Dec 5 to Feb 13
Tanja Widmann

Making oneself similar in this sense.


1) Making oneself similar in this sense. Draft project, first version:

Walter Benjamin repeatedly writes of children’s ability to access a creative level of mimesis that brings together perception and active reshaping of what is perceived, harboring a revolutionary power. He thus believes as well, pursuing a line of thought in which educators are educated, in which teachers become learners, to have rediscovered by observing these mimetic achievements a mode of cognition that goes beyond finding the «right answer» to uncover other ways to relate consciousness and reality, yielding endless potential for transformation. Based on the approaches taken up until now, which have been characterized by mimetic actions and questions of appropriation in the sense of a translation of what’s there, by paradox, feeble humor and inertia, here text and movement are once again to be delayed, to be opened up and ultimately cheerfully usurped. Because the space is still open and the game must first be invented.
And perhaps we need many of us, or at least two, in order to go so far as to say: Someone, you or me, comes forward and says: I finally want to learn, to teach, to live. And if that sounds clumsy, then not only because it’s already a translation, a reference, divergent, necessarily inappropriate and yet learning from …

2) Making oneself similar in this sense. Draft project, second version.

This or something similar would be the way to talk about her artistic procedure, she thought. Not about an authentic procedure, but about a procedure that suggests itself in the service of this work. A process that prompts us to speak about the relationship between mimesis and appropriation, and about how these artistic procedures can make a place for themselves in society. Adorno regularly expressed his enthusiasm for a particular form of «mimetic procedure,» and he described art in general as the «refuge for mimetic comportment.» It is the relationship that appears in art between a gradually autonomous subject and its other, a relationship that Adorno conceives of as mimetic. Adorno breaks with the classical conception of mimesis as imitation. He is concerned with a mimetic behavior that, far from imitating, pursues a course that is traced out for it, as it were, by itself. To her it seemed vital, however, in dealing with what Adorno or Benjamin described as mimetic behavior, to in particular take up the question of the relationship to the other, the possibilities and impossibilities of this relatedness, the question of relative autonomy. With regard to the concept of mimesis, A. was interested in a clinging to the material, while B. emphasized the connection with children’s play. B. thus wrote repeatedly of children’s ability to access a creative level of mimesis that brings together perception and active reshaping of what is seen, thus harboring a revolutionary power. She therefore deemed it just as important to explore both visions of the transformative power of mimesis, the possibility of a reordering of what is perceived. For A., to adopt something mimetically was synonymous with taking up a «critical» position against it. Mimesis, for him, possessed a critical function; a critical claim was supposed to be connected with mimetic conformity and «clinging.» This reversal of mimesis into critique resembles a magic chain of events, in which the «mimesis of the hardened and the alienated» or the «mimesis of death» is already supposed to be synonymous with «critique.» One might counter this hope with the concrete experience of contemporary art, which does not confirm it. On the contrary, it shows that an automatism of this kind can by no means be relied upon to occur. Here as well, she found it plausible that one can by no means assume that a critical attitude comes about automatically as soon as certain strategies and techniques are taken up, or even a production process regarded as critical. But she nevertheless wanted to comprehend this mimetic movement in relation to a specific concept of critique as was perhaps already contemplated by A. After all, A. also refers to the fact that a «claim to deeper knowledge of the object» and «the separation of the concept from its object through the independence of the judgment » invalidates the process of criticism as practice. Contrasting with this is presumably a critical procedure as a form of practice that tries to counter the supposed independence of judgment with evidence of entanglement, of a relationship with the material, with the object at hand. This could be conceived of as a practice of deconstruction or appropriation and would also involve this overturning of the relationship between teacher and learner, a reversal, a calling into question of authorities. Every time there would be an experimental protocol set up with certain parameters. But in setting these parameters, chance and the arbitrary also play a role. …Self-abandonment as an artistic method. Basically, that’s an old modernist issue. … But how exactly do social constraints enter into art? For A., it is the material that is charged with taking this step. It drags society with it, so to speak, and at the same time obeys its own logic. So in her opinion we would have to ask what these parameters are, what «material » we are talking about here. The starting point would on the one hand be material of any kind – a photo, a scene or character in a film, a speech, a newspaper clipping, a music piece, art things or everyday things. Across several works, however, relationships would be discerned to other people, to an environment, a loosely connected group, without evoking a community, common ground or clear belonging. This as well could be viewed as a site, as a localization, and would thus also have to be regarded as a kind of material. Above all, though, there was also this other material, language itself. The texts in the performances and installations veritably turned it against itself. They thus produced mainly delays, a kind of stuttering, allowing speaking and action to collapse into a paradox. Language returned in this process as a gag, as a void, as a self-destructive linguistic game. In this sense, it perhaps fulfilled its purpose precisely by not fulfilling it, she thought. …But speaking like this already meant making her work resemble a work of art. As if there were such a thing as a work that could form the starting point, independently. And yet none of the parts were ever autonomous; each element could only be made available within a relationship; none could exist without a frame of reference. Is this actually an artistic procedure at all, and to what extent, she asked herself. And not merely self-education in similarity. A process that prompts us to speak about the relationship between mimesis and appropriation, and about how these artistic procedures can make a place for themselves in society.

See Isabelle Graw: «Adorno is Among Us.» In: Nicolaus Schaffhausen et. al. (eds.): The Possibility of the Impossible. Frankfurt 2004. and Isabelle Graw: «No Make-up.» In: Cindy Sherman: Clowns. Munich/Hanover 2004. And Jacques Derrida: Specters of Marx. The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International. Frankfurt am Main 2004.

Tanja Widmann works as artist, author and curator, and teaches at the University of Applied Arts, Vienna. In her artistic and theoretical work she explores language in its conventionality and regularity by tracing its leaps and breaks, its propensity for ambiguity and thus its basic openness. Language thus demonstrates a belonging to certain discourses, actors or genres, while the performing subject constantly falls between the cracks. In the performances and installations it returns as an unlocalized double, in a (non)relationship to, and contaminated by, all of the other elements at work – the other in each case, the audience, the camera, art things, everyday things. A constantly halting run-through in temporal delays, paradoxical movements, feeble gags. Group exhibitions: lecture/audience/camera (Muhka, Antwerp 2008), Lectureperformancenight (Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin 2007), Blueblacksliding constellations und weiss (Kunstverein, Bonn 2007), Shandyism. Authorship as Genre (Secession, Vienna und Kunsthaus, Dresden 2007), the film as a page of victor hugo rewritten in the style of nerval (JET, Berlin 2007). Co-curated exhibitions: Nothing is exciting. Nothing is sexy. Nothing is not embarrassing. (Mumok, Vienna 2008), View A, View B (Salzburger Kunstverein 2005/6), That bodies speak has been known for a long time.* (Generali Foundation, Vienna 2004).
Regular contributions to catalogues, Texte zur Kunst and springerin.