Puppets and Heavenly Creatures
June 4–September 9, 2005 |TBA21, Vienna

Jason Rhoades – Mi Saga, U Saga (Emmanuelle Saga), 2005
Photo: David Zwirner, New York

On the occasion of the European premiere of the puppet rock opera, Don’t Trust Anyone Over Thirty. Entertainment by Dan Graham, Tony Oursler and Rodney Graham, co-produced by TBA21, as part of the Wiener Festwochen, TBA21 presents a selection of installations and films from its permanent collection entitled Puppets & Heavenly Creatures.. Puppets, marionettes, and masks constitute a repertoire of simplified objects that symbolize alienation and a surfeit of regressive qualities and enable projective identification. Heavenly creatures that inhabit the divine vaults of the world of rock as well as the ethereal beings of the higher, complex realms are not only removed from us through their symbolic transfiguration, they also serve a higher communal calling. John Bock, Laurent P. Berger, Dan Graham, Rodney Graham, Tony Oursler, Paul McCarthy, Jason Rhoades, and Christoph Schlingensief have developed performative, ritualistic, and documentary strategies that attempt to identify political derailments, social alienation, and failures of historical interpretation by using means of representation, impersonation, and embodiment.
Dan Graham’s Rock My Religion (1982–84) is regarded as a milestone in the interpretation of rock and punk culture, and their roots in American history. The video documentation begins with a perplexing montage of woodcuts made by Shakers, a religious utopian sect from the nineteenth century, and shots from punk and New Wave concerts. In Rock My Religion, Graham succeeds in bringing together the history of rock and roll with ecstatic religious rituals as well as working through the socio-cultural and psycho-sexual implications of rock.
Tony Oursler’s Synesthesia (1997–2001) consists of a series of interviews with the key figures of the downtown music, performance and art scenes from the 1970s and 1980s, such as Dan Graham, Genesis P-Orridge, Kim Gordon, and Glenn Branca. It engages the connections between art and rock, gender politics, and pop culture. These interviews are a part of the multi-media installation entitled The Poetics Project that Oursler and Mike Kelley presented at the Documenta X in Kassel.
Don’t Trust Anyone Over Thirty: The Storyboard (2004) reveals the story of the development of the marionette rock opera, along with five video works by Tony Oursler and 22 original drawings and sketches by Dan Graham, Tony Oursler, and Laurent P. Berger. They comprise an artwork unto itself, which presents studies of the characters from the performance, as well as its visual elements in a collage-like synopsis.
Paul McCarthy is represented by works from the 2003 performance/installation Piccadilly Circus, which was made for the opening of the Hauser & Wirth Gallery in a former London bank building. McCarthy created puppetish characters with oversized masks and clownish costumes that give the figures a comic-like quality and refer to notable leaders of our time. The often disturbing actions hint at powerful psychological dysfunctions like regression, selfdestructiveness, and obsession. With the characters multiplying their images and growing increasingly indistinct, the impression that forces itself on the viewer is one of increasing isolation and helplessness. The key moments of the performance can be seen in the 45-part photo series, Piccadilly Circus and in the photography installation, Basement Bunker: Painted Queen Small Blue Room (2003). The monumental installation, Crown (2003), is part of McCarthy’s re-interpretation of the bank’s original Edwardian interior. One of the original chandeliers of the main banking hall has been recreated by the artist – however the scale and materials have been altered to reflect exaggeration and distortion, namely by using an aluminum frame more than three meters high with neon lights. Crown is the ideological carrier of its archetype, on the one hand, it is a “higher-faster-bigger” distortion, on the other. It plays off the character of the space it derives from, its physical elements and social and historical context. The giant chandelier is mutated into a grotesque, disorienting, and carnivalesque form that represents a suspect ideological value system.
Jason Rhoades’s Mi Saga, U Saga (Emmanuelle Saga) (2005) can also be read as a critique of the forms of high art. While McCarthy works primarily with masks and impersonifications, Rhoades executes transformations and ideological investigations of objects. What might appear to be the giant, unstructured realm of a manic collector, is revealed to possess an order that is not completely transparent, but still seems to follow a system. The swelling accumulation of consumer goods and information materials that reaches monumental proportions becomes the content of the work. With his installation, Rhoades tries to express the idea that the artist a consuming and processing subject. Everything becomes the raw material of the art: plastic buckets, monitors, gadgets, machines, tables, rolls of cable, neon letters and sounds.
The first impression of John Bock’s installation, MultiplexKomplex Petit-four transmits the BeWorldMigraineSolution through the metallic NoseAirPeriscope (2004), tends to be rather minimalistic and cool. A metal pipe hangs from the ceiling and functions as a periscope that one can use to look into the Bock’s playful, chaotic world like a peep-show box. One immerges in a fabulous and cryptic world of homemade puppets, electric razors and blenders, networks of wires, shreds of cloth, and snippets of photo. It is a world held together by masking tape. A fourteen minute long video that is part of the installation shows the artist sitting in the wooden box above the metal pipe, as he tells a group of Japanese people absurd stories and amuses them with his Dadaist chaos.
As part of a commission from TBA21, Christoph Schlingensief has developed a new work for the 2005 Reykjavik Art Festival entitled Animatograph – Iceland Edition. Destroy Thingvellir, which was premiered on May 14, 2005 in Iceland. Odin’s Eye (First Projector from Animatograph) is based on a video sequence that Schlingensief filmed in Iceland. In it, he reinterprets the story of Odin from Richard Wagner’s Parsifal and depicts an African ostrich as the personification of goodness and its battles with western capitalist symbols such as religion, war, violence, and sexuality. The battle expresses the struggle between the higher powers such as spirits, gods, and heroes, in which the rituals of purification and symbolic transformation plays an important role. Schlingensief connects northern European, African, and Asian spiritual traditions and interweaves’ filmic visions of the Wagnerian interpretation of the legend of the Holy Grail along with shamanistic traditions and Icelandic sagas, such as the Edda.  
June 4 - September 9, 2005
Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary
John Bock, Dan Graham, Dan Graham/Tony Oursler/Laurent P. Berger, Paul McCarthy, Tony Oursler, Jason Rhoades, Christoph Schlingensief