Art Seen: International

DIENSTAG ABEND // PROFILE OF THE ARTISTS

by Heather Findling

There is No Truth in Order           

“There is no truth in order.” This statement best encapsulates the underlining theme of dienstag abend (translated to Tuesday evening), an artist collective based in Vienna, Austria and led by artists Ludwig Kittinger and Fernando Mesquita. The experience alone of interviewing these two artists could easily be linked to the intentional spontaneity and affable quality that emanates from their processed-based and impulsively planned performances. Our rendezvous included a set meeting on the patio at the Jugendstil influenced Café Rüdigerhof in Vienna’s fifth district. Protected by a canopy of overgrown trees, our conversation seemed a performance in itself, moving from one table to the next in order to find that perfect spot sheltered from the drizzling of rain on a humid albeit cool summer Tuesday evening. Finally committing to a large and dry picnic table, drinks were served and a detailed summary of past project successes, adventures and disappointments resulted. The artists revealed an insightful and refreshing foundation to their aesthetic belief system, which avoids some of the very things that being apart of the contemporary art world can consume an artist with—like an overemphasis on who you know, and how far they can take you, as well as the excessive (and at times exhausting) amount of theory and historical referencing used. Instead, dienstag abend relies on an interest in producing thought-provoking performances that are inviting and honest, with a natural and at times unfinished dialogue taking place between artist and audience. Themes of collectivity and friendship dictate the somewhat planned, somewhat unprompted happenings that in the end devalue order—creating a more truthful experience.

tbilisi

dienstag abend, tbilisi

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Heather Findling: How did the idea for dienstag abend start? And why did you choose the particular day and time of Tuesday evening?

Fernando Mesquita: After a six week show, Martin Vesely, who was running Ve.Sch at that time, decided to open this artist run space (Ve.Sch) one more day a week and invited us to program it. We agreed on Tuesdays, from where dienstag abend (Tuesday evening) comes.

Ludwig Kittinger: Yes, it came out of a show we had together. After our quite conventional opening, we decided to let things loose for the remaining time of it and wanted an exhibition-in-progress. We invited others to intervene as they chose. Later on, we created the name dienstag abend, suggesting nothing specific in particular, but indicating a get-together on a Tuesday evening.

HF: Do you consider the audience to be just as much an artist as you are in these collaborative interactions? Or do you feel you can still maintain some control in what occurs at these events?

LK: I think the roles switch at times. With the approach of non-regulation, we at times become the audience ourselves and the former passive subject, the spectator, turns into the active part. Who is then artist and who not is less important, it´s more about a mechanism and possibly making the spectator an active agent, not by script, and giving space for a communal performance. Control is a concept, so I don´t know—it also depends on the controlled ones, leading to division. I suppose we are more interested in decontrol anyway.

FM: Back when we had the project running in Ve.sch, close to 70 artists were invited, and whenever we asked them to participate, what was vital for us was that we would interfere as little as possible – and in fact we never did – in the artists choices of what to do or what to show. What we always asked for was this; bring your ideas that are waiting to come into existence, and take the chance during this evening to try them out. One can only imagine how many different approaches we dealt with and witnessed in the changing roles of audience/artist. The nature of each project was defined by the way in which the one involved perceived her/himself—dienstag abend doesn’t need to have necessarily the component of interaction with the audience. We try often, indeed, to break with what is considered to be “standard”- how to do and how to show. There is a kind of passivity or fixed notion in the way of presenting a group of artists, and here is where we somehow tried to make the work process-oriented. Or, according to the nature of the works themselves, which is an influent characteristic of dienstag abend, the audience and artist can, or not, interchangeably move their role and positions.

HF: Why do you feel it’s important to push away from the ‘typical’ notion of the contemporary art world, one that is filled with heavy theory and the idea of worthiness? What do you feel is worthy in contemporary art and how have you dealt with, or broken away from, this in the collective?

FM: I would say filled with theory, heavily—dienstag abend since the beginning had an Ad hoc approach. I tend to believe that all of us involved have their own theoretical background and use it to hers/his best needs or conveniences. Not in Ve.Sch, nor in our attempts on a dienstag abend abroad, did we have a clear picture of what would happen or how the space would look like in reality—so one of the main positive points is that we usually go for a project without knowing from where to start and how it will end, constantly challenging that same theoretical background.

