Heimo Zobernig

born 1958 in Mauthen, Carinthia, Austria; lives in Vienna

Biography

1977–1980 Studied at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna

1980–1983 Studied at the University of Applied Arts Vienna

1994–1995 Visiting professor to the HFBK-Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg (University of Fine Arts)

1999–2000 Professor of sculpture at the Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste – Städelschule, Frankfurt am Main

Since 2000 Professor of sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna

Visual Arts

Visual Arts

In its capacity as a communication medium, art for Zobernig is a language, and a critical appraisal of the functioning and possibilities of languages is central to his oeuvre. He has investigated the potential of the various artistic media and ultimately concluded that all we can ever ascertain about any kind of statement is its ambivalence and ambiguity, as well as its dependence on the context. It is with this in mind that Zobernig pursues his work as a painter, graphic artist, sculptor, performer, maker of installations, films and videos, as a computer artist and also photographer, poet and musician, but also creating exhibition displays or designing lounges, cafés, and recently even sacred spaces. And always he is concerned with the question of how artworks come to be instilled with differing meanings, and how their readings can change from one context to the next. With this, he also points to the impossibility of drawing a clear boundary between art and design, architecture, exhibition design and typography, as well as to theatre and many other modes of performance, such as playing music. Moreover, Zobernig is among the first to have underlined the role and importance of the art business and its numerous actors (such as curators, collectors, authors) in the genesis and reception of art.

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With their highly reduced grammar of forms, Zobernig’s works are indebted to the classic Minimal Art of the 1960s and 1970s, while countering the lack of referentiality that minimalism posits. Indeed, his aim is precisely to show that a white painted cube, for example, with a Perspex bell jar on top can be read and handled as both a minimalist sculpture, which is to say an autonomous artefact, and as a pedestal and thus a functionalist article. Analogously, his paintings and videos examine the manner in which meaning is generated with these media, and how it can alter with changes in context and with that be read differently. In his Farbenlehre (Colour Theory, 1995), an artist’s book that he made with the writer Ferdinand Schmatz, Zobernig points to the history of colour theory and shows that over the centuries, the one and the same colour has received differing connotations and assessments. Zobernig’s displays waver deliberately between artistic installation and interior design, leaving it open as to whether a table, say, or a shelf unit is a sculpture or a piece of furniture.

Author: Eva Badura-Triska

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Music

Music

Making experimental music according more to performative than musical rules was already important for Zobernig from early on. Between 1983 and 1984 the group Halofern, which mostly appeared as a trio comprising Zobernig, Marcus Geiger and Richard Fleissner, was dedicated to cross-overs in which music in the customary sense played a fairly marginal role. Instead a veritable DIY cosmos was opened up to present a rich palette: in some cases the instruments were self-made – in an act regarded primarily as sculptural. Similarly, who played which instruments was a flexible matter. The musicians swapped them around so as to prevent any routine or formulaic approach from setting in, and the sound repertoire was deliberately consisting of »hard-listening« unruliness.

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This kind of iconoclasm can be witnessed in the video Heimat II (1987), which Heimo Zobernig and Helmut Mark made to a piece of a formation comprising the groups Halofern and Molto Brutto. A red horizontal line runs through the bottom third of the screen on what is otherwise a black image, and is interrupted just twice for a fraction of a second. The singer for Molto Brutto, Fritz Grohs (1955–2000) gives a fractious rendition of a text on the homeland, while his fellow band members subvert any hint of »gemütlichkeit« with a casually tossed off recalcitrance.

Author: Christian Höller

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In the Exhibition

In the Exhibition

Heimo Zobernig

AVOIDANCE in the studio, summer 1992, 24:05 min,

with Marcus Geiger (bass guit.), Martin Guttmann (guit.), Hans Weigand (guit.), Heimo Zobernig (guit., voc., harmo.)

Video: Heimo Zobernig, Camera: Peter Kogler, Octavian Trauttmansdorff

In 1992 Zobernig invited a number of artist friends to join him as guitarist on the project AVOIDANCE (originally titled AVOIDDANCE). Marcus Geiger (bass), Martin Guttmann (guitar), at that time part of the art duo Clegg & Guttmann, and finally Hans Weigand (guitar), a member in the 1980s of the band Pas Paravent, all arrived as scheduled at the studio. There had been no rehearsals nor any great discussion beforehand, and thus the conceived situation gave rise to three diverging artefacts, which are all in their own ways very concise artefacts: the record AVOIDDANCE (later renamed AVOIDANCE by Zobernig) with two pieces created during the session (»Avoiddance« and »Fut«); the video AVOIDANCE Label (1992), which in one long, unbroken take shows the label Zobernig designed for the vinyl – the photo of a whisky glass complete with ice cubes shot from above – as it revolves; and finally the video AVOIDANCE im Studio which documents the original studio session.

The video shows in a single, 24 minute take how the session and initial recordings gradually took shape. In this way, processes that normally are elided from the finished music product are shifted to the documentary centre. Filmed through a sliding door that is forever being opened and closed, it captures the doings of the musicians from the vantage point of the control room – with various of the participants moving time again across the picture or up towards the camera. The focus is directed first of all to the preparations, the »paratext« that tops in fact the actual recordings: stringing the guitars, tuning, plugging in the amps, etc. Not before the seventh minute and at the behest of the producer, Edek Bartz (»Can we slowly get this thing going?«), do they embark on a three chord piece that subsequently appeared shrunk down to a 90 second instrumental under the name »Fut«. Bit by bit a harmonica and singing join in (both by Zobernig). Later, again on the urging of the producer (»Another quick one?«), a comparatively raw, unharmonious number follows before ultimately drifting apart. At the end, everything is unplugged and packed away, while the sound recording can already be heard from the engineer's room. Also a sign of the breadth in which the production process is presented here.

Author:

Eva Badura-Triska / Christian Höller