The Peacock at Grazer Kunstverein

September 2013
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Grazer Kunstverein
Palais Trauttmansdorff, Burggasse 4, A-8010 Graz, Austria
T +43 316 834141, F +43 316 834142

Opening Hours: Wed–Sun 11am–6pm

During the steirischer herbst 2013, the Grazer Kunstverein continues to investigate various notions of ‘social abstraction’ by presenting abstracted formalizations of social (collective) representation; from the schematic analytical paintings of Doug Ashford, the physical investigations between the body and its surroundings within the work of Trisha Brown, the alterations between geometric forms and ritualistic structures in the recent performances by Germaine Kruip and ‘the economy’ as the dominant metaphor for contemporary social and political relations as exemplified within the work of Sarah Browne.

At the Grazer Kunstverein, Sarah Browne presents Carpet for the Irish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale and Letter to Eileen Gray (2009) along with From Margin to Margin (Looking for Eileen) (2010), and a new work, Remembering Gray (2013).

For the Ireland’s representation at the Venice Biennale in 2009, Browne commissioned a bespoke hand-knotted carpet from Donegal Carpets, a company renowned for its prestigious tradition of producing hand-knotted rugs for Irish Embassies abroad, as well as for other state institutions such as The White House and Buckingham Palace. Far from its roots in the Arts and Crafts movement, the company survived until recently through machine production or outsourcing labour to the Philippines. For this project however, the artist initiated the revival of a somewhat anachronistic mode of production. Local woman who used to work at the factory (many of whom now work in the ‘heritage centre’ that has replaced it) were re-employed to make the carpet. While seeming to recall certain modernist designs (in this case that of Irish émigré Eileen Gray, who also had carpets made at the factory in the 1970s), the design and colour choice was actually dictated by the decision to work only from the surplus wool stocks remaining at the factory. A letter to Eileen Gray unpicks some of the concerns of the project, such as women’s labour, the problems of ‘national representation’ and invisible feminisms.

From Margin to Margin (Looking for Eileen) is a 46-page artist book in a folding leperello format, over 7.5 metres long when fully extended. Commissioned by the Daimler Collection to continue the artist’s research into Eileen Gray and her legacy, the book makes transparent the commissioning process and the struggle to make an appropriate piece of artwork that respects all stakeholders in the project, including the commissioner and Gray herself. The book consists of a series of correspondences that include letters from the artist to Eileen, as well as various attempts to photograph Gray’s villa, E1027 from the sea in front of it (where Le Corbusier drowned); to secure permission to make a film on the site under restoration; and finally an effort to use the commission budget to reinstate Gray’s grave at Pére Lachaise, Paris—which failed, since she is no longer interred there and there is uncertainty about the location of her ashes. The proceeds from the sale of this book have been treated as a fund ‘to be used in the service of the memory of Eileen Gray’.

For Remembering Gray, the artist completes her self-assigned contract by commissioning a poem from poet Alice Lyons. The poem exists in lieu of any formal eulogy or obituary for Gray, but also as a piece of Lyons’ own work, with its own integrity. It is intended to have a performative potential and the capacity for distribution in multiple forms, all extending from an initial translation into Morse code—a form of minimal communication that shares qualities of invisibility and secrecy resonant with Gray’s practice. One transmission of this work is carried out through a temporary shortwave radio station in the Irish Museum of Modern Art (call sign EI2EEN) From October 2013 until April 2014. The version in the Grazer Kunstverein also intervenes in the built fabric of the institution, where the flickers of a tube light signal her memorial.