Beyond Art

20.09.-06.12.1998 10:00-18:00

Curated by: Peter Weibel

Ausstellungsarchitektur: Manfred Wolff-Plottegg
Ausstellungsort: MUKHA - Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen 

Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst
Leuvenstraat 32, BE-2000 Antwerpen
T ++32-3-238 59 60, F ++32-3-216 24 86
Jenseits von Kunst 1997 in der Neuen Galerie Graz und Museum Ludwig Budapest

Like sailors we are who have to rebuild their vessel at sea, without ever being able to disassamble it in the docks and rebuild it from the best parts available.
Otto Neurath, 1932

Scientia sine arte nihil est;
ars sine scientia nihil est.

Jean Vignot, 1392


In historical models, art, culture and science are described as developments taking place within a continuum of identities. Culture is seen to evolve from a geographical, religious, linguistic, ethnic, political and national unity. In view of a Europe, torn asunder by two world wars, in which fascism, communism and National Socialism forced a mass exodus of the intelligentsia to all corners of the globe, in which culture has repeatedly been smashed and destroyed in the name of some people or state, and which is marked by global migration in the age of post-colonialism, such traditional models of the cultural nation prove to be irrational, unreal and reactionary dreams. This exhibition presents a new model: Culture evolves beyond geopolitical and ethnic codes – it is created by members of a community that transcends geographical, ethnic, linguistic, political, religious, state and national borders.


In view of their common Kakanian history (Kakania was the ironic name Robert Musil gave to the Austro-Hungarian imperial and royal dual monarchy), the cultural landscape of Austria and Hungary would appear to have become fated to be a scene of pleasing illusions, hackneyed clichés and outdated conceptions of history in the service of ideologies that range from being conservative to obscure. Most conceptions of Austria and Hungary are the result of a colonial view from the outside to which these countries have to some extent submitted and which is described as the realm of anecdotes and curios, as a merry apocalypse. The ahistorical consciousness industry of post-Fascism has created distorted images of Austria and Hungary. The aim of this exhibition is to attempt to present the unknown reality of the cultural and intellectual history of Austria and Hungary in the twentieth century. Despite political destruction and obstruction, both countries have either founded or played a major role in establishing analytical directions in art (for example constructivism, kinetics, op art, actionism, deconstructivist architecture) and schools of thought (including psychoanalysis, philosophy of language, game theory, cybernetics, quantum physics) that are specific autonomous contributions to world culture. The achievements and works of some 100 Austrian and Hungarian artists and as many scientists each are joined together to form a kind of mosaic according to a new model of historical problems and methods in the close link-up of art and science (instead of the usual model of individual achievements and specific styles).
The Kakanian cartography of culture outlined in the exhibition also presents science and art that were established beyond the borders of Austria and Hungary, but equally so art beyond art, for culture not only continually goes beyond the borders of a territory, a language, a state, a people, a nation, a region, culture also continually transcends its own borders as a knowledge-producing system.


This constant transgression of (historical) art and its own consensual borders creates the dialectics of the avant-garde, the driving force of modern art whose development is ever accompanied by legitimising processes of observation and self-observation. In modern times, art and science strive to found themselves analytically. This analytical trend of radical self-investigation in philosophy, science and art that is constantly widening the borders of the concept of art even as far as self-disintegration, is expressed in the quotation by Otto Neurath. Going beyond art proves to be an underlying principle of European culture (modernism). By example of the joint cultural and intellectual history of Austria and Hungary in the twentieth century, particularly distinguished by abstracting methods of world view (in the form of formal science and art), the exhibition traces the European lines of tradition that are bound to Cartesian rationality, its founding urge and derivative transparency. Analytical observation of itself is an integral part of the context of foundation, it is one of the key constants and the driving force of modernism. The exhibition aims to investigate these analytical trends of the project of modernism along three axes.





From Expressionism to Actionism
In the beginning of psychoanalysis we find a close link between Austria and Hungary. The dialogue between Sigmund Freud and Sándor Ferenczi is one of the most important in the school of psychoanalysis. The internationalisation of psychoanalysis owes much to the Hungarians both intellectually and institutionally. The emigrated Hungarian branch of psychoanalysis was as ramified and influential as the Austrian. The close intellectual and individual link-up of the Austro-Hungarian psychoanalytical scenery contributed a great deal to the extraordinary diversity of schools of psychoanalysis.
Essentially, psychoanalysis (with the exception of several art theorists such as Ernst Kris), did not have an adequate influence on visual art in Austria and Hungary until after World War II. Individual schools of psychoanalysis such as that of Wilhelm Reich and theories such as the Oedipus complex played a major role in this respect. Psychoanalysis helped the heirs of Austrian expressionism (Klimt, Schiele, Kokoschka, Gerstl) and informal art (A. Rainer, M. Prachonsky, ...) overcome this and develop a new art form, Viennese Actionism (G. Brus, O. Mühl, H. Nitsch, R. Schwarzkogler). The actionists' abandonment of the picture in three stages (action on the canvas, action in front of the canvas, action without canvas), the replacement of the canvas with a human or animal body, and the entailing abandonment of art and ultimately society as a whole were accompanied and favoured by a reading of psychoanalysis.

