When I first met Maria Lassnig in 1985, she told me of her passion for Friederike Mayröcker’s literary works. She showed me Rosengarten (Rose Garden), the artist’s book she and Mayröcker made together. This publication marries Mayröcker’s poems with Lassnig’s illustrations in a combination that would leave a lasting impression on me. Lassnig proceeded to read to me from Rosengarten. This encounter, when I was 17, thus found me emerged in a wonderful conversation about literature and art, and how the two interact. Lassnig explained how her paintings describe a body awareness and that Mayröcker’s works address bodily contemplation. It is thanks to Lassnig that I discovered Mayröcker’s work and began to read her countless books. Along with Etel Adnan, Édouard Glissant, and Robert Walser, Mayröcker is one of the few writers whose works I have read almost entirely. Naturally, I always wanted to meet Mayröcker in person, and it was Lassnig again who made this possible. In the many decades of my friendship with Lassnig, it became a kind of ritual for me to visit her whenever I was in Vienna. During one of these visits, when Lassnig’s life was near its end after 95 years, she turned to me and asked worriedly: “What will you do in Vienna when I’m gone?” So during our very last visit, she suggested that I meet her good friend Friederike Mayröcker, the great Austrian writer.
After Lassnig’s death, I wrote a letter to Mayröcker, explaining Lassnig’s touching idea. And that is how we came to meet at Café Sperl in Vienna. Mayröcker firmly believes that writing reflects life, and she describes melancholia as her driving force. She has devoted her entire life to writing, and the intensity of her dedication has resulted in more than 100 books to this day.
At our first meeting at Café Sperl, I discovered that Mayröcker’s work also includes drawings. These drawings, which she has been creating in series for decades, depict, among other things, the ‘protective ghosts’ that have lent this exhibition its name. We could really use their protective powers, especially in these difficult times. Over the years, Mayröcker has drawn many protective ghosts – for example, ones that “protect against life’s uncertainties,” which she dedicated to her life partner Ernst Jandl. Mayröcker has also drawn other protective ghosts for Jandl: Ghosts who protect against the fear of being alone and against being afraid of the dark, and ghosts who protect you from bad people, from feeling tired in the mornings, or from not having enough cigarettes. Other series of drawings in this exhibition include the ABC-Thriller and Kinder Ka-Laender, the latter of which is presented in two versions: the finished series and first sketches. It was my intention to tie the many different dimensions of Mayröcker’s work together and to place her poetry, her prose, and her audio books in the context of her drawings.
 Friederike Mayröcker in a conversation with the author, KC-1702
Hans Ulrich Obrist
The exhibition takes place on the occasion of curated by 2020.
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