2014 | And Yet There Was Art!, Leopold Museum, Vienna

View from And Yet There Was Art! group show, Leopold Museum, Vienna
Curators: Elisabeth Leopold, Ivan Ristić, Stefan Kutzenberger

Graphite and charcoal drawing

This work, Männerakt, revisits a work I made in the past, a wall drawing from 2011, based on a chapter from Thomas Mann’s Der Zauberberg. A temporary site-specific work, the drawing was removed afterwards.

Mann was recommending to his readers to read Der Zauberberg twice in order to understand it. Following his advice, I wondered if I should reassess my previous work through a new wall drawing. By re-enacting my previous drawing in a whole new context, I question the ways a new space and time transforms the 2011 work and if this act increases my initial understanding. On another level, the act of reassessment echoes the human act of remembrance, but also of commemoration of the past.

Throughout Mann’s book, Hans Castorp – the main character, is a patient in a tuberculosis sanatorium located in a mountain resort. His image of ‘a dependable man, […], who had long since lost track of where else he might go’ is unexpectedly changed in the last chapter, where he suddenly goes to war. Apparently Castorp does not leave but deserts the sanatorium, deserting all along even his old illness which has so far subordinated him.

On this account, I balance Hans Castorp’s ‘outburst’ with an historic account – the case of Romanian soldiers who, during The Great War, deserted their posts in Transylvania (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) to avoid fighting against their fellows, the Romanian army. Thus, between fiction and historic fact, Männerakt functions as a poetic exploration of the ways an individual makes use of presence and absence, communion and detachment when faced with questions related to nationality, identity, displacement. It is the portrait of a deserter, a vulnerable, naked man observed on his long and lonely way in-between two opposite realms – the one he forsakes and the other to which he feels attracted and persuaded to go.

(Photo credits: Paul Hemetsberger)