“Cinema buffs still sometimes ask: Are you an Antonioni person or a Fellini person?”, notes Fellini biographer Charlotte Chandler in her article for the Vanity Fair “Legends” section. Is Josef Dabernig an Antonioni person or a Fellini person? A banal question which readers of Vanity Fair or the bored, petit bourgeois, Sunday museum audience can pose and swiftly answer: “Oh, yes, this Josef Dabernig for sure represents the legacy of the serious highbrow cinema of Michelangelo Antonioni!”, gazing at surfaces of his precise grid structures and endless columns of numbers.
The Viennese audience hopefully knows their Dabernig well enough not to consider such an approach. They know his witty humour and subtle irony oozing out of every single element or film frame he ever conceived. For the first show at Significant Other we decided to focus on less recognisable, early pieces of Daberning’s oeuvre. Works he presented for his entering exams at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna in the mid 70s. Works which Josef describes as a personal therapy of overcoming his strict religious education. Expressive drawings of festive street scenarios in little towns in Italy where Josef found his safe haven. Drawings which could be easily depicting scenes from a Fellini movie.
What makes this Vanity Fair pseudo-psychological celebrity analysis of two masters of Italian cinema so intriguing is that it actually shows how easily we can become trapped in oversimplified dualities of seemingly clearly decipherable and definable visual inputs which are in fact offering a complexity of infinity layering of mutually contradicting implications which one has to consciously work on to grasp.
To stay with the Italian film reference, the work of Jimena Mendoza and Aleksandra Vajd brings together the best of both approaches, Antonioni and Fellini, or if you wish, Apollonian and Dionysian. Their new collective piece may evoke the sensation of traditional facade signage, almost a trademark or a logo for Significant Other. The usage of old-fashioned neon tubes brings to mind all the historical connotations of its use, a vision of vivid night life at its best. On the other hand the depiction of two female figures, one abstracted, one figurative, lying side by side in mutual dependency framed by scales of shades during the day and bright blue light during the night, thus being continually transformed by the conditions of its environment it opens up to contemplations of femininity, rather in a sensual than erotic sense. A conjoint personal self-portrait and general statement or possibly a blank dedication.
Complexity, Contradiction and a Decorated Shed
Josef Dabernig, Aleksandra Vajd & Jimena Mendoza