Faces and Places. Names, locations, inscriptions, ornaments. Eyes looking from the support elements at the passengers hurrying through the underground subway structure. Faces, blackened with pencil and ink: Faceblack / Blackface — a contemporary minstrel show under changed contextual conditions. Round emblems showing ornamental figurations along their edges. Geometries of lust, circular metaphors of eternal return. And again and again enigmatic characters in between, punctuated by semantic islands of meaning production: SOLAR SOUTH or DIAMOND BODY DREAM MOLECULES FAHREN DRIVING. Highly condensed epigrams, particles of meaning sending our fantasy on its way. Poetic counter-programs against the laconic appeals of the guiding systems directing the passenger streams through the traffic junction. Triggering a longing for those places and regions of the world which promise another, a better life. The SOUTH as a geographical area beyond cold and arduousness. Just a dream vision, a silhouette of desire. Yet a powerful mark on the fleetingly perceived surfaces of the urban transit zone.
Franz Graf says that he drew his inspiration from celestial charts when he began working on the Südtiroler Platz project SUED (South). Traveling the Spaceways, extending the motion vectors into the infinity of the universe. A communal place as an outer space railroad station. Yet in directly confronting the station and its closed system of functional signals and rational communication, the artist felt the need to oppose the guiding systems’ abstraction with the concreteness of affection-loaded visual impressions, he adds. For this, Graf drew on an archive built up over many years — archives that hold floral patterns from botanical atlases as well as photographs of familiar people, a countless number of variations of the basic geometrical form of the circle as well as a vast number of writings and typographies of quite different provenance. Graf collects everything and salvages it in his cabinet of oddities and obsessively documented private moments.
His art is also, and above all, an ars combinatoria which establishes connections charged with tension between all elements involved. The artist has staged/installed a kaleidoscope of pictures on four differently sized surfaces in the subway station Südtiroler Platz: a film composed of singular frames that stand still, frequently contradicting each other. [...]
Again and again, certain pictures emerge out of the past like traces of memory and, through their repetition, turn into bars structuring the rhythm of the visual sequence. Franz Graf, who is also a great music expert, knows about the suggestive nature of loops and remixes. He has come up with an optical equivalent of the lo-fi aesthetic of pop music: small-size photographs are blown up to a format of 30 × 40 cm and burned into glass panels and the passengers’ consciousness. Grainy Polaroid aesthetic instead of high-definition material, snapshot moments fished out of the stream of everyday life, their colors modified in countless image editing steps and changed in their inner balance through additional applications.
One feels how the artist is concerned with finding an artistic form for motion that tattoos the public context with private elements without unfolding a tyranny of intimacy. When we come upon portraits of people from Franz Graf’s immediate surroundings, the pictures have been changed, cropped, bleached, or blackened to such a degree that they resemble universal ciphers. Thus, the subway station as an intersection of impersonal encounters is endowed with the scent of human closeness, while a new distance is simultaneously established through an artistical depersonalization of the individual. So close in the far distance, so far closely nearby.
Franz Graf’s roundelay at Südtiroler Platz shows the artist’s love of fragments and a bricolage aesthetic by means of which the valencies of individual pictures are assembled with great sensitivity to form a puzzle that yields more than the sum of its parts. What is at work here is a view of the world rooted in the hidden chambers of the unconscious that triggers a halfconscious passage through various physical states of the existential with uncanny instinct.
Like barbed hooks, some of these terse visual codes dig into the consciousness of the passengers hurrying past, wresting a fraction of a second’s attention from them. The art of the instant becomes the instant of art. “I have no flowing text that might be retrieved at any time” Franz Graf says. “I work with single words, concepts, sentence fragments, optical shorthand symbols. A story is told in this way, too — but one put together differently.”
Text: Thomas Mießgang
main railroad station passage to Südtiroler Platz, 1040 Vienna
Since August 28, 2012
Ceramic digital print on glass,
in total 65 panels
4-parts: 1 x 12 m (twice),
4 x 14 m, 3.85 x 17 m