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das bist nicht ich (this are not i)

original text by bogomir doringer

just before my first trip to china. in search for inspiration, maybe to experience, very well described state from sofia copola’s movie, lost in translation. for sure, to meet rapidly growing capitalism attached among huge blocks of skyscrapers under the extreme pollution, decorated by impressive flashing screens in 360 degrees arrangements. this trip was to country that in last 10 years lived what europe was for centuries building up and who’s culture is developing from fake to original in no time. in precisely that moment, franz wasserman kindly asked me if i could write a text for his new exhibition. to be honest, till that moment i was not familiar with his opus.

after learning about franz’s work, it became clear to me why this task was given to me.

i understood that we as artists are addressing many similar subjects. we are both referring to collective and individual. after my trip to china i would rather name those two as corporative and single, it also fits much better to what follows and what surround us in the exhibition space. franz and i, devotedly investigate, in a critical way fabrication or propaganda that embedded itself in our daily life and identities. this way we are questioning manipulated collective history that has been presented to us trough education and mass media in purpose of satisfying different socio-political concepts such as national identity, that still remains as one of the most stable ways to hold together a group of people.

before i give you an overview of wasserman’s works that are in welcoming way arranged in the gallery i would like to use this opportunity to introduce you phenomena that as a curator last year i finally managed to declare, the phenomena of faceless. on the invitation of elisabeth hayek from the museums quartier in vienna and in support of brigitte felderer, i curated a two part exhibition named faceless. this exhibition gathers more then 100 artists and fashion designers; we exhibited production from last 13 years.

what is faceless about?

while still a student i noticed constant growing amount of images of hidden faces, which from my point of view started spreading after 9/11. images of hidden faces, masked or invisible faces penetrated our society in form of terroristic threat, pressured questioning of burqa as a garment that is against values of western world followed faces of terrorists under balaclavas. surveillance installed itself to it’s maximum in our daily life under the excuse that is for our own safety. our faces are on daily base recorded and distributed by social networks that are nothing else then companies. our data is used for economy purpose or unknown, ongoing experiments. our position individually or as collective body is in challenge under the pressure of fast growing companies power that within different governments operate with the use/manipulation of technology and human resources. in such an environment one can loose it’s face in all possible ways of understanding. one might seek for a “mask” as a solution.

as oscar wild said: “man is least himself when he talks in his own person. give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.

these faceless images remained as tendency in creative arts and finally entered trough pop culture the main stream too. today we live in time when fashion industry promotes return of masks as in ancient times when they were used for props, entertainment or protection. we live in times when pussy riots and anonymous, protest almost hand to hand with riots exploding in new york, turkey, egypt, venezuela, ukraine etc. all together these images are forming a collective statement, a criticism on many problematic aspects of contemporary society.

consequences of 9/11 on global cultures and degradation of society is more then visible, but never the less quite ignored. the 9/11 remains as taboo even 13 years after this spectacular and tragic attack on twin towers, western symbol of economy and power. the collapse of this symbol presented in a form of skyscrapers was shaking economy and deranged public and private space, finally the way that we live today. the attack has been reaction on long bullying of west towards east and hidden politic agenda’s that are in manner of transparency shared with us but quite subtle.

following what i just stated, i will remind you that today, while entering the exhibition space you walked a red carpet path, a walk of fame, you were treated as possible celebrity or vip. you were stepping towards the work that is named by wasserman, ground zero. while making glorified steps over imprinted taped surface your shoes left traces that you brought from the public space. these traces will remain glued to the red carpet and mix themselves with other visitor’s traces, as a kind of virus forming not washable dirt. this way all of you formed unconsciously a collective path. another layer of this work is that you walked towards yourself, towards your own reflection. this mirror sculpture, a monument discreetly has impact on your own image and identity. wasserman’s creative decision does not stop here, at the back of the mirror in artist’s handwriting, in a non-proper word order there is a text saying das bist nicht ich. could it be that the walk that you/we took is an illusion, fabrication, and manipulation? by who or what? on the other hand every good artist deep inside hides an optimist, so mr. wasserman might suggest us that is time for reinvention, time to start from a base, to seek for new ideas and knowledge.

