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Erwin Wurm and Brigitte Kowanz are representing the Austrian pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale 2017. Curated by Christa Steinle, the presentation highlights both artists’ use of installation to extend the notions of sculpture and space. While their contributions are very different from each other, they function together as a whole. Kowanz uses light as her “immaterial medium” of sculpture, working with mirrors to multiply physical space into a series of virtual scenes.

Developing her own artistic vocabulary over the course of more than three decades, Kowanz deploys light as language and as a code. Therefore, the architecture of the Austrian pavilion is turned into a data space, using light not to illuminate or colorize, but to disseminate and impart information. The Austrian pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale represents the culmination of Kowanz’s vocabulary – the use of neon light, mirrors, reflective metals, writing, codes, and information.

The exhibition “Infinity and beyond” presents the intertwinement of physical material space and immaterial virtual space. While visitors are situated in real space, it is simultaneously expanded through Kowanz’s use of two-way mirrors and artificial light, leading them to a conceptual and intangible encounter. Kowanz also references the Internet’s global data space, not only offering a sensory experience, but also addressing a technical development that radically altered human life: the Internet.

Two landmark moments from the Internet-age have been translated into morse code: the date 12.03.1989 references the presentation of the Internet at CERN in Geneva, by Tim Berners-Lee; 06.08.1991 commemorates the moment when the first website went online and when the Internet became accessible to everyone. A new light pavilion contructed especially for the Austrian pavilion’s garden comprises a virtual environment designed by artificial neon lights, mirrors and data from the Internet.

As a whole, “Infinity and beyond” represents a virtual infinite space. Kowanz’s light installation can be seen as a cosmological model – a miniature of the universe. The cosmic messages of light also require receivers. If light is the message of the universe, then Kowanz becomes a messenger of light.

Design: Erwin Wurm and Brigitte Kowanz
Photography: Tobias Pilz

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