Edition Medienturm 14
2006, PAL 4:3, 11 min, (interactive) animation: 800x600 px, sound design: Martin Siewert

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© Installation view: Vegas, Electric Avenue, Ovalhalle, Museumsquartier Wien, 2006

“Beauty is a matter of the gaze’s pace”


Pace is also the parameter from which Venturi/Scott-Brown/Izenour proceed in their groundbreaking analysis of architectural symbols in a city, Learning from Las Vegas (1978). An acceleration of the perceiving body or eye when passing through this city “induces an increasingly abstract orientation” in space, “details are noticed only at infrequent intervals, attention is directed towards perceptions that are relevant for decisions”2; in short, to consumption-relevant decisions which the visitors of Las Vegas have to make: about casino, hotel, shopping mall, or restaurant, or, even all together?

In Las Vegas, Venturi/Scott-Brown/Izenour verify the “primate of the symbolic before pure form,” and the “preponderance of signs compared to space”: chains of lights, signposts, neon signs serving for orientation are placed in front of buildings, and change these, on the one hand, into light sources, but, on the other hand, they stimulate architectonic, constructed forms where there are none. Annja Krautgasser takes these signs as starting points for Vegas: she reduces chains of lights to her formal language, in the first place, to simple squares, circles, and lines. In the following ten-part series composing Vegas, she uses nar-rative elements like arrows or small landscapes, exhibiting an unspectacular form in order to point at different forms of structure of the chains’ “decision relevance”: characteristic or allusive, emblematic and physiognomic, meaningful or expressive (analogous to Venturi/Scott-Brown/Izenour3).

In Las Vegas, the entertainment, the spectacle begins not only in the locality that has still to be chosen, but already before; the city promises distraction not behind the façades, but the façades themselves already keep this promise. “Beauty” actually has become a matter of the pace of the gaze: how quick or slow, however, has “the gaze” to be, to notice it?

In Vegas, the pace is somehow frozen for a short moment, one structure after the other is uncovered and analysed. The three-dimensionality of the signs that simulate architecture is reduced to two-dimensionality: the white dots of which the forms are composed are image-like and two dimensional, like the illuminants out of which the signs of light were produced. The analogy can be continued: just this characteristic of the video image was described as significant com-pared to the image recorded on the film: that it shines from the inside, thus “per se,” that light is not projected anymore. The micro-structures in Vegas, on the other hand, can be read as reference to pixels, which are similar to the shining dots of light bulbs. This “freezing” and highlighting of the virtual “production conditions” is followed, however, by the repeated speeding up which, this time, evolves in the image itself. Accompanied by the repetitive sound by Martin Siewert, the forms pulsate and expand, while following a specific system in order to change direction and rhythm and finally to seemingly disperse into single parts. This lack of orientation or the exhilaration, which captures the audience at the sight of an abundance of signs, is transferred onto themselves: deprived of their actual function, they stagger within the spatial system and disperse into sepa-rate elements. The consumption-relevant decision cannot be made; the desire for spectacle cannot be satisfied in Vegas.

Vegas offers a micro-analysis of a macro-structure, the city of Las Vegas where: “comparable to an Op Art painting by Victor Vasarely, the eyes have to make an effort to isolate and interpret singular structures within a continuously changing system that is built in layers.”4 The chaos, the disintegration is in-scribed in these structures—the dissolution is kept in suspense like a promise; however, it is not kept; potential power failures in the real Vegas are backed by emergency power-generating sets, one part of the video Vegas is followed by the next, where the signs again can hold steady.

In Vegas, Annja Krautgasser links up two questions which she pursues always anew in her works, no matter if in videos, installa-tions, or net projects: the possibility of representation of a spatial system, its parameters and finally the users’ possibilities of orientation on the one hand; on the other, the structural potential of these systems which she mostly connects with the image gener-at-ing apparatus and thus reaches very abstract solutions. For the first time, it is the interest in a concrete, architectonic intervention, though not constructed, that simulates space. The real embedding of these ready-mades in a highly charged consumer culture survives in the narrative elements of the digital animations in Vegas, and links up with its structural potential: the fusion of Pop and Minimal Art succeeds.

(Claudia Slanar)

1 Could have been established by a proponent of the classical avant-garde; however, it is a quotation made by: Gundi Feyrer, Auswendige Tage, Graz: Literaturverlag Droschl 1997, printed on a postcard.

2 Robert Venturi/Denise Scott-Brown/Steven Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas – On Iconography and Architectonic Symbolism of the City, Braunschweig/Wiesbaden: Friedr. Vieweg & Sohn, 1979, p. 19.

3 Ibid. see p. 90.

4 Ibid. see p. 91

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© Video stills

fake or feint

Berlin Carré, Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 13, Berlin (D)
04.04. – 02.05.2009

Scenario 4 with: Amy Granat, Annja Krautgasser, Katrin Mayer

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© Exhibition view: fake or feint, Berlin Carré, 2009

Annja Krautgassers ten-piece series Vegas (sound: Martin Siewert; commissioned by: Kunstverein Medienturm, Graz) deals with the illusionist architecture of the metropolis of amusement. Las Vegas is the outstanding example for a cityscape where architectonic form stands back behind a sign covered structure of facades and surfaces. Illuminated advertising pointing to the omnipresent entertainment opportunities (casinos, shows, restaurants etc.) not only offers orientation for consumer decisions. It is also part of a spectacle of signs which visually stages the aspect of distraction already at the level of urban space and draws its overwhelming effect exactly from the spectator's overstimulation. Annja Krautgasser takes this luminous advertising out of its context and confers it upon an abstract analytical layout. A matrix of light dots, evoking pixels or light bulbs, serves as tool to investigate animated arrows, pulsating patterns, pictograms, chains of letters and motion sequences in individual studies. By these means the artist explores patterns of the attraction of attention and the transmission of information, as well as the interlocking of technically produced illusion and visual perception...
(Martin Beck)

[VIDEO]: Vegas

Exhibitions: • Abstracts of Syn. Edition Medienturm, ARGE Kunst/Galerie Museum Bozen, I 2007 • Abstracts of Syn II, Kunstverein Medienturm, Graz, A 2007 • Abstracts of Syn I, quartier21/MQ, Wien/Vienna, A 2007 • EDITION MEDIENTURM 14, Ovalhalle quartier21/MQ • THE AUSTRIAN ABSTRACTS, Arti et Amicitiae, Amsterdam, NL 2006 • Another Tomorrow. Young Video Art from the Collection of the Neue Galerie Graz am Landesmuseum Joanneum, Slought Foundation, Philadelphia, USA 2008 • fake or feint, Scenario 4, Berlin, D 2009

Edition Medienturm 14, Kunstverein Medienturm, Graz