if we look around from this monument we will notice that the way the exhibition space is arranged feels like a company space. it is build out of franz’s private and working space. for already a while wasserman works on project called the living room. it is ongoing project; it is a private space that exhibits itself in to public. it is a collection of various works expressed in different mediums.

with the living room/coat hook visitor is invited to participate by placing his her jacket on free spot. depending from time and moment of arrival better position can be chosen. it presents hierarchical construction. it encourages different ranking of visitors and that way separates them from each other. none of you is “hanging” in the same way in artist’s space.

furthermore, wasserman’s living room could be seen as a designed waiting room. indeed modern men almost most of the time is spending in waiting’s, online, on a phone with call centers, hospitals, schools, within itself in restlessness. carpet on which the room is displayed collects and documents traces of usage in similar way as pre mentioned red carpet. those traces this time are stepping over statement jede meiner handlungen ist politisch (each of my actions is political). artist is clearly aware that one can never exclude itself from politics, which i as born and raised in yugoslavia these days known as serbia, know very well.

i have been fascinated by the word branding for quite a while. putting trace in to skin of an animal or imprisoned person with the use of heated iron, transformed itself in modern world in to hype and something positive. it turned out that our bodies and mind desire company names. in that line, walls of the space around the “waiting room” are decorated with the use of red flags, on which as in nazi period graphic design is used. artist is establishing connection between today’s leading companies who appropriated propaganda strategy by placing different brands in white circle. artist places his own name within one of empty white circles. well-known joseph goebbels who killed himself at the very end of the wwii in order to escape possible punishment that was arriving his direction has originally developed this truly horrifying but an still amazing concept that is shaping the way we live today.i am saying possible punishment, cause, as we all know many nazi employees escaped punishment and continued their personal and naz ideas existence on other part of the world. they remained active in silence. 

the table on which i am seating now is wassermann’s working table. trough the exhibition time he is actually employing gallery employees. the artist employs me too!  his statement is attached to the working environment and faces are standing behind this computer screen. it resembles corporative behaving where we are what company stands for.

meine existenz ist eine provokation (my existence is a provocation)

in questionable moral frame wasserman fused different images and elements in order to tell us something about today. about the time where people are invisible and human bodies are hosting as a parasite or simply embedding corporative identity. on one of the walls you will notice that wasserman installed his working suit as well as an image of a man that might be artist himself but could be anybody else cause face is taken off. it is a blank, faceless round surface that suggests that any other face could fit in but also underlines the importance and adds value to the uniform rather then personality. this uniform could be seen as a celebrated fetish of contemporary successful man. it is a look of power. it is a suit of a minister.  

finally wasserman offers us a product we/me, it is a module for different kinds of platforms.

this perfect clean designed cubic form with printed we that could transform itself in mirrored me, one it can reinstall itself easy and adapt to the various group or individual uses. this podium has multi-function; it is customized. it present perfect so-called democratic platform for discussion. you may say something as one our group while standing on it. you also free to be passive observer; it will not be your first time.

while standing on it i will conclude my talk, as we:

today we are here to witness opening of solo exhibition by franz wasserman. he welcomes us a in a kind of limbo that resembles an institution or company. i am naming this space as limbo; cause direction that we will take from here is unknown and uncertain. this exhibition serves to point out that this surrealistic set up is nothing else then pure reality of contemporary world in which, with all respect, we are mainly non-active conformist scarred to loose what we have. we remain silent, maybe blind like in front immoral changes around us that are turbulently coming closer and closer. the reason why we feel or tend to be faceless today is fear from loosing what we have. one should not forget the quite deeper fear, which is historically attached to us. we know that in the past we were not always performing right as history lessons might teach us. still this was as well researched in mr. wasserman’s work. 

>> information about the artist - franz wassermann

>> flyer "das bist nicht ich" (jpg, 1,7mb)

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