Martin Hochleitner: On Space Encounters

This catalogue, published in February 2003, is based on the Space Encounters exhibition project held in the autumn of 2002 at the Landesgalerie am Oberösterreichischen Landesmuseum in Linz, Austria, by the Austrian-born artist Claudia Pilsl who now lives in England. In that exhibition, the artist responded to the Tate Modern, housed in the former Battersea Power Station by the Thames in London. The conversion, designed by architects Herzog and de Meuron, opened its doors in 2000 and quickly established itself as one of the world’s most attractive institutions of contemporary art. It was the Tate Modern’s perfect amalgamation of location, exhibition programme, architecture and infrastructure that provided the backdrop for Pilsl’s personal exploration of her observations of visitors to the exhibition venue, portrayed in anonymity and invariably collectively. At the Landesgalerie in Linz, she showed two photo sequences and three video works, each portraying the movements of visitors at the northern entrance to the Tate Modern, in the huge turbine hall and on the escalator. There are no scenes showing the actual exhibition spaces. In this respect, Pilsl concentrated entirely on transit areas within a specific exhibition venue.

For each of the works, the artist chose a fixed camera position. The movement in the twelve-part series of photographs Escalators No. 1 - 12“ results from the sequence of frames from the series. In the videos, the presentation broke with real time in that the artist played the Escalators in slow motion or juxtaposed brief individual sequences from a twelve-hour recording in Turbine Hall, 21 – 06 – 01.

In her exploration of a museum setting and her use of photography for the Landesgalerie exhibition, Claudia Pilsl built on previous projects she has undertaken since the mid 1990s. She had been photographing exhibition spaces ever since graduating from the Hochschule für angewandte Kunst in Vienna in 1994. What was new in Linz was the use of colour photography and the emphasis placed on the presentation of videos – incorporating the actual exhibition architecture – as well as the focus on people and the way they move within the specific context of visiting a museum or gallery. Earlier works, such as the project on the Kunstmuseum in Bonn, the Museum Ludwig in Cologne and the Kestner Gesellschaft in Hanover concentrated on the exhibition space itself to the point that Pilsl actually cropped the art works out of the photos, creating a void in place of the presence of the image within the institutions dedicated to their presentation. The corresponding artistic practice has been interpreted in various ways: as the possibility of interpreting the museum as a place of silence,(1) as an anarchic intervention by which the exhibition spaces themselves return to their conceptual origins on the one hand while, on the other hand, being transposed into a new ontological mode,(2) and even  as a reversal of the surrealist collage, whereby Pilsl denies the spectator access to the object of contemplation and makes it the subject matter of her own art work. This is a reflection on the role of the spectator as recipient; at the same time, however, the spectator himself or herself is given the role of producer of images.(3).

Whereas these three views concentrate primarily on questions of architecture and its function in terms of the reception of art, other contributions are more clearly aimed at the critique of institutions that informs Pilsl’s oeuvre. In this respect, her work represents a direct commentary on all established conventions with regard to the appearance, design, content and exhibition practice of a museum,(4) while the cropped images also open up meta-spaces and realms of thought, thereby triggering speculation on the locus of artistic creation.(4)

Without withdrawing from this field of artistic discourse in the latest development of her work, the Space Encounters project at the Landesgalerie deliberately conveys subtly chosen processes of transformation in the Tate Modern, whose effect on the artist melds perfectly with Pilsl’s underlying analytical disposition. The result is a work that is not only essentially determined by the time factor, but which also defines new transitory qualities in the work of this artist. In the spirit of Stephan Berg’s recent findings „on the relationship between architecture, sculpture and model“(5)  Pilsl displays an artistic approach that has a meta-relationship not only to the actual museum situation but also to classical photographic practice. Her work is increasingly becoming an investigation of spaces that function as „places between image and reality“(6) and oscillate intelligently between the public and the private, between specific function and arbitrary autonomy and between social relevance and individual stance.

In this, Pilsl represents the imaging of the institutional within the discourse of artistic practice, and balances with increasing concentration on the „knife-edge between functional construction and aesthetic deconstruction“(6) of spaces whose frame of reference circumscribes the real fascination of artistic production.

The Landesgalerie wishes to thank the artist for the stimulating work and fascinating collaboration that began in the summer of 2000 and continued until the exhibition opened in the autumn of 2002, with Claudia Pilsl herself constantly and intensively involved in its installation.


1 Margit Zuckriegel, „Beredte Stille“, in Claudia Pilsl. Mit den Augen durch die Wand, exhib. cat. Galerie im Traklhaus. (Salzburg, 1998), unpaginated.

2 Roy Exley, „Ausschluß der Details: Claudia Pilsls Museumstransformationen“, in Haro Goldt, Claudia Pilsl, exhib. cat. Fotogalerie Wien. (Vienna, 2002), p. 11f.

3 Nicole Nix, „Das Bild und sein Raum“, in Claudia Pilsl. Zwischenräume, exhib. cat. Galerie im Bürgerhaus (Neunkirchen/Saar, 2002), unpaginated.

4 Les Buckingham, „Bilder als Argumente“, in Aperture. Claudia Pilsl, exhib. cat., self-published fort he exhibition at the Aspex Gallery in Portsmouth and the Galerie der Stadt Wels. (1999/2000), unpaginated.

5 Carsten Ahrens, „Spekulationen über den Ort des Künstlerischen. Gedanken zum Werk von Claudia Pilsl“, in Aperture, op.cit., unpaginated.

6 Stephan Berg, Archisculptures. Über die Beziehungen zwischen Architektur, Skulptur und Modell, exhib. cat. Kunstverein Hannover. (Hanover, 2001), p. 2f.

7 Stephan Berg, Archisculptures, ibid., p 3.

8 Stephan Berg, Archisculptures, ibid., p. 10.