22 10 07

what is a terrortorium without a flag ?

elisabeth steger

One tram stop away from the street where I am living Favoriten- Street is crossing Klausenburger- Street. But there is not only a street name in Vienna which reminds me to Cluj, we have a Cluj-based art institution, the Studio Protokoll as guest here on the occasion of a cooperation project together with the "home base" IG Bildende Kunst. The two curators Attila Tordai-S. and Dagmar Höss choose six artists, that means the labours of Eva Brunner Szabo, Andrea Faciu, Gregor Graf, Ciprian Muresan, Pia Schauenburg and Peter Szabo, and worked out an exhibition which is at the moment shown in the gallery of the IG in Gumpendorfer- Street. An exhibition in Cluj will follow.
The whole thing started already when another Viennese institution, the Schnittpunkt ( made an excursion to Cluj in 2005 - Nora Sternfeld, one of the chairwomen of the IG told me. The title of the show is: Friends, Foes and Collaborators and it "is concerned with the construction of images of friends, foes and their collaborators who, because of their <work with the opponent>, also become enemies. The individual artistic positions enter into a dialogue with each other and reflect these issues from Romanian and Austrian perspectives." - as it is written on the visitors information.

Where are those perspectives? For sure I had enough time to search for them: I took part in a workshop dealing with social security of artists held by two friends (Andrea Salzmann and Daniela Koweindl) in the gallery space, visited the opening of the exhibition, changed some words with two artists and went to the show again a third time - and must confess, I cannot find these national perspectives (maybe with exception in the work of Eva Brunner Szabo, who used some statistical data of Austria for her running text on a light emitting Diode. For example we get informed about the fact that in 2006 in Austria "the proportional relationship between tourists and refugees is 1385:1" ).  Let me supply a proofed Austrian perspective in addition which I found in literature, which maybe helps us to see the differences.  A dialogue between two works - the one which is set into the centre of the exhibition is taken here as an example to be confined to.  It started already in the 19th century...

"in a time which was up against the believe in miracles of the Bible more and more reserved, the mythological language created a real Eldorado. An End of this wave is in sight by no means." Adolf Holl, an Austrian writer, is describing here the birth of the phenomenon of crime novels which should be seen as part of our contemporary myths. In his essay he gives us some famous examples of crime novel heroes, those brave fighters against demons and monsters, against the Bad. And he names James Bond - the hero who is analysed by Pia Schauenburgs work too. The theologian Holl believes that the secret agent is an extra-ordinary hero (quasi an extra-extraordinary man, a super-ordinary/ ) because he is impressive through his technical perfectionism. He thinks that "regarding the history of religion James Bond is already approaching the figure of the so- called Trickster, a mythological character with moral ambivalence: it shows both good and bad qualities."
Let´ s face Bonds qualities in its political implications- this thought could have been the leading idea of Pia Schauenburg when she started her artistic work about the Bond movies which takes half of the main exhibition space. In any case her labour is again a proof for the ability of artists to work with scientific techniques. Her installation is called Terrortorium - or "a short story of the terror". And we get a statement: In her estimation Bond is more or less a serial killer - it is an estimation differing from the one Adolf Holl gave us. Pia Schauenburg: "1962 the first James Bond 007 movie was released. The character in this worldwide successful and unique Film series, James Bond, is an ideal type, a representative of Western culture: He is male, in his mid- thirties, gentlemanly and sophisticated, plays golf, loves women and drinks martinis, he always has the latest technical devices at his disposal. As a secret agent he is engaged in fighting the threat of terrorism. He kills untold thousands of opponents in support of world security. The whereabouts of the aggressors are exemplary: At the beginning they are in the states of the Soviet Union or other communist- ruled countries. The recent movies again play in Russia, Cuba, North Korea or Azerbaijan. The danger is localised and equated with nationalities, ideologies and systems - from 1962 till now."
Very meticulously Pia Schauenburg lined up a list of all the killed characters in the movies. The installation consists of a series of 21 card- index boxes and each box represents one Bond movie - from the first one in 1962 to the latest in 2006. The boxes are set in two opposite lines - therefore a little room inside the room is produced, where the visitors can walk in like stepping into a public scientific archive. At the front side of this room Pia Schauenburg painted a world map directly on the wall and located all the murders Bond has commit since 1962 connecting the scenes of crime with red thread. A special territory, the Terrortorium, like Pia Schauenburg calls it, is made visible, the virtual "axis of the evil" is transformed into a real tangible concrete thing. The single boxes contain identity cards where upon the artist specified all the victims of Bonds heroic activities. Each murdered character is named with the (movie) time of death, cause of death and data like name, job description (for example: accomplice) and the nationality of the killed. These data are set under a film still which shows the last seconds of the victims life. To give an example of the box of "goldfinger/1964": Auric Goldfinger, terrorist, USA - 01:44:05, fall to death. All these identity cards are stringed one behind the other - again with red thread and drawn to the ceiling of the gallery space. The box of the year 1997 stretches the longest line upside: Bond murdered more than 20 people in this series. Whereas the box of the year 2006 is closed: the work was done already in 2005 (and we do not miss the latest massacre of Casino Royal at all).

denn wenn es gäbe nur 5
in der ganzen Stadt
welche bereit sind und fähig
zu machen den Umsturz, dann
geselle dich ihnen sogleich
(Bertolt Brecht)

A couple of human beings in a much more lively situation is pictured in a corresponding work put next to the Terrortorium in a vivid contrast. 5 young men -strictly speaking 4, the fifth is the photographer-  appear on the human flag of Andrea Faciu, a series of 5 flags in 5 different sizes. A photo of the family album of the artist has been reproduced and: "of course there is a nice little story connected to it, how the five friends leave the city - it` s Bucharest - and skip college classes travelling around through the mountains in the mid-1970s". Andrea Faciu told me that she is very glad about the fact that the human flag itself has already been on tour in several European countries. The labour is dealing with movement: we see four young men and the fifth behind the camera leaving a city, full of joy in the moment of reaching the top of a mountain, in the faces we see "everything that has to do with the here-and-now, with surmounting, with victory, pride, joy, a sense of belonging, friendship, courage, carefreeness from everyday troubles ... and of course with a bit of foolishness or ignorance of what tomorrow might bring." - and we can read at least 5 sentences on the flags, translated into English, German, Italian and Romanian: there is the human flag for full bellies, the next is the one against empty bottles, the third is for unpredictability, one against starving souls and the last for day dreams. Maybe there is a reader under us who could use a professionally made flag at the next Euro-May-Day parade? Andrea Faciu would sell it as she confirmed.

Adolf Holl, Augustinus und der Kriminalroman, in: Landvermessung, volume 1 Horsd`oeuvre - Essays, Residenz Verlag 2005

Thanks to Fred Büchel for remembering Brecht

Elisabeth Steger