Tools for Conviviality
Cameron Clayborn, Clegg+Guttmann, Anna Ehrenstein, Heinz Frank, Blerta Hashani, Oswald Oberhuber, Veronika Pausova and Dardan Zhegrova


Tools for Conviviality<br>Cameron Clayborn, Clegg+Guttmann, Anna Ehrenstein, Heinz Frank, Blerta Hashani, Oswald Oberhuber, Veronika Pausova and Dardan Zhegrova
[ click image to view slideshow ]

„As an alternative to technocratic disaster, I have a vision of a convivial society.“ (Ivan Illich, 1973)

The fourth and final presentation of the three galleries, whose owners all have Viennese roots, features a selection of seven artists. Oswald Oberhuber and Heinz Frank take on the role of doyens, while Anna Ehrenstein‘s „Tools for Conviviality“ gives the exhibition its title. Referring to the book of the same name published in 1973 by the philosopher, theologian and rebel Ivan Illich, the artist criticizes the utopia of modern media and communication technologies. „Tools for Conviviality“ is a collaborative project that consists of photographs, textile sculptures, and a 360° video and addresses questions of contemporary media and their socio-cultural implications. „Objects“ from the digital world, such as bitcoins or VR glasses, are rendered surreal and paraphrased in photoshop, creating a vast repertoire of images. As for Illich, from a modified viewpoint 50 years later, Ehrenstein‘s concern is a political one. In this regard, Illich pleaded for social regulations of the convivial, „which guarantee the individual comprehensive and free access to the tools and could only restrict this freedom for the sake of the same freedom of another.“
In the temporary constellation of the exhibition, it is presumably Oswald Oberhuber, who - always open to new strategies- rejected dogmas and conventions. Any concept of „originality“ was probably repugnant to him as criticism and commentary built the base of his works, living from the informal and surreal, from wit and quotation. Besides his artistic output (for example as a Biennale and Documenta participant), Oberhuber‘s important role as a gallery owner and as a Professor and Rector at the Akademie für Angewandte Kunst is often forgotten.
Heinz Frank‘s texts can be read as both a warning and a call for a self-determined convivial society. The slightly younger Frank, who shared with Oberhuber a penchant for the anti-heroic and absurd, centered his works around language. This interest can be both understood philosophically as well as poetically as it deals with questions of form, space and the body, creating a parallel world of language that probes the very system of “art”. Frank was a unique individual who never held an official teaching position. However, he left his studio in Vienna‘s 15th district to posterity, which the estate (represented by LambdaLambdaLambda) is endeavoring to preserve.
With the younger artists in the exhibition, points of view and reference arise and touch topics of the convivial and societal. The laconic, sometimes cryptic quality seems to be characteristic of Veronika Pausova‘s paintings, which give form to a choreography of fragmentarily staged things within a concise, scaffold-like structure. Pausova‘s works have therefore sometimes been compared to „short stories“, when a poignant narrative is set in motion between the title of the picture and the motifs depicted. Blerta Hashani could be associated with a sentence by Illich, who understood „self-limitation“ in relation to the environmental context. In response to the question what a desirable future could look like, Illich argued for „a life in which we consciously give preference to doing over consuming.“ As a quasi „classic“ landscape painter, Hashani looks for her motifs in the surroundings of her Kosovan homeland. They are small pictures, mounted on jute, which reveal their strength precisely in their restraint. LambdaLambdaLambda also shows a voodoo doll by Hashani‘s compatriot Dardan Zhegrova as a kind of counterpart. The puppets have their roots in the Dodona Puppet Theater, which has been an important site of Albanian cultural resistance in Kosovo since it was founded in 1986. At the Manifesta in Prishtina (2022), one doll leaned against a wall and recited Zhegrova‘s texts. When the end of the text displayed on the doll reads: „... get too much hope, lose some other,“ the activist (and journalist) Zhegrova is not so far removed from Illich‘s social utopias. cameron clayborn is the second artist that Simone Subal brought with her from New York alongside Pausova. The textile wall works shown are each titled „reliquary“, which brings them close to the ceremonial, if not the religious. The sculpturally motivated form emphasizes enclosures while details and the view into the interior, which contains photo transfers of windows and closed blinds, suggest narratives that allude to a private past and can only be guessed at.
KOW‘s third contribution to the exhibition is the artist duo Clegg & Guttmann, who have been working together for 30 years. The duo propagates a concept of art that is to be understood as a „social communicative process“ and includes photographic and filmic works. The portrait, with all its bourgeois and art-historical conventions, plays a major role in it. Commissioned works stand alongside other works in which the break with the portrait tradition as well as all possible institutional implications are thematized. In the works on display, portrait fragments are combined with the media specificity of both sculpture and photography.

Susanne Neuburger