A project by Almut Rink
Co-curated by Anne Eggebert
With contributions by
Margot Bannerman (GB), Ben Cain (GB),
Sarah Cole (GB), Regula Dettwiler (AT),
Kyoko Ebata (JP), Anne Eggebert (GB),
Polly Gould (GB), Matthew Wang (SGP)
In co-operation with Ursula Reisenberger
Korea House of Culture, Danube Park and Irissee
Arbeiterstrandbadstraße 122, 1220 Vienna
7th September – 21st September 2017
Opening reception: Wednesday, 6th September 2017, 6pm.
Ernst Nevrivy, Director of the 22nd District, Vienna
Michaela Glanz, Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna
Almut Rink, Project Director
Orientation provides us with an idea about the world around us. “Beyond Orientation” questions its underlying structures, extends and moves them so that placing ourselves can be experienced as a dynamic process. Including all constitutive elements, it is sustainable, but not static. The exhibition “Beyond Orientation. Eight Views” is the third part of the research project “Orientation as Gardening” (conceived by Viennese artist Almut Rink and author Carola Platzek, funded by Science Fund Austria). It continues their arts based research in the form of a curated group exhibition at the Korea House of Culture, Vienna.
The Research Project “Orientation as Gardening”
The project has taken place in public spaces in Tokyo, London and Vienna over the course of two years and, deriving from three historic systems of composition, explores orientation as an active composing (“gardening”) of our being in the world.
Sakuteiki, a classical Japanese garden manual from the 12th century, asks of the gardener a precise observation of nature and, more than that, the renouncing of an anthropocentric perspective, in order to “follow the requests of the stone”.
The Chinese painter Shitao’s philosophy of art from the 17th century, a Daoist cosmology of painting, deduces the artist’s activity from an impulse beyond the individual.
The third system of composition, the garden school of Epicureus from the 3rd century BC, was a community outside the city gates of Athens, that opened up a space for self-responsibility and was, contrary to the norms of Athenian society, accessible to women and slaves.
Orientation as Gardening Part 1, Tokyo
The first part of the research project looked to Asia in search of sustainable concepts of orientation, in a literal translation of orientation as “turning to the East”. There, the basic principle of “situation and potential” contains an organic idea of order. As opposed to the European “plan and goal” (François Jullien), it follows the laws of nature: “Order” is a concept like the grain of wood or the structure of an ice crystal, unpredictable but by no means random.
Almut Rink has developed eight Assemblage Boards as central tools for the project. Referencing Japanese Tana-kazari, small handmade shelves that are used to display bonsai or suiseki stones, the shelves have been enlarged to human size and were placed in a park in Tokyo. In a public space with non-European dynamics, they were used as a tool, frame or stage. Turning around the hierarchy between subject and object, plant and human, stone and onlooker, the Boards acted as a vantage point for questioning an anthropocentric perspective. Focusing on the physical experience, orientation was perceived as a process, one that constellates time and again in relation to the present moment.
In Chinese and Japanese painting there is a tradition of “Eight Views”, of looking at the same landscape in eight different ways. The views can differ in time, atmosphere, season, viewpoint etc. In their totality they relate to the portrayed site and simultaneously point to all other possible views that are contained in the site. They do not give an exhaustive account of a site, but are rather an approximation that opens onto the infinite, the void surrounding the views.
The idea of Eight Views has become a basic principle for the whole project. In their work for Zenpukuji Park, Almut Rink and Carola Platzek chose eight sites for the Assemblage Boards and linked them to the structure of the park, thus creating eight different work situations, one for each day. Eight moments out of an infinite number, in order to approach a connection with the whole.
Orientation as Gardening Part 2, London
The second part of the project was about bringing these experiences to a Western, dense urban context, to the King’s Cross development in London (in co-operation with Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London).
In Japanese tradition a non-anthropocentric view of the world is deeply rooted; relating to the surroundings through the Boards proved therefore to be relatively easy. In Europe, this approach turned out to be more difficult. Even though Europe has always known lines of thought similar to Eastern philosophies, these have rather been side-lines to the tradition. Ever since the Enlightenment, Western thinking has strongly prioritized a view that has put the human individual at the centre of its universe.
