Virgin With Horns
FA+ - Ingrid Falk & Gustavo Aguerre - FA 50
curated by Werner Fenz and Sandra Abrams for


4th Austrian Triennial on Photography

Graz, Austria, January 2003
Outdoor installation of a color photograph, 120 x 180 cm 




Virgin With Horns

SIGH.SEEING had a very clear concept: The curators asked the artists to create a photographic postcard of the city. The picture printed in a large format should hang in a public space that has a relation with the motive depicted. The historical references were very important for the production of this work. The two elements that make its formal and conceptual construction are clearly understood for the local population but difficult for outsiders if unacquainted with its past.
The symbol of the city of Graz is a statue of the virgin Maria the Immaculate, placed at the central place of the old town. During Austria's Nazi period a large swastika was hanging at her feet in a kind of a religious-ideological loop with a bizarre chemistry, the anti-Christ meet Maria and they join forces to protect each other. The Church unresolved shame and the Nazi time are uneasy issues to discuss. We all know the development of the actual Austrian politics. Even if the city of Graz is quite homogeneous, by European standards, the river Mur divides the city in two zones. There is a class distinction. On one bank of the river the picturesque old town, the fashion shops, the high class villas, the institutions, the parks, the classical weinsstuben, the new trendy coffee-houses and the good old fashion typical Austrian bourgeois restaurants. In one of these restaurants the artists found a remarkable object, the skull of a dear with a shining cross stuck on it. Again a church symbol to protect the hunter, the killer. The symbol is also found as the logo of the drink Jagemeister.

On the other bank of the river the lower working class today composed most of immigrants, boring apartment houses with the typical parabolic antennas looking to somewhere else, kebab, oriental food, cheep clothes and so on. A suburb near the town's center, but mentaly far away. There is very little exchange among the two banks. The inhabitants of each side have simply not much to do on the other bank.

As a greeting from the other side, from the present and the past, FA+ place the photo of the virgin Maria the Immaculate in the main street on the low class side and welcome the contributions of anyone passing by. They people like it the way it was, not a single scratch or tag was added in the one and a half month the show lasted.

The historic cultural symbolic language of public space forms the launching point for a new, referential discovery of images. Mounted in the photo of the statue of Maria the Immaculate is a set of antlers from a bourgeois pub. Based on an exclusively formal parallel that at first seems odd the two objects begin to react more and more to each other in terms of content. Through isolation, away from the customary appearance embedded in the surroundings, we experience the transformation of the figures into codes in which the cultural referents push to the foreground and create all embracing connections. In the middle of the trophy shines the cross of St. Hubert's stag, which likewise refers to the secularization of iconography in the logo of a widely available bitter drink. In this strictly axial way, a bourgeois Christian worldview, which the artist pair encountered as a noticeable motif in the sense of a spiritual foundation of the region, is lent iconographic expression. Through the unpretentious presentation on a white washed wooden shed, surrounded by everyday aesthetics, the photograph makes its appearance at an almost emblematic level.

Werner Fenz (Hg.) Professor, author and curator. From the SIGHT.SEEING catalogue

The original photograph is in the colecction of the Landesmuseum, Graz


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