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Casino Luxembourg

Maria Anwander, The Present, 2012. © Jessica Theis - Blue Box Design.

Maria Anwander, The Present, 2012. © video still : Yann Tonnar.

Maria Anwander, The Present, 2012. © video still : Yann Tonnar.

7.5 — 2.9.2012 Artist residency

Been Present

artist(s): Maria Anwander

Maria Anwander (*1980 in Bregenz, Austria) is a conceptual artist. In her project been present, developed during her residency at Casino Luxembourg - Forum d'art contemporain, from 9 May to 28 June 2012, she addresses time, the now, her own time spent in Luxembourg, history, and memory. To do this, she employed two very different "materials": neon, invented more than a hundred years ago and used in art for at least sixty years; and natural stone, employed since the Paleolithic era as a material for creation. The former is very fragile, while the latter is known for its durability. Will they have the same staying power in terms of memory? What makes an artwork long-lasting, what conditions are necessary for an artwork to enter into History?

NOT ALL ART WILL GO DOWN IN HISTORY we can now read on the bay window of the "Aquarium" as a counterpart to the neon ALL ART HAS BEEN CONTEMPORARY by Maurizio Nannucci. Appropriating certain formal characteristics of Nannucci's neon, Maria Anwander pushes the idea further and directly plunges us into the heart of the subject. However, Anwander's neon differs from Nannucci's, on the one hand in terms of colour - a discreetly luminous green - and, on the other hand, in terms of dimensions, which are reduced by a half. Furthermore, her neon is exhibited in a less frontal way, the artist having chosen the lower corner of the south façade of the Casino Luxembourg. Even if the affirmation presented by her neon seems indisputable, Maria Anwander seeks to nuance it through her general artistic approach, which is more discreet, as if allowing a certain doubt to creep in, a doubt related to History, in terms of the human desire to defy time and aspire to what is eternal and permanent.

In her performance The Kiss in 2010, Maria Anwander literally French-kissed a wall she had chosen beforehand at MoMA in New York. Next to this invisible kiss, she fixed a title card (identical to the ones used by MoMA to label artworks) briefly explaining her action. With her kiss - for which she hadn't sought permission and which she donated to MoMA - the artist therefore succeeded, for a moment (the precise duration of which is unknown to the artist) in being part of the MoMA collection! Figuring amongst "the great" in such a renowned museum was, in a way, an attempt to increase her chances of eventually entering into art history herself ... She therefore dared to take a short cut, purposely ignoring the "obligatory" path that every artist should normally follow in order to have the honour of being exhibited in a such a prestigious institution.

Anwander thus diverted or broke the existing links between, on the one hand, the art institution and, on the other hand, the contemporary art market, founded on a system known as the economy of attention. Every artist depends on the public's attention, gaze and appreciation. An artist's career is therefore largely dependent on the success of his or her exhibitions and visibility. The Internet site was created in the hope of enabling understanding and awareness of the art market in making all available data about the international art world accessible. It particularly introduced the system of Artist Rankings. Unconvinced by the system of classification of artists in alphabetical order, the site employs econometric methods for estimating the career of an artist and supposedly thus pays homage to the economy of attention according to Georg Franck. Indeed, Artist Ranking rates artists in terms of the attention paid to them by art professionals. Each artist is rated by a system of points that indicates the sum of attention the artist has received from art institutions. These points contribute to determining future sales of works by the artist at auction or in galleries. Obviously, this system essentially bestows great importance on the international representation of artists and their recognition by established structures and/or known celebrities. Only this type of attention can really generate interest in the artists listed there and therefore the chances of them becoming known. To date, has thus identified almost 45,000 artists.

In the exhibition Gaming the System: rank the ranking or fuck the curator produced in 2010, Maria Anwander, as curator, attempted to integrate precisely this system of classification by attacking it from within, using her own means. To achieve this, she invited the three lowest-classed artists on the famous list. This choice was devoid of any judgement relating to the quality of their work, the only reason for including them in the exhibition being to raise their ranking. Another artist, Ruben Aubrecht, took the title literally and thus succeeded in figuring amongst the artists of the exhibition without even having needed to produce any work. His room remained empty. A post-it on one of the walls explained to perplexed visitors how he had succeeded in infiltrating: "FUCKS THE CURATOR" ...  He just knew the "right person", the curator of the exhibition. This project demonstrates in a (im)pertinent way that in order to rise in the "economy of attention" it is sometimes sufficient to merely hang out with those who have a rating.

In her intervention in public space titled The Present, conceived during her residency in Luxembourg, Maria Anwander went further and was able to impose herself in a very astute and radical way. In a secret dawn action, she placed a two-ton block of limestone on Place d'Armes in the middle of Luxembourg city centre. An inscription carved in the stone and acting as a title card mentions the name of the artist, the title of the artwork, the material used and the dimensions. It also informs us that the stone is a donation from the artist to the City of Luxembourg in 2012. Except that the donor hadn't sought the consent of the donee. Thus the City of Luxembourg authorities, having not been informed of this donation, would have to decide the fate of the project: either remove the stone with immediate effect, or accept the donation (at least until 2 September 2012, the date when the project was due to end).

While The Kiss and FUCK THE CURATOR attempted to create a discreet place in History through an almost nonexistent materiality, with The Present Maria Anwander opted for a more frank approach: indeed, even submerged in a river, her stone will never really disappear and cannot fall completely into obscurity. Even though the stone as such was not really an artwork, it nevertheless lends materiality to the artist's concept and will leave a trace.

While she seeks to ensure the survival of her concept in History, the choice of her title - The Present - might seem surprising, as if, after all, she were particularly motivated by the now, as if she wanted to attract attention in the present but in a "discreet'' way: rather than produce an exhibition in the ''Aquarium", she decided to leave the latter entirely empty. The only sign of her presence here is the projection of the documentary of her intervention The Present and the neon piece NOT ALL ART WILL GO DOWN IN HISTORY. The rest of the story has yet to be written ...

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The residency project by Maria Anwander has been realised with the kind support of the Austrian Embassy (Luxembourg), the Bundesministerium für Unterricht, Kunst und Kultur (Austria) and Neon Müller (Luxembourg).


Maria Anwander, The Present, 2012. © Jessica Theis - Blue Box Design.

Maria Anwander, The Present, 2012. © video still : Yann Tonnar.

Maria Anwander, The Present, 2012. © video still : Yann Tonnar.

Maria Anwander, The Present, 2012. © video still : Yann Tonnar.

Maria Anwander, Not All Art Will Go Down in History, 2012. © Jessica Theis - Blue Box Design.