Highlights from Vienna by Mona Kuhn

Image above: © Sandra de Keller, “Frau Kaufmann” The phone rang: I was just starting my day in Los Angeles when Felix Leutner, co-founder of Photo:Vienna called to invite me to join Massimo Vitali during the keynote opening reception of the festival hosted by MAK, the Museum of Applied and Contemporary Arts.  Photo:Vienna is the first juried exhibition devoted to emerging and contemporary photography and a forum for professionals.

Vienna has always been a fascinating city to me, at the edge of Europe bordering with the East. I have spent some time there in the mid nineties, wandering around the cafes and museums during the day and hanging out with artists and friends at the local Stammtisch at night.  Back then, I was escaping a bad break-up and thought that hiding in Vienna was a safe choice.

It was back then that I first got acquainted with the works of the Secession artists, the breathtaking works of artists like Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and Koloman Moser.  I intuitively understood the existential undertone of nudes as a barometer of a society, as a reflection of not just intimacy but also raw survival. In Vienna, it manifests itself as feral, mystical and elegantly decadent.  I was there to escape one person and ended up falling in love with humanity.

This time, on my way to the opening reception at the MAK Museum, a bit rushed for time, i shortened my path by crossing the public gardens and ran into Josef Müllner’s work, a bronze statue of a naked young man.  “The Strength and Beauty of our Youth” is what it’s written on the stone supporting the figure.  The piece brought me to a complete halt.  Not because of the nude but because of the power of such words, a potent quote engraved in stone, as an echoes from the past, propelled into the future. 

Created in 1921, the monument mourns the loss of the athletes, young men and women fallen during WW-I.  With a past history of epidemics, plagues and wars, the statue represents a society’s understanding of the fundamental importance of a physically and spiritually strong youth for the well being of a balanced civilization.

Youth is fascinating to me because it shelters our restless soul in the height of our physical being.  “Innocence” said Lisette Model “is one of the highest forms of being – and ignorance once of the lowest.”

Photography is one of the youngest and at the same time most exciting art forms. As a form of visual language, it has a magnetic talent to attract the apparently opposite poles of voyeurism and exhibitionism. It is an elastic medium, pushing and pulling emotions and moving desires inside of us.  It invites us to plunge into the subconscious, to embrace a visual realm in with works are coherent the ways dreams are coherent.

Below you will find a selection of the talented and lively voices at work in Vienna.


"On Pleasure Grounds" 
Clemens Ascher's series "On Pleasure Grounds" depicts scenes at a fictional amusement park -  people are shown in a moment of leisure but the space they inhabit is bleak and slightly threatening landscape and as viewers we are unsure what is real. 

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“Scheiss Egal”
Luise Hardegg created a satirical series of portraits based on the Austrian drag queen
Conchita Wurst, winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 2014.  Luise juxtaposes the
irreverent portraits with the stereotypical Austrian aristocratic salons.



“Sillhouette” series


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“Frau Kaufmann” The initial inspirations for Sandra’s work come from ideas about simplicity, naturalness and acceptance of the inevitable.

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The series of still and videos titled “Film-Still-Life” explores the countless possibilities of
transformation,formation and materialization, as she captures the changing effects of
light on still and moving objects.

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“STUDY #2”
Paul Bauer brings our attention to the post war social housing in Viennese architecture, intentionally exclu­ding life and  aiming for artificial perspectives.

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“Shots form the most beautiful city in the world”
is the title of SEVERIN KOLLER series shown in his chosen photomag format, a
documentation of daily life in a somewhat neglected area of Vienna.

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Find more information about the event on the following links:


Mak Museum

Mona Kuhn's Website


LIU BOLIN: The consumer's camouflage