Markus Schinwald – Austrian Pavilion, Biennale di Venezia 2011

Markus Schinwald represents Austria at the 54th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. Schwinwald is known for mixed-media installations and films. In his work, he often investigates the psychological relationship between space and the human body. For the Austrian pavilion he conceived an architectural intervention that basically consists of a variety of small corridors that create a labyrith-like situation.

Markus Schinwald was born in 1973 in Salzburg, Austria. He lives and works in Vienna and Los Angeles. His works are part of numerous international collections such as the Tate Modern in London, the Musée d’Art Modern in Paris, the Kunsthaus Zürich, and the MUMOK in Vienna. His numerous exhibitions include solo shows at the Kunsthaus Bregenz, the Frankfurter Kunstverein, and the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst.

Austrian Pavilion, Giardini della Biennale, Venice / Italy, June 4, 2011.

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Eva Schlegel (Commissioner) on Markus Schinwald (excerpt from the press release)

Tons of material are piled in front of the Austrian Pavilion. There are enormous steel baskets; pallets bearing six-meter panels that are worked on outside the Austrian Pavilion. In the end, everything will have proceeded upward and be suspended from the ceiling. Light, white, and labyrinthine.

Before the entry portals, two gates with asymmetrical apertures impede the visitor’s access. The detour via the side entrances signals that, for the duration of the 54th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia, it won’t be possible to take a linear path through this pavilion.

With his work for the Biennale, Markus Schinwald has used spatial constriction to create spatial expansion – a paradox pervading his artistic oeuvre. He also introduces an unusual horizontal division, which begins at crotch height. Physically palpable and unsettling, this caesura becomes the moment of torsion between uncontrollable expanse and choreographed constriction.

The dissection of the upper space along vertical axes gives rise to a new form of perception, one that takes the human body as the reference point for its articulation, yet also adds a sense of uncanniness through the disproportional ceiling height. As a result, the fractures, the disruptive moments that Schinwald’s works otherwise inscribe in the human body here reappear in three-dimensional space. Hanging cubes, inserted walls, niches, long corridors leading nowhere, and the natural light that falls from above into the oversized chasms of the passageways shape this journey of discovery between the hidden and the visible. It’s an arena that closely matches the topography of its location – reflecting Venice, a maze of alleyways and sunken roads.

Yet when he describes the structural elements, Markus Schinwald prefers to use the terms of psychoanalysis. The space he creates is a dissociative rather than a genuinely fragmented one: claustrophobic above, nothing below. Or, as he puts it, the head in neurosis, the crotch in psychosis.

In his Biennale work, Schinwald confidently combines architectural elements with pictorial, sculptural, and filmic or performative ones. He subtly explores the dispositifs of control, discipline, and self-correction. These are inscribed in the human body, shaping and permeating it; they reemerge on the body surface, in visible and tangible form, as psychologically charged inner worlds. For his new two-part film, entitled Orient, Schinwald recreates the Austrian Pavilion entrance in model form, and the situation he has contrived offers him a means to coerce the body. The vertical abysses on display thus become a showplace for inadequacy and compulsiveness.

In the framework of Bice Curiger’s general theme ILLUMInations, Markus Schinwald negotiates the representation and manipulation of space, time, light, and shadow. He not only alters our experience of space through an element of disturbance, but also allows the Austrian Pavilion’s architecture and history to stand and makes it his subject – with all its ruptures, rifts, and blemishes.

At the core of Schinwald’s art is the psychological confrontation with space and body, the uncanny and the discomfiting, the deficient and the irrational depths of individual and collective being. His observing eye focuses on the human body with all its idiosyncrasies, and on the sociocultural environment in which that body is embedded. By binding the distanced, passive viewer to the spatial and temporal context, Schinwald makes the spectator a protagonist, someone who sees actively and is given the opportunity, through emotionalized experience, to develop and pursue individual analogies and storylines. The carefully positioned paintings and sculptures pick up new narrative threads and emphasize the denseness of the void.

The space expands outward, a storytelling babel of voices commences – and the labyrinth begins to float.

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