Tbilisi 2012

dienstag abend, tbilisi

LK: I wouldn’t like to speak about worthiness in relation to art, even in general. The term contains too much evaluation or judgment and too little real observation of things—there are too many quick conclusions based upon that, in what others have said before, and often provokes quite sudden breaks to any relation or flow. To talk about contemporary art many times talks about a symptom and not the cause. It ́is a highly specialized field and it still follows the same mechanisms as the prevailing general socio-economic system in which it is based and functions.

HF: Why do you choose the bar or kitchen as a site for your happenings?

LK: We integrate them depending on the situation, as they many times simply serve as the most common hub for communication and simply being together.

HF: What is one of the most memorable “get together” your group has experienced as part of dienstag abend?

FM: Each one had its own uniqueness… not the most memorable, but one good moment in London was when we started our daily “cooking sessions” in The Mews Project, just behind The Whitechapel (the day after the opening in Art Review Live). We bought an electric hot plate around the corner and several people showed up. It turned out that cooking was taking ages to finish… two hours to boil some potatoes… and this was the moment where in between we were giving ourselves time for development and questioning, with the participating artists, some of their friends, and also with some unknown people that had access to our lunch invitations. We all participated in this “slow” round table talk.

After five days of “cooking sessions”, the electric hot plate stopped working on the last day, so we delivered it back to the shop and got our money back!

LK: This was a project we did in Tbilisi. It was less the project itself but mainly the people we met and the city.

HF: Which artists have been influential in dienstag abend?

LK: Many have strongly contributed to the development of dienstag abend but it ́s difficult to highlight any one in particular. The conceptual framework itself is a bit of a potpourri of our own ideas, which we adapt from event to event, mixed with thoughts from people like Guy Debord, Tom Marioni, Viktor Misiano and others.

FM: I would also like to perhaps recall Gordon Matta-Clark in all his dynamic, versatility and “rebelness” – and to some extent Bertolt Brecht.

HF: Do you feel that there is anything particular to practicing your art in Austria; either as artists in Vienna or perhaps issues specific to Austria — be it cultural, political or social – that are brought up during your interactions with the audience?

FM: As a Portuguese artist living in Vienna, it has become clear to me the different approaches that different Governments have, and more significantly, how they spend their budget on Arts and Culture.

In Vienna, we saw several non-profitable art projects appearing in the last years and somehow, Vienna is becoming a more vivid (art related) city, and a hub for the young international art scene. In general, Austria has a favorable condition for projects like dienstag abend to happen. For instance, after two years of dienstag abend in Ve.Sch, I decided together with other five artists – from different nationalities – to start another project that works with similar dynamics. It is an artist collective named See You Next Thursday, with an artist-run space called Schneiderei, where again the collaborative nature of its projects is one of the key elements, and these issues often come into debate, being it in our individual or collective practice.

LK: Good thing about Austria is that it still provides a system of public support for arts and culture, and this is something that has been rapidly disappearing Europe-wide. The financial crisis caused by speculations in the financial sector caused the shrinking of public funds and the destruction of the remains of the social state. Austria still nurtures the idea of publicly supporting the arts and this in great deal enabled dienstag abend to exist – the ability to put a lot of effort and time into something that is not-profit oriented and has no commercial goals. So Vienna is a place that may be a little less competitive and still allows something like a productive laziness. However, cultural workers are facing precarious work conditions everywhere, but the presence of the public support for them definitely makes their lives easier.


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Heather Findling is from Phoenix, Arizona and holds a Masters Degree in Art History.  She currently lives and works in Vienna, where she explores her Austrian heritage, studies, and works as Curatorial Assistant for the exhibition Leiblichkeit und Sexualitaetat KunstGlaube Vienna, opening in April, 2014. She loves permeating all cliches Vienna has to offer, including drinking more than three Melanges per day, checking out museum exhibitions with special relevance to Viennese modernism, and eating Zotter chocolate on a regular basis.

dienstag abend will have a project on view as part of ArtReview Live at EXPO CHICAGO (Booth 825), September 18–21, 2014.

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