Therefore, the London research was about testing the Assemblage Boards in a non-Asian context. The respective placements were developed out of extensive site-specific research, approaching King’s Cross through its fringes and trying to re-include aspects like disease and death that had been excluded from the development. The Boards turned out to be hard to access, some being only virtually present or absent altogether.
Almut Rink continued to work with and around the Boards for another eight days. Once each day she was met by the audience of a performative walk covering all the Board locations, led by Ursula Reisenberger. Whereas in Japan the focus had been on searching for a personal experience with an alternative approach to the world, in London the research was extended and explicitly included the encounter and sharing with an audience.
The final part “Beyond Orientation. Eight Views” brings the London and Tokyo experiences back to Vienna. Almut Rink will continue her research and, together with Anne Eggebert as a co-curator, will open the space for an exchange with eight artists. The exhibition will open up a discourse space for a temporary collective.
The Korea Pavilion at the outskirts of the city will act as host, providing a space that merges nature and architecture and refers back to the Epicurean garden: a place outside the city walls, that allowed for thoughts, experiences and work outside of the governing paradigms. Coming from the antique idea of a “Care of the Self” that was re-discovered by Foucault, Almut Rink will continue a discourse started in Japan: she will explore the subject not as an entity but as a process composed of relationships – above all a relationship with itself.
The eight Assemblage Boards will turn into supporting structures, framing the other artworks and setting up relationships between them. They will enter into a dialogue with them, adapt to them, frame them, contradict, play with them – and once more become a vantage point. Out of the relationship between the two works, a third one will evolve, a portrait of the present moment, absolute and in full acknowledgement of its ephemeral character.
What links the artworks are questions of orientation and cultivation, care and relationship, autonomy and dependence.
Margot Bannerman (GB) draws marked zones in the Iris Lake, islands of the precariat, fragile organic habitats, which can only survive with floatation support and (according to Ernst Mach) become the metaphor of the ego as a temporary sum of sensations;
Ben Cain (GB) deploys the gesture, rupture and gap between things, to reflect on the marginal, and examine blurs and mergers in designations such as subject / object, influencing / being influenced, passive / active;
Sarah Cole (GB) reflects in her video on experiences of isolation, endurance and the oscillation between self-determination and determination inherent in the profession of long-term carers;
Regula Dettwiler’s (AT) territory is the organic, here as a symbolic mapping of the psychological affects we might read through the materiality of our world;
Kyoko Ebata (JP) is washing an endless loop of Japanese flags, which in the context of the pavilion – as a place of the Korean community – become a commentary of a difficult common history, cleaned and hung up to dry;
Anne Eggebert (GB) reflects on a sense of placeness through the proximal, the distant and the virtual, and mulls over the problem of trying to picture place as a means of a subjective connection to the other-in-place;
Polly Gould’s (GB) sound installation in text and sound becomes a sensory exploration of the pavilion and conceives it as a host with its inherent structures and surfaces, as an independent entity;
Matthew Wang (SGP) will trace a part of the connecting line between London and Vienna physically. Applied to the care of others, he walks from Berlin to Vienna to join the opening of the exhibition and will then remain in situ to take care of the work of the others.
Ursula Reisenberger (AT), who accompanies “Beyond Orientation” as a co-operation partner, opens up a potential space along an unconditional presence, in which the performative body can be experienced as a connecting instrument to the here and now.
In their totality, the artworks – like the classical Eight Views of Chinese and Japanese painting – hint at the greater, the whole abundance of possible orientations: beyond the concrete examples they open up a space that contains them, but doesn’t understand them as an absolute. In the same way, the very display of the artworks transcends the staging of an individual position as well as the spatial limits of the building, by including its natural surroundings.
Thus, the exhibition is less of a finite presentation than of an open laboratory: a participatory space, that understands “beyond” as a vector. Like the Assemblage Boards, the exhibition acts as a tool, a stage, moving and widening the understanding of “Mit-Welt” (co-world) and inviting it to assemble and share.
“Beyond Orientation. Eight Views“ – a project by Almut Rink, co-curated by Anne Eggebert – is part of the arts-based research project Orientation as Gardening (FWF/PEEK AR325, conceived by Almut Rink and Carola Platzek) funded by the Science Fund Austria and hosted at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna.