by Sukanya GargDec 11, 2019
Artist Monica Bonvicini’s exhibition I Cannot Hide My Anger at the museum Belvedere 21 in Vienna, Austria, is an architecture political intervention in which she works with negative space.
The centre of the exhibition space, which is almost always perceived as a focal point of an art exhibition, is obstructed through her creation of a cubical fortress made of 112 sheets of over 300 square meters of rolled untreated aluminium: Hy$teria. The simple act of replacement of the letter ‘s’ with a dollar sign steers the narrative towards the capitalism that is rampant in every aspect of society, including the art market.
Further, the installation itself restricts space, obstructing perception in the process. On display within the premises of the Belvedere 21, designed by architect Karl Schwanzer - the latter often associated with the masculine style of post-war architecture - the work is a backlash against the restrictions imposed by the outdated social perceptions, in this particular case the masculine perceptions that are often thrust upon society. In Hy$teria then, Bonvicini attempts to rebel against the male-dominated gaze, showcasing its claustrophobic impact on society.
According to Axel Köhne, the curator of the show, “For the Belvedere 21, Bonvicini has developed a space-consuming installation that reacts radically to the museum’s architecture and closes off the otherwise open heart of the central exhibition space like a fortress. I Cannot Hide My Anger is the title of this massive cubical structure that gives the exhibition its title. The four wall structures mark out a large, empty centre with an area of over 1,600 cubic meters; although it is possible to see into it from above, it has been rendered inaccessible. With anger and dry humour, Bonvicini exposes not only male-dominated power structures but also the consequences of our capitalist lifestyle - like climate crisis, migration, and the violence of (national) borders. Her works are direct, merciless, socially relevant, and politically very topical.”
Working across media with installation, sculpture, drawing, video, and photography, since the mid-1990s Bonvicini has been investigating political, social, and institutional conditions and their impact both on society and on the conditions of artistic production. At the heart of her work we find subjects such as architecture, gender roles, control mechanisms, and dispositifs of power, as well as how these behave in relation to one another.
Whether it is the black and white drawings like Wildfire Kern 2010, which draw a link between global warming, climatic catastrophes and denial politics or the print Marlboro Man, which references the male stereotype being increasingly reinforced by the arrival of the Trump administration, or the sculpture Double Trouble, which references social injustice through the depiction of unrestful beds often found in refugee camps and transitional shelters, Bonvicini presents the distorted state of society. Walking through the exhibition, watching one’s fragmented reflections in the aluminium walls of the fortress that usurps the exhibition space, she reminds us of our own disintegrated state in such a society.
In her work then, Bonvicini succeeds in laying bare, echoing, and - at times quite humorously - attacking, destroying, and questioning the legitimacy of power structures and their correspondent narratives that have developed over time but that are perceived as natural.
The exhibition I Cannot Hide My Angeris on display till October 27, 2019, at Belvedere 21, Arsenalstrasse 1, 1030 Vienna, Austria.