In his exhibition on Red Vienna, Alfredo Jaar addresses socio-political and urban planning developments of the city of Vienna in the interwar period. Consequently, the artist, who was born in Santiago de Chile and lives in New York, places the focus of this monumental, 35-part photo series on achievements in the field of social housing that appear downright utopian.
“I started visiting and photographing Red Vienna during my first trip to Vienna in the mid-eighties. As an architect and artist, Red Vienna exercised an immediate fascination on me as soon as I discovered the first buildings. I walked for hours and days, searching for its traces, impressed by its actuality, moved by its survival.”
Alfredo Jaar, 2004
With intensive colors, Jaar looks back on local politics initiated by a social democratic municipal government that was able to prevail against the politically conservative climate of the time and took up the cause of human dignity and collective responsibility. For his exhibition at the MAK, the artist developed a multilayered spatial installation documenting his long-standing artistic study of Red Vienna.
Jaar bathes the entire exhibition space in an intensive red light creating an atmosphere that symbolically illuminates the model of society of Red Vienna. The work Jaar created specifically for this exhibition also adds to this atmosphere: The nine letters of “Red Vienna” are inscribed as abstract symbols made of red shining neon in squares that can be understood as building blocks of Red Vienna—individual but equal and constitutive elements that together are more than the sum of their parts. The neon letters are variable and can be arranged in different figurations. Last but not least, they bring the multitude of shining neon signs to mind that have been shaping the image of modern cities since the 1920s.
Curators: Sebastian Hackenschmidt, Bärbel Vischer