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If She Wanted I Would Have Been There Once Twice or Again

Exhbition at Zeller van Almsick, Vienna, October 12 - October 31, curated by C-print

Theresa Traore Dahlberg, photograph, 2018

In Too Much Happiness, Alice Munro writes about how in life there are generally just a few places, or maybe only the one place where something happened, after which point there are all the other places. Thinking of a rapport with Vienna that was once both forged and lost here, and then allowed to persist in a direction more uncertain, for me Munro’s words inform this city. This is, or used to be that place. There was a search of belonging here, calling to mind the discoveries of Sylvia Plath’s Daddy; The snows of the Tyrol and the clear beer of Vienna are not very pure or true. No place here is essentially more emblematic of this personal rapport struck than a public-commissioned work by artist Lawrence Weiner on the defense tower from WWII, situated in the Esterházy Park. It poetically offers the words Smashed To Pieces In the Still of the Night. That this landmark artwork is now facing the same fate that it instills onto the wall with its words adds to the narrative and while the work itself allows multiple readings, Weiner himself has simply referred to how listening to bottles being smashed in a city as prim and proper at face value as Vienna, takes on a very different tone at dark. Weiner’s work like that of Munro’s or Plath’s, serves as one of several inspiring points of departures for this exhibition which inviting four Swedish artists to Vienna could ultimately have taken place anywhere, not necessarily just here, but the idea behind which resonated particularly well here.

The works by the four artists in If She Wanted I Would Have Been There Once Twice or Again consequently are marked by the common denominator of surveying a very private sphere or rapport with a geographical space or the physical and emotional distances between several such spaces.

Sofia Ekström, Portrait of a Father, video 8:42 min, 2018-2014

Growing up with two photographer parents and with formative years arguably lived in front of the camera, figuratively and literally, for Sofia Ekström the notion of the family portrait studio finds itself as a recurring fixture throughout her body of work. Her archival installation of objects, photographs, authored texts and video is a mirror to the past and examines the subtleties of a divided relationship with her late father. In Portrait of a Father (fadersporträttet) she films a portrait session of her father sitting for her in front of the camera, letting the viewer in on the dynamics between two artists at a moment of mutual forte. Theresa Traore Dahlberg’s work on view derives from an ongoing photographic series shot in Ouagadougou where she partially grew up herself. The frame establishes a social scenography set at daybreak where the time element is telling of a stage-in-between, marked by anticipation of a scene that is soon to be played out or perhaps captures the aftermath of one that already has occurred. It suggests and hints at interaction of a certain nature, of which there is visible trace, but no clear presence.

Jin Mustafa, Untitled Streams, HD-video, 10:04 min, 2016-2017

Jin Mustafa’s video Untitled Streams revolves around virtual and liminal spaces. The non-linear stream of imagery supports a narration hovering between the role of mediated communication to fill the voids of distance and the construct of memory. At a pivotal moment, the narrator recalls the ease with which a distant location from the past can vividly be visualized from the mind, noting subsequently the failure to do the same with a distinct road driven daily in the present of today.

Josefina Malmegård, Home (Martin), Video, 22 min, 2016

Josefina Malmegård’s Home stresses how one’s quotidian abode can make for a subversive space if distorting the habitual. For the project she placed ads around the city, inviting male strangers to her home to perform domestic chores while being filmed. The work probes questions about the gendered gaze, perversion and privacy. All these various questions of when and why paradoxically evokes a near Hitchcockian suspense and tension amid an uneventful and slow course of action, prompting the viewer to wait for that one climactic moment to arrive.

Ashik Zaman (C-print)

Exhibition image, designed by Pär Lindström, image still: Jin Mustafa "Untitled Streams"

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