Wien Kunst

Nur zur äußerlichen Anwendung

Within numerous dialogues with Contemporary Matters (collective based in Vienna and active in Seestad), Aurianne Chevandier discusses the prefabricated and instructive aspects of a predefined city.
Aurianne Chevandier
Installation view “Aurianne Chevandier. Nur zur äußerlichen Anwendung”, Contemporary Matters Studio, 2023, photo: Sophie Pölzl.

It is the onset of winter 2023: the light-grey sky settling in and the ground suffering the weight of the last snows. I am going outside of my apartment, facing cold, uncharacteristic places, while I am trying to catch my tram, determined that this day going to be different and I don’t need to feel strange. Inanimated, banal, motionless surfaces and angles. These are the first expressions, which came to my mind, when I am thinking about Seestadt, which is apparently my destination. Contradictions came into play, whereas we spoke about a territory which is a city in a city, a separated but cohabitated territory. Undoubtedly it is a city, which is a part of the artistic investigations of the last decade, and interest authors like Hanno Millesi, Andrea Grill, and Thomas Ballhausen. (Aspern. Reise in eine mögliche Stadt, 2013). Ephemerality occurs, whereas they are uncharacteristic places, which are still standing and shaping the picture of the city. Of course, my environment has an influence on my mood, especially if I am thinking about the assemblage that some of us call non-places, non-lieux-es. The man-made urban spaces created by the post-modern era of „super modernity“. Places without identity (metro stations, subways, hotel rooms) to which man is unable to attach himself. As Marc Augé wrote in the Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity the transitory traces of non-places, involve the pedestrians, as well as other everyday visitors of the city, to being engaged even though the fact it is impossible. In Seestadt Augé phenomenon appears within the city, albeit we consider it as a quarter. Nevertheless, the young French-born artist, Aurianne Chevandier shows us, how could photography provides a key, a key not just to observe and capture the atmosphere of the district, but transform these places to idiosyncratic conditions the city appears as an empty area. Considering the limitations of artistic photography, and linking theory within historicity, Aurianne Chevandier (*1996), appeals with a new aim how to approach the predefined city, and starts a new discourse within the inhabitant’s perspective. Her aim is to create a discussion about the district’s complex problems, with inviting partners such as SKGAL, and Cornelia Dlabaja.

By working as a photographer Aurianne Chevandier imprints images, and with these acts she parallel creates traces of storytelling. These stories could be intentional or unintentional gestures, and what particularly interests her, is the question of individual stories, and the historical aspects of the city. According to her previous work, her experiences as a historian and as a photographer influence each other, therefore she works a lot with preservation. Utterly, she works with metaphorical terms, using photography as a medium to capture light and shadow, creating contrasts. What I found interesting through her research are the conditions which are coextending in photography and history.

Contrast and forms emerge, in photography, only on the condition of a good exposure, a sufficiently long shutter speed, the right sensitivity of the film, etc. In other words, without light and shadow and without the appropriate time, there would be no story to reveal. This is also true for history – at least the history that interests me and that is the history of the minor things in everyday life. (Aurianne Chevandier)

Aurianne Chevandier
Installation view “Aurianne Chevandier. Nur zur äußerlichen Anwendung”, Contemporary Matters Studio, 2023, photo: Sophie Pölzl.

The in-between places or non-places and their connection with memory interest her since she completed her master’s degrees in Photography & Contemporary Art and in History. This time her descriptive photography thematizes those areas in Seestadt, which nobody appropriates. The movements of Seestadt everyday inhabitants engage her phantasy: the protagonists of her observation sitting on a bench, how they stop before they look around to check the traffic lights, these acts are all shaping the observer’s procrastination, but her aim is not to visualize the inhabitants, just the traces what they left behind them. These traces could be part of individual memories or core activities.

From her point of view, Seestadt can be described as a matter of precariousness, these non-lieux do not belong to anyone, and these transition zones are shaped by memory plays. Admittingly her artistic aim is to embrace a collective reflection, an urban but artificial territory, which is interesting without memories considering the fact that its architecture is newly built. (Seestadt builds only a few years ago by a Swedish architecture company, called Tovatt Architects & Planners, whit the idea of renewing the 22 districts of Vienna.) Which spaces appeal to us, when we are thinking about creating an exhibition of an artificial city, which has a history, eventhough the fact it is architecture is newly build?

Aurianne Chevandier
Installation view “Aurianne Chevandier. Nur zur äußerlichen Anwendung”, Contemporary Matters Studio, 2023, photo: Sophie Pölzl.

