“If you like you can read it as a thought-experiment. The purpose of a thought-experiment, as the term was used by Schrödinger and other physicists, is not to predict the future – indeed Schrödinger’s most famous thought-experiment goes to show that the “future,” on the quantum level, cannot be predicted- but to describe reality, the present world.” – Ursula K. LeGuin
One reoccurring trope in Feminist science fiction from the 1970s is the proposal for a functioning utopia, the very prototype of an aesthetically and libidinally orientated social vision, which is often opposed to a technological and engineering-orientated society. The authors conjure a community or society that – after the immense struggle to free itself, even in imagination, from the infection its very minds and values and habits by an omnipresent consumer capitalism – creates a narrative space radically other, uncontaminated by all those properties of the old lives and the old preoccupations; they envision a collectivity untormented by sex or history, by cultural superfluities or an object-world irrelevant to human life.
These future(s) so imagined are never predictive; they are describing a future present. The future, in fiction, is a metaphor. Each of the positions from Occupations of Uninhabited Space imagines a life, a society, a species, a realm as radically other.
Zsófia Keresztes’ works are reminiscent of totems, fountains or monuments to alien deities. The pale mosaic effigy which oscillates between soft shapes and sharp thorns, winds itself around sleek copper pipes, while strands of blond thread overflow the basins. The disembodied sensual organs – eyes, skin, a tongue – are perched on top, as if impaled violently as an offering. Keresztes is interested in how digital avatars can infest the real and how a digital character becomes incarnated. Her avatars manifest themselves in the world and cannibalise sensation and perception, they have become pure desire and drive.
Jenine Marsh’s sculptures work as relics drawn from the pillars of capital – crushed coins, dangling on metal threads, disfigured corbels warped by hands grasping them speak of the ambiguity of homeownership. Marsh assumes the role of a forager, finding most of her materials discarded on the streets, as if they have been overrun by time or nature. Her practice proposes an adverse evolution especially of man-made constructs, such as time, currency and belonging. In doing so, Marsh bends new meaning out of things that hold value.
Zoë Paul combines traditional craft techniques with the remnants of industry. For Occupations of Uninhabited Space, she weaved intricate abstract patterns on coarse, heavy grills sourced from a scrapyard on the island of Giali. The island opposes a sharp contrast of bucolic landscape and heavy industrialisation: While the original outlay of the landscape is one of white sand and black obsidian cliffs, the island is owned by a Swiss mining company, slowly gutting the mountain.
Occupations of Uninhabited Space by Zsófia Keresztes, Jenine Marsh, and Zoë Paul
Gianni Manhattan, Wien
Through December 22
Courtesy of GIANNI MANHATTAN and the artists
Photography by Simon Veres