Friedl Kubelka vom Gröller

3.20.2020 | By Editorial staff

Due to the preventive measures against the spread of the corona virus in Austria, the opening of the exhibition Friedl Kubelka vom Gröller. The Self in the Mirror of the Other. Photographs and Films, 1968—2018, scheduled for Friday, March 20, 2020, had to be postponed until further notice and the Museum der Moderne Salzburg will be closed until April 13, 2020. We still want to give our visitors an insight into the exhibition, which is why we asked Jürgen Tabor, Generali Foundation Collection Curator, a few questions. The name of the artist used in the exhibition title, by the way, refers to her two fields of activity - the photographer Friedl Kubelka and the filmmaker Friedl vom Gröller.

Let's start straight away: Why an exhibition about the works of Friedl Kubelka or, as is the title of the exhibition, Friedl Kubelka vom Gröller?

Jürgen Tabor: Friedl Kubelka vom Gröller has always attached great importance to her artistic independence. On this basis, she has developed a photographic and film oeuvre from the late 1960s until today that is simply remarkable. It also happens by chance that great works by her are in several collections that are in the care of the Museum der Moderne Salzburg - in the Generali Foundation Collection, the Federal Photography Collection and the museum's own collection. Thanks to a good exchange with the artist, we were able to receive important additions from her for the exhibition, and sixpackfilm, an important Austrian distributor of artistic film, provides a selection of her films. This gives us the rare opportunity to show her work in a comprehensive overview of photo works and films.

What is characteristic of her oeuvre?

JT: Friedl Kubelka vom Gröller's aim is to break through the superficiality and speed in the relationship with other people. She wants to develop a deeper understanding of other people and also of herself; a deeper understanding than we are used to in everyday life.

To do this, she uses a very specific medium: the portrait - specifically: the psychological portrait. This form of the portrait enables her to create truly intimate relationships. On the one hand, she does this in photography, mostly with her own method of extensive photo series, on the other hand in film, in the form of impressive black and white 16 mm-films. The focus is often on the face with all its expressiveness. The look, the eyes, the mouth, the wrinkles, the facial expressions can reveal a lot about the inner life of a person without being spoken out specifically.

A second aspect is time. Kubelka vom Gröllers portraits often have a strong temporal character. For example in her Annual Portraits. These are self-portraits for which she photographs herself every day for over a year. She has been repeating this project every five years since 1972. In the meantime, ten such self-portraits have emerged over the course of 50 years, documenting her live and the changes in her personality and identity. Aging also becomes a key issue.

So, almost like a selfie?

JT: No, quite the contrary. The classic selfie is about staging yourself beautifully and interestingly, posing against a great background and presenting yourself as young and exciting, creative or as serious as possible. Kubelka's portraits try to look behind this facade, to work against the staging and to be as honest and open as possible. It is not always easy and possible to counteract the pursuit of beauty, but her self-portraits do not want to hide anything from her basic mood. The aging of the face and body, everyday moods, upheavals and changes in identity and similar aspects are exposed.

The subtitle of the exhibition is The Self in the Mirror of the Other. Photographs and Films, 1968—2018. What can the reader at home imagine under this?

JT: The phrase "The Self in the Mirror" refers to Friedl Kubelka's self-portraits. The (photo and film) camera and the images and films developed from it work like a mirror image; however, one that remains fixed beyond the moment, which makes it possible to follow people's development over a longer period of time. "The Self in the Mirror of the Other" refers to the portraits of other people, but also to the role of the artist as a photographer / filmmaker, to her "Self" in the mirror of the other, because she is always involved in her work, by creating emphatic, partly interactive encounters and situations for the portraits like a psychoanalyst.

You mentioned "extensive photo series"—what do they look like?

JT: The exhibition has one theme, but two areas: photography and film. The photo section includes some of Friedl Kubelka's most important works, some monumental projects: seven of her ten Annual Portraits, which were taken over the past 50 years, the Life-Portrait of her daughter Louise Anna, in which she documented the growing up of her daughter for over 18 Years, as well as the her mother Lore Bondy's "thousand-part portrait". These works consist of thousands of polaroid-sized photographs developed by Kubelka, arranged in time grids. There is a lot to look at - some of the photographs are diverse and show very different situations, even if they are one and the same person, in other works the pictures are very similar and focused on the face - here it is all about about the subtle differences and changes.

An example of the subtle changes in a person's face is the "thousand-part portrait". It is part of the group of works of the "series of thoughts". This is not about a temporal development, but to see how feelings and thoughts are shown in the face, eyes and facial expressions of a person and what influence this person's personality also has on it.

And which films are being shown?

JT: The film section of the exhibition consists of two cinema rooms, each of which shows a selection of portrait films. Friedl vom Gröller's film work comprises a total of more than 100 short films - we are showing 12 selected films on 16 mm projectors. The first cinema shows some of her early 16 mm films, which she made at the age of 22 to 25, such as a portrait film about the young Franz West. The other cinema shows portrait films from 2004 to 2018, which were made in Paris and Dakar. All are filmed on 16 mm film and give the impression as if they were removed from time due to the black and white, the grain of the analogue and the almost exclusive focus on people. Nevertheless, the films are sometimes surprisingly different in their approaches, some are melancholic, others are humorous and others again explore our limits of shame. What they have in common, however, is great empathy for the people portrayed.

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Museum der Moderne Salzburg 
Mönchsberg 32 
5020 Salzburg, Austria 

Wiener-Philharmoniker-Gasse 9 
5020 Salzburg, Austria


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