matta wagnest, matta, wagnest, artist, künstlerin, malerin, skulptur, wien, österreuch, europa, skulptur europa, soplo, austira, painter, painting


Christian Kravagna


The end of the exhibition coincides with the end of the war. The 11-day countdown from the beginning of the exhibition to the beginning of the war has been considerably delayed (by one year, by nearly 30 years). In the accuracy of its timing, however, it corresponds to the militarily decisive marvel of precision just as the logic of delay corresponds to the passing of the ultimatum. The fact that 17 January, the day of the artistic retreat, coincides with the military attack, discharges the same date into “history” with different connotations. It is there, however, that the appearance of the same date a third time produces the real comparison. The further considerable delay is necessary in so far as the repetition of events – the renewed military attacks on the same day of the following year – pushes the artistic date into the middle. And it is exactly there, in the middle, where it belongs. Because the artistic statement does not primarily refer to (political-military) reality but, to a far greater extent, is framed by it, and even in perfect symmetry, the correspondence of the logic of art and power politics is demonstrated. The tactics of both draw their strength from the magic of the date. Both the artistic and the military reference points, which turn events into anniversaries, rest upon the power of remembered occurrences, whether the intention be to create monuments or food for thought. The strategic artist knows just as well as politician or general where and when he should start his campaigns to achieve the greatest possible effect. 

If artistic or military campaigns are allowed to be split between content and rhetoric in relation to their effectiveness – however much they cannot be separated – the intervention must prove its firepower to the same extent on both levels. The framework, the appropriate language and images for the core of operation, is just as important for success as the operation itself. The decisive factor is not only whether the message reaches its target but far more how large an audience it can command. Power over, and access to, the channels of information distribution, up to and including the substitution of events by their interpretation, increase the chances of success, not least because of the way in which a report contributes to the writing of history. The delay, however long or short it may be, is what creates the fact and the right way of looking at it. 

Conversely – and this is the other side of the logic of delay – the announcement brings with it the necessity for its realisation. The ultimatum, the last point to be passed and the first from which action must start, puts the same pressure on both parties and prepares the ground for the legitimate element of surprise. In spite of this the question remains as to the decisive point in the chronical of events.

Is there a predetermined date between the prologue and the drama or rather another one, the one from which behaviour actually changes? 

This is where military and artistic ultimatums differ. Where the one produces delayed action the other finishes its proceedings on time. But why does art retreat when it really begins? Is it because it must be silent about things which it cannot speak or other honourable motives? Or is it the result of a simple understanding of how marginal its voice is? No, the orderly retreat follows the strategy of agreement to silence. This speechlessness is not the result of doubt about its power of expression but rather of the knowledge of the far greater power of that which it would have to discuss. With the well-aimed mobilization of those images which raise themselves when speech abruptly falls silent the aesthetic prologue leaves the stage to the martial play. A performance which guarantees success, as proved by the fact that it is produced again and again.

With the prologue on a symbolic level and the interlude on a historical level the artistic campaign gains from the course of events to which it simultaneously remains harnessed. The adaption of appropriate strategies still allows the enclosing frame, from which there is no escape, to determine a limited field of action.