hunt kastner is very pleased to start our 2023 autumn exhibition season off with a presentation of work by Vienna-based artist, Maruša Sagadin, curated by Vít Havránek. This will be the first solo exhibition of the artist in the Czech Republic, whose practice is distinguished by her unique engagement of sculpture, architecture, urban space, gender, and language. Maruša Sagadin’s sculptures touch on playfulness, imagination, and the pop-cultural accessibility of postmodern art while working with the motif of the body, its form, its needs, and the care it requires – both the body of the particular viewer they are concerned about (and whom they provide with seating) and the human body as the universal measure of all sculpture.
The House of Another – Dwelling
In the chapter Dwelling, we find ideas of Emmanuel Levinas outlining the connection between a person’s orientation in the world and the composition of their dwelling. According to him, a person carries throughout their life the sense that they do not “come into the world from an intersidereal space” but that they entered it from the domain of the private, the intimate, and from unity with oneself. According to Levinas, the event, when the domain of the intimate collapses and one recognizes the existence of an external world independent of their self, occurs for the first time through the experience of a specifically assembled dwelling. “…the dwelling is not situated in the objective world, but the objective world is situated in relation to my dwelling.” Therefore, the attachment to the dwelling is a continuous human need and it is restored by, besides returning to it, something that Levinas describes as the “outpouring of consciousness into things”2. The author does not neglect the functions of the house related to physiological needs and security, and that is why he says elsewhere in the essay, “The dwelling as a building belongs to the world of objects.”
The House of Another – Visiting
In the exhibition catalogue of the Slovenian contemporary art triennial that we collaborated on, Maruša Sagadin mentions the liberating influence of the female figure of postmodern architecture, Denise Scott Brown. In her texts and life’s work, the feminist artist found a bold plan to challenge the hierarchical, phallocentric, and patriarchal interconnection of form and function. Exaggeratedly feminine morphologies, multi-functional inhabitation of traditional shapes (table, bench, chair), playfully-ironic sculptural commentaries on the masculine canon of international aesthetics (representativeness of the commissioner, boundless monumentality, prudish verticality), catering to even the invisible functions of users, as well as giving weight to emotions and existential themes. This is how Maruša Sagadin, who also underwent architectural schooling, outlines her trajectory of emancipated sculptural work. Her sculptures, like buildings, created by assembling elements into a whole, reflect touches of playfulness and imagination and exploit the pop-cultural accessibility of postmodern art.
The House of Another – Layout
The installation Fissures, Others’ Houses in the space of the Hunt Kastner Gallery, in which you are located, was created specifically by applying two situational principles. While planning the locations for the sculptures, the artist and the curator interchanged the sculpture and the viewer. Places in the gallery space that “for some reason” seemed appealing to the viewer were occupied by sculptures. Another principle used was Le Corbusier’s Modulor. This is a two-dimensional system that mathematically converts the dimensions of the human body into modular building units from which buildings of various scales can be constructed. Despite its apparent universality and perfection, the Modulor contains a number of cracks, which is why the artist appropriated and adapted it for the needs of her sculptures.
In the introduction, Levinas’s object was briefly mentioned – a house that does not suit Maruša Sagadin’s sculptures and contemporary theories at all. Today’s person situates their origin in the transitions between living and non-living nature; post-structuralism has removed identity from the immobility of an essential beginning into a lifelong “becoming” and celebration of constructed identities; rather than the outpouring of consciousness into things, we are now interested in the outpouring of things into consciousness. Despite, or thanks to, the fact that an old house is collapsing, questions fall from the cracks and crevices. Do even shifting identities need their dwellings or not? Are they made of one piece or pieced together from oversized or microscopic parts and modules? On the basis of later knowledge, does the dwelling replace the body of the mother, the mobile pregnant woman? Does a certain tradition of female sculpture distinctly depict the body (without the necessary connection to motherhood) as dreamlike or playful assemblages? From where do we experience the overcoming of the duality of the external/internal? How, in an age of mass migrations and fluid identities, can one not be conservative, or, conversely, only be theoretically declarative, and avoid the threat of the dwelling being replaced by a non-place?
Text Vít Havránek
Maruša Sagadin (*1978, Ljubljana) studied architecture in Graz before transitioning to performative arts and sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. In 2015/2016, she participated in the ISCP Grant in New York, and in 2010 she was awarded the Schindler Grant at the MAK – Center for Art and Architecture in Los Angeles. From 2011 – 2017 she was Assistant Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, in the Department for Performative Arts and Sculpture, and from October 2023 will be the visiting guest professor in the sculpture studio at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague.
Recent exhibitions by the artist include the solo exhibition Luv birds in Toten Winkeln which just opened at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt; Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna; Cukrarna Galleries, Ljubljana; Christine König Gallery, Vienna; Vestjyllands Kunstpavillon, Videbæk, Denmark; SPACE London; Austrian Cultural Forum N.Y., New York; Syndicate Cologne; Kunsthalle Wien; Neue Galerie; Innsbruck; Museum of Contemporary Art, Ljubljana; Belvedere21, Vienna; Grazer Kunstverein; and Room of Requirement/Horse & Pony Fine Arts, Berlin.