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'Bad Engine' by Felix Kultau at KOENIG2 by_robbygreif, Vienna

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A baroque sky over Los Angeles, dramatic light, high towering cloud formations: all the signs of an approaching storm. The central wall of KOENIG2 becomes a dystopian setting for the works of Felix Kultau (born 1984 in Hanau, lives and works in Berlin). For his first one-man show in Vienna, Felix Kultau presents a melange of his works which are mostly serially progressive. In the compact exhibition space they oscillate between self-referential, cold objet trouvé, and narrative, warm sensuousness. They are objects that subsist almost without an artist and that exude for themselves a socio-critical dynamic in the context of the White Cube. Nevertheless, a haptic moment pervades, expressed in wounds, scratches and blemishes - the history of the work, its transport, exhibiting, and storage, yet also the handwriting of the artist.

The dark portent of the heavens seen in the wallpaper is not exclusively limited to the actual political and ecological horrors in the USA, but hovers over our heads as a generally valid symbol of evil. The title "Bad Engine" could very well refer to such a mirror of catastrophe: the emissions that are generated by car motors and that pollute our atmosphere, or also as a metaphor for a motivational problem, legitimized in society as procrastination.The designation, however, is far rather a small wink of the eye, a reference to the atmosphere in the exhibition and just as non-descriptive as the monikers of certain products from furniture shops. Kultau approaches some of his works with the same nonchalance. In Santa Monica, protein shake cups, cast in concrete, from which chrome bars arise, make reference to Muscle Beach: both supporting actors in dramas that combine the sport craze and striptease. On the other hand, Gates are fragments of cargo ship containers whose normative appearance has been revoked by overpainting or, in part, the application of textile additions.

Felix Kultau's works are not defined by a fixation on media. The labels that have been valid for centuries - painting, sculpture, photography etc. - come adrift in his praxis and that of many other artists of his generation, in favour of new contentual and emotional impulses. Conclusions about the multifacetedness of his concerns can only be drawn with regard to the material he employs.

Behind his series of light boxes, for example, lies the universal notion to rob the displays of their content, to expose them in terms of form, in order to sensitize the view of society to their manipulative character. According to Magdalena Kröner they become "longing displays" or even "desire machines". The former term is an appropriate description of their affective conveyance of "Habenwollen" (after Wolfgang Ullrich), an insatiable appetite in our liberal consumer capitalism. Thereby, however, the spatial dimension of the objects gets left out. They are not captured in two-dimensionality like exemplary advertising displays, handy screens, mirrors or billboards. The second term, "desire machines", comes closer to its significance as a generator and, precisely in a Bauhaus year, opens up associations to works which cross disciplines: amongst others, to the living machine of Le Corbusier. Produced serially, and striving for the greatest possible economy, the Unités d’Habitation such as Kultau's works are characterized by an inherent manipulation of industrial mass merchandise.

— Andrea Kopranovic, 2019

24.1.19 — 2.3.19


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