Testimonials Visiting Critics Vienna 2021
Whereas other residency programs offer calm and solitude, the Visiting Critics residency program provided inspiring encounters and lasting relationships with members of Vienna’s unique and lively art scene. Perhaps the truest testament to the organizational skill of Dejan, Jelena, Klaus was the fact that the days filled with hours of scheduled programming left us critics not drained, but frequently energized enough to keep going and add even more art to our day.
Our group of four critics from a wide variety of professional backgrounds was treated to an intense schedule filled with studio visits, curator tours, panel discussions, and even a visit to Steirischer Herbst in Graz, one of Europe’s premier performing arts festivals. In just 10 days, we gained a wealth of new impressions that would have required months under most other circumstances.
The wealth art and artists we encountered were a true testament to the adventurous and international spirit the city of Vienna now has to offer–from recent art school graduates to established fixtures in contemporary art history, from painters to new media artists, from Viennese local heroes to globally established artists. During our visits to the galleries of “Curated by” and to Vienna’s many world-class museums, we had days that included everything from recent art against climate change to scholarly deep dives into the work of women at the historic Wiener Werkstätte.
Toward the end of the week, I was happy to share a stage with my colleagues to discuss the week’s many experiences. It was fascinating to discuss our remarkably different takeaways from the week, but we could agree on one thing: We’ll all be back in Vienna sooner rather than later. A big, big “Thank you!” to Verein K for allowing me to partake in this week. Thank you also to Lara, Maja, and Maria for sharing art, ideas, and an occasional Weißer Spritzer. I have begun to process my time in Austria by writing about it, but I know I will have to return and continue to write if I want to finish the thoughts that started this fall.
I am deeply grateful to Verein K for inviting me to participate in their Visiting Critics Residency 2021. Having grown up in Amsterdam and then, since my early twenties, gradually moved further west to Los Angeles by way of Chicago it was good to move in the opposite direction and spend time in Vienna for the first time; learning more about its position as the (artistic) gateway between East and West. Being in a place, or perhaps in a context, provides a different, for me clearer, understanding of positions and perspectives than by reading or hearing about them alone.
While in the second summer of the covid-19 pandemic and in the seventh month of my first pregnancy this experience in a (for me) new place with new people fueled my thoughts and energy; the first of its kind after the absence of social, creative, or professional gatherings for quite some time.
As we came to understand, the title of a critic is both heavily loaded yet currently difficult to define to the point that its role and function can be questioned. And, none of us subscribed to that title alone. The myriad of backgrounds both professionally and geographically of the residents and organizers generated valuable and vulnerable conversations in the many spaces that we visited.
All to say that the residency, even weeks later, is still letting me think and therefore I am all the more thankful to be given an opportunity to write about it for Camera Austria as a result of the residency.
Thank you Jelena, Dejan, Klaus, Arash, Maja, María Inés and Gregor.
Verein K Visiting Critics makes things happen by exposing art critics effectively to the public eye and makes the point by establishing relationships in the domain of art criticism. It is a unique catalyst for a meaningful collective conversation amongst otherwise isolated art critics. This dynamic programme involves various professionals and institutions and thus cultivates an in-depth and detailed approach to contemporary art and culture. It is a trans-generational and trans-disciplinary generator of debate, a matchmaker of a sort, a promoter of the Austrian art context.
Shout-out to @verein__k for inviting four visiting critics and leading their way for ten days, in two cities, through fourteen studio visits, @curatedby.at and @steirischerherbst festivals, numerous institutional exhibitions and professional encounters @mumok_vienna @kunsthalle3000 @kunsthallewien @mak_vienna @depotwien many formal and informal gatherings, and last but not the least towards sharing and exchanging opinions by the means of art criticism in the Austrian publications @springerin_magazin @artmagazine.cc @cameraaustriagraz.
By intense exchange of ideas, Verein K keeps on accomplishing a great deal for art criticism.
DEAR JELENA, DEAR DEJAN, DEAR KLAUS,
As what any residency needs to be, the Visiting Critics offered me a place to think, feel and reflect on the system we are working as intellectual workers: the so-called art world. As publisher and editor of an art publication myself, to have intense daily parcours through galleries, ateliers and institutions, this meant to have a break from my responsibilities at the office, and enjoy the role of a guest, which sometimes enjoys the liberty to see everything from a clear and detached perspective.
That situation allowed me to understand the importance of the non-profit-endeavour that Jelena and Dejan Kaluderović and Klaus Speidel took us in. Without critique, a city scene cannot evolve, nor participate in an international circuit of constant renewal, of aesthetic, political and social challenges. And it is Verein K that fills the role within a quite privileged ecosystem, with a liberal but socially driven infrastructure and a city that politically allows its citizens to maintain a critical relation with each other.
An interesting way how these exchanges I mention, both on a structural and on a critical level, manifest in the fact that through Verein K two critics turned into curators within the Curated by program in 2021: Cindy Shishoko at EXILE gallery and Valentinas Klimašauskas at Georg Kargl. Both exhibitions particularly draw my attention, for their systemic approach to exhibition making.
While Shishoko’s This is Not a Love Poem subtly engaged the gallerist to turn the “white space” of a gallery into a “black box”, she not only challenges the gallerist to be in total darkness, surrounded by the artworks she chose – solely video – but also to a cis-white heterosexual topography like the white cube. Meanwhile, Klimašauskas took the visitors on a complex journey through the epistemological meaning of media, simultaneity, and power hierarchies.
To visit these exhibitions during the opening of the art fair vienna contemporary, the Vienna Biennale and the Steirischerherbst, reassured once again on interregional and local alliances, and revealed not only the most beautiful ways of engaging with the public space – such as Tino Seghal’s performances from sunrise to sunset and Thomas Hirschorn’s Memorial for Simone Weil in Graz – but also the necessary frictions and experimentations such as the one provided at Haus Wien, a large community exhibition, or the political engagement of Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll at VBKÖ and her smashing exhibition at this Verein.
The networking and bridging work with and through Verein K still resonates in me; it has brought me close to my fellow critics with whom I shared two weeks of impressions and thoughts and fun in growing more knowledgeable, and I wish anyone who applies or gets invited to this program to enjoy it the same way as I did.
Verein K is an independent arts and cultural organization from Vienna, founded in January 2018. Verein K focuses on projects in the field of contemporary art and culture connecting diverse cultural and social interests: critical approaches to contemporary art, creating curatorial platforms as well as enabling innovative cultural practices including diverse social groups.