Opening speech of the exhibition

Maria Hahnenkamp explores the topos of the female body, media images of the advertising, beauty and fashion industry, and also traditional images from the history of art.

In her exhibition at Galerie Lisi Hämmerle she works on the subject of the portrait. This aspect constitutes a fascinating refinement of her conceptual photographic work in that her examination of the media image always centres on questioning the apparent identity conveyed by a photographic image. In this sense the portraits of her two protagonists, the seven-year-old girl Laura and the Burgtheater actor Regina Fritsch, do not correspond to a conventional category of portrait photography. Instead they comprise scenarios configured by the artist in which she focuses on the gaze, our often unconscious form of perceiving an image, and in which she - ultimately - takes “being in the picture” as her theme.

Regina Fritsch, whose portrait Hahnenkamp created by commission of the Burgtheater in 2008, contributed important accessories for her self-presentation, a long-hair wig and blue-dyed roses. For this mise-en-scène Hahnenkamp inserted a transparent film that occupies the entire image like a curtain. She also sheathed the naked actor in transparent film, having her pose in front of it in this narrow photographic stage space, or transposed her into another series, as a semi-nude, in front of and, at the same time, behind the curtain. In addition to the film “screen”, that captures light to create blind spots, as it were, in the picture, she overlays and extends the “Portraits” with a number of other layers of reflection. On the one hand, she transfers the “blind spots” on to a parallel image, inscribing fragmentary texts from a psychoanalytical context into these blank spaces; on the other hand, the artist embroiders the surface of the images with an ornament that covers the picture like a tight web, like one which has always been there, capturing her protagonists as if inescapably in the picture. Hahnenkamp creates another level in the exhibition space itself, that – echoing its architecture – she stages with curtains, thus drawing the audience into her image spaces.

Hahnenkamp’s works are about the precariousness and vulnerability of human existence. Her “Portraits” revolve around the complexity of an image and the fragmentary nature that always points to something else that lies outside. She demonstrates how it is only in one’s relationship to the other, in the relationship to the imaginary aspect of the gaze and to the symbolic nature of language that identities arise; and she shows that there is no ostensibly complete whole that might represent the portraitees.

Silvia Eiblmayr, 2010

Silvia Eiblmayr, lives and works in Vienna. phd. in art history, curator in the field of contemporary art. From 1998-2008 director of Galerie im Taxispalais in Innsbruck, 1993-1995 director of Salzburger Kunstverein. 1988-2013 lecturer and guest professor in Austria and abroad. Author and editor of numerous art related texts and publications. Book: “Woman as Picture“ – The Female Body in 20th Century Art, Reimer Verlag, Berlin, 1993/2003.

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