|The exhibition has deliberately showcased the works of only a few artists; their strengths lie in the critical and original way their own works reflect the problematic nature of cultural representation - both in historical and contemporary perspectives. Film, in particular, has been a medium repeatedly used and misused for ethnographic purposes, and the works presented here have been created in full awareness of this legacy.
In his work "Traveller's Tales", Tim Sharp uses fragments of a film on the Tuareg found at the flea market and, through editing and repetition, draws the viewer's attention to the very medium used in creating a documentary "reality": "The filmmakers may have intended to show Tuareg reality, but their way of filming turns the Tuareg into actors, waiting for their cues to do some 'typical' Tuareg things in an aesthetically acceptable way".
Isaac Julien, whose "Paradise Omeros" was one of the highlights at the last Documenta, turns here to the fantasies and feelings connated by "creolite": a mass of different languages and a multiplicity of levels of consciousness, engendered in encounters between different origins and territorial shifts experienced when a person lives simultaneously in diverse cultures. In contrast, "True North", a film installation Isaac Julien created especially for this project, seems meditative in mood, reflective images of the sublime, using landscape, in a similar way to "Paradise Omeros", as the main location and key theme.
This installation has been tangentially inspired by the story of Matthew Henson (1866-1955), the Afro-American servant who accompanied American explorer Robert Peary on his Artic expedition. In this way, Henson became one of the first people ever to reach the North Pole. "True North" offers a fascinating new insight into space and time and the way they relate to counter-history.
Lisl Ponger's work takes Vienna as a theme. At the beginning of the 1990s, she went on a multi-cultural journey without ever leaving the city yet, in the process, collected Super 8 sequences of celebrations, weddings, and dances ("Phantom Foreign Vienna"). Initially, she set out to make visible a cultural multiplicity totally invisible in Vienna's public sphere. The return to this idea ten years later asks "What am I really seeing?", questioning her very own act of visualisation.
In his multimedia installation "Synthetic Geographies", Keith Piper's work is constructed on the history of the House of World Cultures, its location in the Tiergarten park, and the park's transition from royal hunting grounds to public space. To underline his view of geography and landscape as synthetic and constructed, Piper has created a work where a marquee in the House of World Cultures forms its core element - since tents, in the widest sense, symbolise the human colonisation of "natural" space. The tent itself houses a large-format video that plays with the contrary notions of "park and plantation" and "mapped" and "unmapped" space.
Isaac Julien, born in 1960, lives and works in London. He is currently a Visiting Lecturer at Harvard University and the Whitney Museum of American Art's Independent Study Program. Isaac Julien recently became a Research Fellow at Goldsmiths College, University of London and has been appointed a Trustee of the Serpentine Gallery, London. One of Britain's most innovative and provocative filmmakers, Julien helped found Sankofa Film and Video in 1984, a pioneering black film and video collective. He received an Andy Warhol Foundation Award in 1998 and won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cologne KunstFilm Biennale in 2003. Julien's most recent solo exhibitions have been shown at venues including the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (2004) and Metro Pictures, New York (2003). In 2004, his work has been selected for inclusion in the Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and the Berlin Biennale 04. "Paradise Omeros", his most recent work, was given a rapturous reception at the Documenta X1, Kassel, Germany.
Keith Piper, born in Malta in 1960, is currently Principal Lecturer in Media Production at the School of Cultural & Innovative Studies, University of East London. His most recent solo exhibitions include "The Mechanoid's Bloodline" at the Rigina Gouger Miller Gallery, Pittsburgh, USA (2001) and "Machine", at the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Oslo, Norway. His group exhibitions include "Race In Digital Space" at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, USA (2002), "Unpacking Europe" at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (2001), and the Second Johannesburg Biennale (1997). Many notable cultural theorists and scholars have written about his work, and among the key publications are "Keith Piper: Relocating the Remains", edited by David Chandler, and Kobena Mercer's monograph essay "Witness at the crossroads. An Artist's journey in Post-colonial space", published by the Institute of International Visual Arts.
Lisl Ponger was born in 1947 in Nuremberg, Germany, but lives and works in Vienna where she is Visiting Professor for Art Photography at the University of Applied Arts. In 1994, she received the prestigious National Prize for Film Art and, in 2003, was awarded the Visual Arts Prize for the province of Lower Austria. Her solo exhibitions have been staged at venues such as the Wien Museum Karlsplatz (2002) and the Ethnographisches Museum Geneva (1999); her group exhibitions include "TOUR-ISM", Fondacion Tapies, Barcelona and the Salzburger Kunstverein (2004), "Double Bind", ATA Gallery, Sofia, and the Documenta XI, Kassel, Germany (2002). Her works have been the subject of a number of books, including "Xenographische Ansichten" (1995) and "Phantom Fremdes Wien" (2004).
Tim Sharp was born in Perth, Scotland but has been living and working as a visual artist in Vienna since 1978. His solo exhibitions include, for example, shows at the UAA Gallery, Addis Abeba (2002), Wittgenstein Villa, Vienna (2000), and the Central Saint Martins' Gallery, London (1999); among his most recent group exhibitions are "Shake", OK Centrum fuer Gegenwartskunst, Linz / Villa Arson, Nice (2004), "Leviathan", Kunsthalle Duesseldorf (2003), and "Routes: (Imaging Travel and Migration)" Graz, Kunstverein /Steirischer Herbst (2002). His latest video work "Traveller's Tales" (2003), was selected to be screened at the Windsor International Festival of Experimental Film and Video Art, Canada, DIAGONALE 04, Graz, the Iowa City International Film Festival, USA, and the 50th Oberhausen International Short Film Festival (ISFFO).