24 July – 12 September 2010 – Galerie im Taxispalais
Jana Gunstheimer creates parallel worlds and makes mockery of social conditions using the style of
docu-fiction. In the conflict area of reality soaps like Big Brother and social measures of surveillance
and discipline, these seem uncanny and even frightening, but certainly not impossible. It is no longer
easy to distinguish reality and fiction in her work.
The internationally operating, bogus company Nova Porta fabricated by Gunstheimer devises
measures to deal with risks. “We are everywhere”, “Destruction is creation”, “When capitalist society
begins to boil, the scum will float on top” or “People need severity” are some of the slogans with which
Nova Porta operates. In addition, quotes such as “The first step towards social integration is to be
exploited” are utilised to underline the company’s philosophy. Target groups for the concept of dealing
with problems are administrative offices such as the “State Office of Canonisation” as well as private
companies or individuals, like “people without a task”. Reservations are set up for the observation of
abased individuals, deploying guards that have been trained under Ceausescu. Abuse, spying and
self-denunciation are recurrent themes – on the agenda of a wide spectrum of programmes. By
assimilation or mockery of both neo-liberal and repressive mechanisms, Gunstheimer questions social
and political conditions as well as the way in which we deal with twentieth century European history.
In her work Heiligsprechung (Canonisation), which can be seen in the Galerie im Taxispalais for the
first time in Austria, she presents an Austrian federal governmental project: a state office for
canonisation set up in 1976, echoing the process of canonisation according to Catholic Church law.
Austrian citizens, having made a considerable financial contribution, could apply to this office to set in
motion their own or anyone else’s “canonisation”. Personal vanities, religious fanaticism and other
motives prompted applicants to subject themselves to an eligibility procedure that delved deep into
their private sphere and involved a rather dubious state voyeurism. Although the office was closed
again in 1981, a total of 8,625 applications had been submitted during this period. However, only three
people were elevated to the position of national heroes.
A quasi documentary archive presents supposed evidence of the fictive office. Applications, letters
and deceptively real, drawn newspaper reports as well as watercolour works resembling black and
white photographs convey authenticity and lend the narrative an appearance of reality. The story
seems absurd – and yet not so far off the truth in the jungle of Austrian bureaucracy and
administration, and in a country where the Catholic Church makes a decisive contribution to cultural
socialisation

Gallery Hours