PROJECT SPACE / 16 September to 6 October 2011
SITUATE / 22 July to 18 September 2011
Through multimedia installations Hornek investigates culture, memory and landscape. She "explores space as a kind of interface, as a process connecting and disconnecting specific localities from the global forces that structure and striate them. In this space Hornek's work critiques and unravels these structures to create brief moments of autonomy and freedom." (Stephen Zepke)
Katrin Hornek is a guest of RMIT through the SITUATE Austrian Arts Residency Exchange.
An Austrian woman arrives in Melbourne, Australia. Imagine that you are this woman, and it is your first visit to this place. You look around you and what you see is western history compressed into the delimitations of not even two hundred years worth of predominantly white settlement. If you were to blink your eyes on a warm spring day, it could be that all this stuff—buildings, bitumen, footpaths, fountains, monuments, museums—might disappear like a mirage, and the whole urban landscape returned to the magnificent bush it once was, idly following a slow brown river. And across this land the people of the dreamtime once wandered purposively, tracing time immemorial patterns in relation to their customs or laws, the stories of their forebears, and those parts of the world deemed to be sacred: "A man got up in the morning, rubbed his eyes and gazed around, and was immediately reminded of who he was."1 Once upon a time, they might say, we walked this land with no need for shoes, but now, either the land has become too hard, or else our feet too soft.
Then there came the fury of colonising history, some skirmishes with the natives so seemingly inconsequential that the best efforts were made to forget them, or assume that land not conventionally settled is not land that needs to be negotiated. For the sake of convenience let's call it Terra Nullius, land belonging to no one, whoever he might be. The flora and fauna are deemed curious and will be mixed soon enough with introduced species. Hard hoofed animals will change the feel of the earth. Meanwhile, accepted records will barely mention the territorialising inconveniences as town and country, settlement and pasturelands, are laid out like a forgetful veneer, sprawling suburban-like into the hinterlands. Free settlers, convicts, emancipists all settle in. Then wave after wave of migrants arrive. Populate or perish. Some are accepted into the multi-cultural melting pot better than others. Together we build block after block of certainty, holding onto a faith in progress and development. Blink again… All the sophisticated first world infrastructures of transport and communications systems, telephonic and virtual exchange, global finance, the varied phenomena of online communities, the circulation of contemporary, distracted, affect, rush back in to populate the picture of a resilient, post-industrial country reaping the benefits of a strong mining sector.
When you arrive from elsewhere, it's just not possible to ask some questions. And so we maintain our silence about problems we seem incapable of solving, reconciliations and recognitions that are beyond us. In any case, the problems are, for the most part, out back. There is always someone amongst us that we can make our other, so as to better define ourselves. To secure national identity in the face of crisis it's important to know who you are, and who you are not, who your enemy is on the inside, and on the outside. Then there is the tireless effort we exert to imagine new and more innovative ways to keep the threat of the other away from the shores of our large island home, girt by sea.
From the midst of this many layered scene the Austrian woman—her name is Katrin Hornek—asks herself a simple question. If the infrastructures that we have come to rely upon can no longer support us, how do we survive? This question, addressed by the artist to herself, is also a disciplinary specific one. How do I survive as an artist? The artist does not live nature as nature, but as a process of creative production. In our habitual, hard-wired, fibre-optic, bitumen orientated hunger to consume we are as voracious as the seagull and his companions swallowing down (without chewing) a discarded mountain of pop-corn. Where there is pop-corn, there is also bound to be, somewhere nearby, a multiplex cinema complex sending us reveries of imaginary worlds so that we need not think too hard on this one. Without the great world-wide-web, without google and similar search engines, without our fixation on the fuel hungry automobile, would we even know how to search for water or how to keep warm on a cold night? Everywhere the world manifests as a graph, a roller-coaster ride plunging down and rising up again, a double-dip valley. Global warming, species extinction, aging populations, food and water shortages, raging pandemics, global financial crises: How do we survive this great big mess we have made? How do we address this muddle of nature and culture and make the very best of it, rather than resorting to apocalyptic pessimism? What new, possibly post-human landscapes will we inhabit once we have remade ourselves?
Take one floral bandana and checked cowboy shirt on the ready to addle identity. Take a sufficient number of survival blankets, the ones made out of that fancy NASA foil, to make a zig-zag shelter and deflect the glare. Some rope, some duct tape: take what you can get your hands on. Take some condoms as a form of container technology, they are light to carry and expand remarkably well when filled with water. Note that even animal eyes contain water that can be extracted through sucking. Make reference, tongue in cheek, yet with complete seriousness, to John 'Lofty' Wiseman's SAS Survival Handbook. Invert found survival instructions so as to interrogate what has become of a Nature historically personified in the feminine. Recognise instead the complex interplay between technologically augmented nature and naturally inherent cultural practices, for we have always been strange hybrid mixtures of both. It will be a post-natural and likewise post-cultural survival kit that must be constructed in order to deal with a radically altered, partly maimed, environment-world. No more natural feeling than climbing into a fountain. It's a question of making conjunctions between organism and environment, and of making the whole thing work. It may not be enough, but it is a beginning.
Dr Hélène Frichot
Rev. Jim Downing, cited by Paul Memmott. Paul Memmott, 'Aboriginal Signs and Architectural Meanings' in Architectural Theory Review, 2: 1, 1996, pp. 38-64.
Katrin Hornek is an Austrian artist, born in 1983 and based in Vienna. After a period of residence at the Royal Danish Academy, Copenhagen, she finished her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna in 2008 with Monica Bonvicini. Through multimedia installations Hornek investigates ideas of freedom and autonomy, oscillating between nature, economy and architecture. She uses the structural motive of a loop—a cycle of repetitions—as a way to think and work. Through her international projects and residencies she has exhibited in both group and solo shows nationally and internationally, recently showing her work in Amsterdam, Ireland, Finland and Moscow.
Dr Hélène Frichot co-curates the Architecture+Philosophy public lecture series and teaches at RMIT's School of Architecture and Design.
RMIT SITUATE—and AIR Krems conduct an annual exchange residency between Australia and Austria. The School welcomes Katrin Hornek as the 2011 recipient.
This partnership is made possible by the generous support of the Lower Austrian Government and the cooperation and assistance of AIR Krems curator Karin Pernegger and program coordinator Sabine Güldenfusz.
SITUATE gratefully acknowledges and recognizes the support of the Vice-Chancellor and President of RMIT, Professor Margaret Gardner AO; the Pro Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President, Professor Colin Fudge; and the Head of the School of Art, Professor Elizabeth Grierson.