7 Unmissable Shows at Vienna Art Week 2016

Orlan, Ai Weiwei, analog cinema, and romanticism will all be celebrated in Vienna.

ORLAN, Pekin Opera Facial Design n°2, (2014). Courtesy Vienna Art Week.

The 12th annual Vienna Art Week is just around the corner, beckoning art-lovers and professionals to “embark on a quest for notions of beauty” through a series of exhibition openings, lectures, film screenings, guided tours, studio visits, live performances, talks, and debates.

Encompassed by the theme “Seeking Beauty,” Vienna’s major museums and art venues will provide countless opportunities for visitors to consider and encounter beauty through varying lenses. With a program scheduled to present an array of large exhibitions and fill around 40 alternative spaces with special events, Vienna Art Week is not one to miss.

To help you make the most of its alluring sights and events, here are seven highlights that may guide you through the week’s colorful offerings:

1. Performative Interview Marathon featuring ORLAN
What is beauty anyway? Why does the ideal of beauty change over time? While Vienna Art Week 2016 strives to find answers to these questions throughout its entire course, this public dialogue will confront the phenomena of beauty head-on.

Featured guests will include the famous body-artist, ORLAN, who underwent a series of surgical body modifications to reflect art historical tendencies; the London Victoria & Albert Museum curator Mark Evans; German literature professor Barbara Vinken; Austrian designer Dejana Kabiljo; and German-Austrian artist-performer Elisabeth von Samsonow.

The program will run from 2-8 pm on November 15, filling the MAK, the Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna, with engaging discussion and performances that compliment and sometimes contradict each other.

Elisabeth von Samsonow, performing "Urpflanzen Aria" at the Goethe Institute Barcelona. Photo courtesy of Vienna Art Week and (c) Wolfgang Thaler.

Elisabeth von Samsonow, performing “Urpflanzen Aria” at the Goethe Institute Barcelona. Photo courtesy of Vienna Art Week and ©Wolfgang Thaler.

2. Ai Weiwei’s “Translocation—Transformation”
Although the exhibition opened mid-July, Ai Weiwei’s “Translocation—Transformation” will remain on view throughout Vienna Art Week, and come to its close at 6pm on November 20.

The show is comprised of a series of installations that occupy 21er Haus, inviting viewers to consider how the removal of objects from their original location imbues new meanings and allows for them to function differently. Ai Weiwei explores this especially through his installation, Wang Family Ancestral Hall, in which an ancient, Ming Dynasty temple is reconstructed and on view for the first time outside of China.

The piece redefines its own history while drawing attention to that of its Vienna venue: a structure that was also relocated from its original location in Brussels. Although inadvertently, the show echoes the themes of “Seeking Beauty,” as Ai Weiwei’s installations strive for new beauty, and visitors participate in discovering it.

Francis Alÿs, Le Temps du Sommeil , 1995, from the series to be on view at Secession. Photo courtesy of der Künstler und Galerie Peter Kilchmann.

Francis Alÿs, Le Temps du Sommeil, (1995), from the series to be on view at Secession. Photo courtesy of the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann.

3. Francis Alÿs and Avery Singer at Secession
Opening on Thursday, November 17, this show will juxtapose the work of Belgian artist Francis Alÿs and American painter Avery Singer in a visual discourse of social, political, and poetic symbols.

In a series of 111 paintings, Alÿs’s Le Temps du Sommeil will offer visitors a glimpse at how ideas evolve with time, as the collection has been in the making since 1995. Singer’s work will similarly create an opportunity for visitors to consider timely development, but rather through paintings that directly reference art historical and contemporary semantics. The show is to remain on view until January 22.

Nasan Tur, Time for Revollusion , 2008. Photo courtesy of Vienna Art Week and © Nasan Tur.

Nasan Tur, Time for Revollusion , (2008). Photo courtesy of Vienna Art Week and ©Nasan Tur.

4. Peter Dressler and Nasan Tur at Kunsthaus Wien
This exhibition will showcase both the work of the late Austrian photographer Peter Dressler and that of the contemporary, Berlin-based Nasan Tur.

As it opens on Tuesday, November 15, the show will be the first comprehensive retrospective of Dressler’s influential work since his death in 2013, highlighting the development of his photography from the 1960s onwards.

Tur’s work will introduce contemporary social conditions and political ideologies into the gallery space, actively engaging the public with his methodology. The exhibition of Dressler’s work will be on view until April 23, and Tur’s until January 28.

Peter Dressler, Eher seltene Rezepte , 1987. Photo courtesy of Leo Kandl and Vienna Art Week.

Peter Dressler, Eher seltene Rezepte, (1987). Photo courtesy of Leo Kandl and Vienna Art Week.

5. Living On | In Other Words on Living
In a direct reference to Jacques Derrida’s essay, “Learning to Live Finally,” this exhibition gathers artworks that critically approach the economic, social, and historical aspects of narratives regarding the end of the world. (Unrelated to the outcome of the US Presidential elections, but timely nevertheless).

Guided by the anthropocene, the geological epoch that shows humans have actively affected the world’s organic processes, the exhibition will read as a visual research project, presented in three chapters that draw historic parallels between the modern era of colonialism, and its current political continuation.

Curated by Delal Isci and Thiago de Paula Souza, the show will feature 18th century works from Thomas Ender, as well as recent pieces by Lorenz Helfer, Max Jorge Hinderer Cruz, and Clara Ianni.

Clara Ianni in Collaboration with Debora Maria da Silva, Apelo/Plea , 2014, Video still. Photo courtesy of Vienna Art Week and © Clara Ianni.

Clara Ianni in Collaboration with Debora Maria da Silva, Apelo/Plea , (2014), Video still. Photo courtesy of Vienna Art Week and ©Clara Ianni.

6. The Last Machine: Screening and Discussion Series
In a three-part series, the Vienna Film Museum will be a screening analog films that highlight settings in which celluloid is not considered obsolete, but rather a deliberately chosen medium. Responding to American avant-garde filmmaker and digital art pioneer Hollis Frampton’s claim that analog film is the “last machine,” the program will showcase the work of cinephiles who still appreciate the beauty of analog film as art.

From November 16-18, the museum will host evening viewings accompanied by talks by a host of speakers and experts championing the arguably “dead” medium. The full schedule is available here.

7. A Romantic Evening – Seeking Beauty in Margareten
On Tuesday, November 15, the opening of “romANTIc? – Our technological society needs Romanticism!” will be accompanied by an evening of cross-generational conversation about the existence of romanticism.

Housed in the old Altmann knitwear factory in Margareten, artists including Peer and Stella Bach, Sibylle Gieselmann, and Ursula Hübner will facilitate a program of performance, discussion, and storytelling that delve into romantic ambivalence, intuition, and emotion from past to present. While poised to be lovely, the evening is bound to leave you questioning what you thought you knew about Romanticism.

Vienna Art Week 2016 runs from November 14-20.

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