emanuel Layr, Vienna/Rome) as well as to the presentations of galleries from Denmark, Finland and Sweden in the “Nordic Highlights” section.

AJ: Vienna is known for its traditional culture but since some time young artists and new galleries become getting more attention. How would you describe the developement of Vienna’s art scene and why is it a significant place for contemporary art?

MW: There is no doubt that an art capital like Vienna needs its own art fair to be part of the international art market. It is true that Vienna’s hot new scene just recently got the attention it deserves – the potential was always there tho, and it is important that all of us involved (artists, curators, gallerists, institutions, collectors, writers,…) continue our common effort with high-quality programs and a strong contemporary focus to spread the Viennese vibe further!

Thanks for the interview! Interviewer: Judith Bradlwarter

Featured artists and galleries in ZONE1 at viennacontemporary: Peter Jellitsch, Galerie Clemens Gunzer (CH/AT) | Maria Anwander und Ruben Aubrecht, Galerie Lisi Hämmerle (AT) | Sarah Pichlkostner, Galerie Hubert Winter (AT) | Flora Hauser, Galerie Meyer Kainer (AT) | Florian Schmidt, Philipp von Rosen Galerie (DE) | Theresa Eipeldauer, KROBATH (AT) | Thilo Jenssen, KOENIG2 (AT) | Kay Walkowiak, Zeller van Almsick (AT) | Christian Falsnaes, PSM (DE) | Samuel Schaab, unttld contemporary (AT)

Biography: Marlies Wirth is a curator and art historian based in Vienna. She was recently appointed curator of the Digital Culture & Design Collection at MAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art, where she has been working since 2006. She curates exhibitions, performances, and discursive events in the fields of art, design and architecture.

Her focus lies on conceptual, site-­specific, research-­, and time-­based art and she has a particular interest in the cultural-­anthropological contexts of artistic production. Wirth writes essays and texts for publications and also develops independent exhibition projects with international artists.

Curator Marlieas Wirth. Photo © Anastasia Ekhlakova





Kay Walkowiak, A Different Order, 2014
Courtesy of the artist and ZELLER VAN ALMSICK, Photo by Julius Unterberger
Peter Jellitsch, Data Drawing 32+33, 2015
Pencil, acrylic, crayon, lacquer on paper, 102 x 146 cm
Courtesy Galerie Clemens Gunzer
Theresa Eipeldauer, Cage N°1, 2017
Screen printing on canvas, 150 x 110 cm
Photo Theresa Eipeldauer
Courtesy Galiere KROBATH
Thilo Jenssen, Orange Bud, 2016
Spraypaint, clear laquer on canvas, 40 x 50 cm
Courtesy Charim Galerie Wien
Sarah Pichlkostner, KUY calls KAY: “oh dalring, we flying to the moon we need to save weight”, 2017
Aluminium, silver-plated glass, strap, metal suspension, 47 x 20 x 394 cm
Courtesy Galerie Hubert Winter, Vienna
Instagram: @marlieswirth

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