Review: Marianne Vlaschits, “a disturbance travelling through a medium”

DUVE, Berlin.

The reawakened rally cry “The Future is Female” has been picking up steam; and a speculative vision of this future is exactly where Austrian artist Vlaschits transports audiences in this exhibition. Combining her long-standing interests in astrophysics and cosmic research with feminist politics and flamboyantly kooky fantasies, Vlaschits converts the exhibition space into a future spaceship-cum-cruise ship-cum-pop science hall of fame.

Undulating forms painted in a gradient of fleshy pink tones on the gallery walls are the unifying element. Hanging around the room are figurative paintings in oil and acrylic on canvas, representing various types of waves (radio waves, sound waves, and gamma rays) as well as key figures that define Vlaschits’s imagined future. The painting Ellen Ripley, 2016, for example, is a portrait of the sci-fi action heroine played by Sigourney Weaver, from the Alien film franchise. Downstream is Water Waves, 2016, showing a pink tardigrade floating upside down in a whirl of blue liquid and bubbles. Viral memes of the micro- animal, which looks like an eight-legged, inflated turd with a nozzle for a head, exploded online since scientists discovered that the curious creature is radiation resistant and is the only known species that can live in space. The work Gravitational Waves, 2016, illustrates a wordplay of the German term anziehungskraft (force of attraction), which is the literal translation of gravity but is also used to describe romantic relationships. Two Yin-Yang symbols are created with inverted alien heads in shades of sea-foam green and blue, each smoking slim cigarettes with their pouty lips, against a background of warped netting that looks similar to drawings of black hole simulations. Vlaschits uses research of the present to project into a future where humans and aliens, sensuality and intelligence, strength and sensitivity all vibrate in accord.

In the center of the room stand four images, depicting a quartet of astronauts from the future, sporting alien heads atop curvy human bodies, rendered in detailed computer graphics and printed on vinyl. Their titles reference V2 rockets, the speed of escape velocity calculated for leaving earth, and ancient goddesses from four different continents. At the base of each flat image are accompanying sculptures of space boots, as if ready to pull the astronauts from two- to three-dimensional space.

The animated video Dance with me, 2016, is narrated by a voice representing the kaleidoscopic cosmos through which the work travels. The female voice states, “Your imagination is guiding you. I become reality when you are observing me.” The viewer, who is now cast as activator, is directly implicated—charged with the responsibility of using the information at hand to create the reality they envision.

First published in Modern Painters, December 2016: Print
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arielle bier