Josef Dabernig: Grids
Grids are physically and metaphorically an important reference for Dabernig. Curator Matthias Michalka writes that “here an artist is defining his oeuvre as the anti-natural, anti-mimetic, anti-real space of the grid.” Two aluminum grid-sculptures on show were created in the early nineties as part of a larger series, all of them realized by means of montage systems commonly used in residential redevelopments as substructures supporting outer (curtain) walls. The artist presents the sculptures ambiguously: as autonomous objects within the architecture of the buildings they are placed in, as well as in dialogue with the existing structures.
Dabernig began his artistic career in the early eighties as a sculptor and took up filmmaking, for which he is internationally most renowned, in 1996. His films are often situated in harsh, disciplined and existential environments, and are a continuation of his passion for the minimal, the orderly and the structured, as expressed earlier in his sculptures.
Only recently, for the 7th Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale in 2012, Dabernig returned to a more narrow concept of sculpture with a large spatial intervention consisting of a wooden cubic structure that thwarted the existing public space. For the current show a similar structure of wooden beams is constructed around the bearing structure of the gallery space, a former bathhouse. The old modernist concrete skeleton from the early twenties is now taken hostage by a pendant—a sculpture that opposes the architectonic and ideological organization of the building it appears in.
A new installation of photographic images is also presented in grid forms. The photographs were realized at the Veletržní Palác, an early modernist complex belonging to the National Gallery in Prague, representing the museum via its interspaces and opening up the iconography of the grid to administrative and social meanings. In this sense the formal analogy between two architectural structures from the twenties, Prague’s former Trade Fair Building and the Justus van Effencomplex, is extended to a narrative one.
Dabernig’s films have been shown at international venues such as the Venice Biennial, Manifesta and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Film festival participations include Locarno, Oberhausen, Rotterdam, Toronto and Venice. Solo exhibitions were at MUMOK Vienna, MOCAK Kraków, MAK Vienna, MNAC Bucharest, BAK Utrecht and CAC in Vilnius.