gewendet • angewendet • angewandtIn the exhibition titled gewendet • angewendet • angewandt (changed • used • applied), Galerie nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder is showing ten artists who straddle the line between applied arts, design, crafts, and fine arts in its gallery at Domgasse 6. The productive connection between applied and fine arts — in other words, between objects, the functionality of which in their daily use demands a rational and logical design process, and objects that fulfill a need for a purely aesthetic approach to creating artworks that do not have a “function” in themselves — has a long tradition in Vienna. Following the idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk (a total work of art), the artists of the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshop) wanted to introduce art to all areas of daily life, with the goal of making this city the center of good taste within the culture of applied arts. Everyday objects, furniture, fashion, lamps, and even jewelry, as well as graphic designs for books or posters were designed with the highest possible technical workmanship and the desire for independence and beauty in mind. This development began with the creation of progressive working conditions for craftspeople and culminated in replacing the overabundant French and Belgian Art Nouveau ornaments with a geometric, abstract language of forms that was extraordinarily long-lasting and still displays a timeless elegance today.
Responding to the short-lived, cheap mass products of a globalized consumer society with high-quality, sustainable craftsmanship is not only an expression of escapism in a society in the age of the Anthropocene, which is characterized by the energy crisis and climate change. The revival of handicrafts, the interest in materiality, and the wish for a self-imposed reduction and concentration is also an expression of a society suffering from cultural exhaustion due to overstimulation — a society in which our own physically perceivable world is increasingly in danger of becoming a virtual and illusionary reality. When people began to withdraw to their private worlds because of the pandemic, and when the home was transformed from a place of retreat into a permanent site of production, the boundaries between private life and work life began to dissolve, and the design of our own living environments came more to the fore again.
For this exhibition, Rosemarie Schwarzwälder has meticulously selected works by artists represented in her gallery, as well as artists she feels close to. In contrast to their heterogeneous artistic approaches, the exhibited works share certain questions in common: What contexts have these objects and materials been “taken” from? In which combinations have they been “used”? How have their original meanings and perceptual situations “changed” as a result, and how can they be used, or “applied”? Looking at these works as a group also makes it possible to reflect on the historical, political, and cultural influences in each work and the changes in associations and interpretations caused by the current shifts in socio-economic and ecological fault lines.