The expression that after 1918 had withered away to emotion and, in the context of modernism, restoration, was transformed into action with the methods of psychoanalysis. The new body art was created as the analysis of painting was transformed into an analysis of the body under the influence of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytical theories of reality authorship and derivative body-oriented experiences of reality have become instruments of social critique (V. Export, P. Weibel). Actionism has contributed greatly to widening our conceptions of art and reality. The performances and actions of Hungarian artists (G. Body, P. Forgacs, I. Hajas) also owe much stimulus to psychoanalysis, particularly in the field of media art.

Analysis of Vision


From Constructivism to Deconstruction
The catalytic function that the discovery of absolute colour had on the development of art in the nineteenth century was assumed by the problem of movement and perception in the twentieth century under the influence of the technical revolution. See Vision in Motion by Moholy-Nagy, 1947.
In its insistence on the square, the "abstract ornament" of Viennese Art Nouveau around 1900 (J. Hoffmann, K. Moser) anticipated many results of geometrical abstraction and op art, as did the Viennese kinetism of F. Cizek and E. G. Klien. The dispute centred on people and objects in motion gradually engendered an abstracting geometrical language of forms of squares, circles, rings, discs, lines and points that were used by L. Kassak, L. Moholy-Nagy, B. Uitz and S. Bortnyik as of 1919 in Vienna and Weimar to create Hungarian constructivism, whose vocabulary of forms was soon universalised beyond the two-dimensional surface to embrace three-dimensional space (F. Molnar, L. Peri, M. Breuer, A. Weininger). Subsequently, the optical effects caused by the autonomous lines, colours, surfaces due to the inertia of the retina came to be the object of the pictures themselves. The mechanisms of perception, the laws of vision came to be the focus in op art painting (V. Vasarely), as did movement in kinetics (N. Schöffer). The problem connection between perception and motion produced new image forms in art of the twenties and fifties, particularly the moving image, in avant-garde film and avant-garde photography (from G. Kepes to P. Kubelka), and also in the vision machines that show illusory bodies in illusory motion in illusory rooms (B. Julesz, A. Schilling). Machine-aided perception permits new forms of interactivity between the image and the viewer in cyberspace. With increasing abstraction, the universal constructivist vocabulary of forms attains a level of complexity that ultimately led to the dissolution of the square and the cube. With the additional source of an organic architecture (F. Kiesler), what occurred was a transformation of the analytical language of forms of constructive art without corporal or spatial depth into a deconstructivist analysis of three-dimensional art, an architecture of deconstruction that in its self-analysis follows a logic of dislocation and placelessness, a dissolution of the historical spatial conception of presence and gravity. From an analysis of the conditions of vision we arrive at an analysis of architecture that dissolves its own condition, i.e. space.


Analysis of the Real


From Determinism to Relativity
As in modern art, processes of observation also play a key role in modern science. While science in the nineteenth century managed to get by with naive realism that regarded natural laws as final descriptions of what was essentially absolute reality, Einstein's theory of relativity and, above all, quantum theory integrated the observer into the reality they measured (W. Pauli, E. Schrödinger, J. von Neumann, E. P. Wigner, V. F. Weisskopf, L. Szilard). The analysis of reality progressed from naive realism to observer relativity. The description of reality ceases to be complete. Cybernetic observer mechanisms of the second order, processes of seeing that are seen, play an important role in philosophical constructivism (H. von Forster) and (media) art. After the abolition of reference to reality, mathematical methods were employed as internal principles (proportion, sequence, series, symmetry) to organise the visual, plastic and musical elements (twelve-tone music by J. M. Hauer and A. Schönberg, avant-garde film of the fifties and sixties). Thanks to number theorists such as P. Erdös, Hungary is regarded as a world power in mathematics.
The intellectual foundations of revolutionary art of the sixties also included working with system theory (B. Zalai, L. von Bertalanffy, R. H. Francé, A. Koestler), automaton theory and cybernetics that had technically translated the results of mathematical logic and abstract information theory (T. Nemes, H. Zemanek). N. Schöffer made his mark with cybernetic sculptures and cities.
One special form of system theory is game theory that was founded by J. von Neumann and O. Morgenstern in 1947. Game theory also establishes important cross-links to artificial intelligence and evolutionary theory. Life becomes a game. What fascinates artists about evolution is chance. Austria and Hungary have both created philosophical schools oriented to an analytical concept of society and science. The Galileo Circle, the Sunday Circle (G. Lukács, K. Mannheim, K. and M. Polanyi, G. Polya) and the Viennese Circle (R. Carnap, K. Gödel, L. Wittgenstein, K. Popper) who paved the way for conceptual art by founding philosophy as linguistic criticism (the linguistic turn). This analytical approach not only evolved a convergence but also forged a new link between art and science which are regarded as products of a social construction by the institutions and instances of a community (I. Lakatos, P. Feyerabend).


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