Curatorial Statement

by Joanna Warsza20 March 23

For Tangente festival, Joanna Warsza, curator for fine arts, is developing an exhibition in collaboration with the river. From 30 April to 6 October, the work of thirty artists can be seen along the waters of St. Pölten. Read the curator's first statement here.

Credit: Jürgen Völkl
Credit: Jürgen Völkl

All living organisms depend on water for survival. When we drink a glass of water, that water flows through us back to the world. With every sip, we enter into a multi-species exchange with various beings, but also with meteorological, cultural, ecological, or geophysical technologies. Water constitutes the majority of our bodies; it is both a source of life and a lethal element, a saviour and a menace. It can also be a border or a trace of pollution, a carrier of time, memory, and change, of colonial exploitation or Indigenous struggles. Water is transnational and transcorporeal. Most human settlements were in fact built along rivers. Rivers are the backbones, lungs, legs, and heads of urban development. They cut through various invisible and visible walls and fences, serving both as vessels and obstacles. And so was the case with St. Pölten, founded along the Traisen river back in Roman times.

The exhibition begins with following questions to the artists: what does it mean to enter into a collaboration with the river? How can you conceive art as being co-dependent on the flow of water, its seasonal changes, the sun, the dry spells, the rains, its artificial forms and fluctuating shapes? How can we convey the human condition of floating in a Hypersea composed of myriad bodies of water? How to make interventions or conceptual gestures which not only speak of ecological awareness but subtly engage with it: talk with the river, sit in the river, flow with the river?

Credit: Lorena Moreno Vera
Credit: Lorena Moreno Vera

The route will start on the Mühlbach at the self organized initiative for arts, culture and nature LAMES/Sonnenpark, and then follow the city riverbeds with its many canals running from south to north. We make a stop at the small Hammerwerk water power plant, visit an abandoned house and the Hammerpark, until we reach the Traisen river. On our way along the waterfront of the Government District, we pass under many traversing bridges. Then we turn off to Mevlana Mosque and its fountain, see the water towers of the former Glanzstoff factory, cross the Mühlbach again, touch on the untold stories of the flooded labour camp at the Viehofner Lakes, and end up at the lifeguards station at the Ratzersdorfer Lake.

The artists who will come to St. Pölten from near and far bring with them the main topics of the Tangente festival – ecology, memory, and democracy. Half of the works are new commissions, the other half existing pieces adapted to new contexts: from drawings made by water, instruments in the river, or acoustic pieces about what lies underwater. The invited artists share an interest in environmental interventions, in the power of simple gestures, but also in broader topics such as the exhaustion and privatisation of the planet’s resources, the mythological or spiritual meaning of fluidity, the aquatic forms of memory, or the changes in weather and climate. The Art Parcours, conceived foraddressed both to the local and, international visitors, as well as to random passers-by’s, can be visited on bike, by foot, and perhaps even in a kayak.

The exhibition is greatly inspired by the writings of feminist scholar Astrida Neimanis on hydrofeminism and the idea of belonging to the same planetary hydrocommons with the water’s leaky, permeable, and transcorporeal ontology. Together with the river, we will employ art as a language to help us re-imagine what it truly means to drink a glass of water, to think with water and to be water, both in St. Pölten and out there in the world.

Credit: Lorena Moreno Vera
Credit: Lorena Moreno Vera
Credit: Bine Berger
Credit: Bine Berger

Art Parcours
An exhibition in collaboration with the river

April 30 – October 30, 2024
30 artistic positions, half commissions, half existing works

Curator: Joanna Warsza
Assistant curator: Lorena Moreno Vera
Head of production: Ala Glasner

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