In my opinion, the most paramount part of Nur zur äußerlichen Anwendung – is that it keeps its distance somehow from the previous observations about Seestadt, and at the same time creates an intimate space within the artist’s own explorations, while it also refers to the architectural rigidity of the city area. Already the title creates an idea of a value, a value of the artificial city, and the value between the inhabitants and their properties, which is often underlying their social status. Within private and common objects, and surfaces curtain#1,(2023), and curtain #2,(2023) are amplified in the format of an Instagram layout inheriting thirty-two inkjet prints. Consequentially we can observe the production and even mass production which come in contrast with the perception of history. With her minimalistic approach Chevandier creates transit zones connecting the often-surreal surfaces of Aspern buildings, and empowering them with storytelling functions. And what are these tales could tell from the life of Seestadt’s inhabitants? Following a historical approach, she mostly observes empty places, which become interesting because others didn’t detect it, somehow it appears like a camouflage. Every city is planned, according to the fact, that architectures design them. The 22nd district is different according to the fact, that it is planned to be planned. Therefore, the photographer refers back to its additional connection with timing, using photography which is also a really determined medium, which is creating relevant proofs for historicity. Distinctions rule an important part, not just time-wise, but in the artistic play with negative and positive spaces. While she is using her camera, she is extremely aware of the circumstances, how she is creating a distance between the observers and her I can easily find out not just from the artworks themselves, but also from the way how the exhibition got installed, that she is aware of the negative spaces, the gaps between memory and present remembering culture, as well as in architecture the positive and negative places. Although, Aspern is newly build, its history still existing at some specific details. Chevandier tells the noiselessness, the sterility of Aspern, but speaking from a state of an outsider. These ongoing conversations continuously appear not just in the footwork, but also in the matter of fact, that although these images freeze time, time moves, while Aspern does not change.

Can we see Seestadt as proof of twenty-century, high-middle-class architecture? Can we insert it in a bigger picture and make it an archive for our present? Aware of the biodiversity created in a combination of human intervention and nature, in the video (2023), she observes a conglomeration of fishes and records the transitions in their movements. The synthetic lake of Seestadt creates a strange atmosphere projected with a beamer on the concrete of walls of the exhibition space. As a visitor, I need to get down on my knees, if I want to watch the film fully. The possibility of interaction with nature occurs but still in a simulated environment. How the space determines the artist’s project becomes clear if we interface with the series, called untitled (2022-2023). Comparing the differences between the stable and ephemeral objects and nature which are both shaping the environment, the photographer shows phenomena such as transience. The photograph where she is focusing on a brick which took place on a thick layer of ice, which is fencing the reflection of colossal apartment buildings reveals the quality of the artist’s sensitivity. The conversation appears from both hermetic and singular narratives.

What is really dominating the exhibition space, it is readymade repurposed old chairs, made from steel. Benches (2022) plays with contradictions, despite its name, no one can actually sit on them. The ready-made objects were one part of the furniture, which was partly made from steel, but now they are standing empty area. They are forming discussions with the other photographs and especially with the curtains, as they continue the same grid structure in the space.

Involving other programs in her exhibition such as the photo walk with SKGAL, Aurianne Chevandier, created a meeting point at Contemporary Matters Studio, to involve a wider audience. The walk took place at Seestadt on the 1st of April, with a starting point of a postal missile that was sent off at the Aspern airfield in 1961 and ended the land in the Urban Lakeside Aspern in 2023. It is equipped with various photos from the picture archive of the Arbeiter-Zeitung. The city’s future and past became parallel, through the photo walk. The other interesting contributor is Cornelia Dlabaja, who is a post-doctoral urban researcher, currently working at the ÖWA ISR on a project on retail markets in Vienna in Transition. She makes relevant collocations between the process of the city and the photographic works.

Inserting theoretical questions in her exhibition Aurianne Chevandier applies a socio-historical approach that contextualizes her work to everyone who is ever thought about the artificial city, called Seestadt. She comes through a recollection of memories of the places, and perceives them as petrified, creating ephemeral images in the district which architecture remains standing still.

Exhibition: Aurianne Chevandier. Nur zur äußerlichen Anwendung. Curated by: Contemporary Matters
Exhibition duration: 17.03.2023 – 05.05.2023

Address and Contact:
Contemporary Matters Studio,
Sonnenalle 26, 1220 Vienna