Archive 2013-2023

Café Heaven – Pina at Salzburger Kunstverein

Kea Bolenz, Kerstin von Gabain, James Lewis, Irina Lotarevich, Thea Moeller, Johanna Odersky, Arc M Sch, Helena Tan
April 1-May 15, 2022

Display: Bruno Mokross & Edin Zenun

It has been theorized that the introduction of coffee into the medieval landscape was one of the major catalysts for what became known as the Enlightenment. Coffee replaced beer as the drink of choice, caffeinating the medieval organism. It took very little time for coffee houses to appear, fanning out over the world from their Ottoman origins. They quickly became the loci of intellectual life, and the shift from pub to coffee house meant the drunken brawl was replaced with something more metaphysical. Coffee houses represented an entirely new type of social-space, and became the preferred arena of poets, artists, and revolutionaries. As a technology they changed the trajectory of world history as much as gunpowder or the printing press. This is just to say that the coffee house was a truly novel development, and that we take for granted how coffee reshaped the architecture of our lives and our social relations. Speaking of architecture, I want to talk about skeletons, ghosts, and social mathematics.

A common metaphor is that architecture is a kind of exoskeleton functioning to house and protect the human organism. What strikes me, as an outside observer, is the skeletal, gut-like quality of not only the works in Café Heaven, but the curatorial choice of the metal structure that intersects the space. The structure itself is a replica of Pina’s actual floor plan in Vienna. But it is naked, there is no drywall. The pretense of “the finished” has been stripped away. It is a chimera. Half there half not. I find these same sentiments present in the works that have been curated into this show. Non-smooth industrial tumors intersecting typically flat, smoothed-over, technocratic geometries. Ghostly eruptions into hyperbolic space. Pina has undone the way gallery-space normalizes object relations. It is not truly a cafe, but neither is it truly just a traditional exhibition. It is in this breaking of utilitarian logic that art resists being flattened by binary systems. 

One of the reasons Pina wanted to recreate itself in the Salzburger Kunstverein is to question the mathematical order of these systems and the social relations created by their proximity to architecture, by which I mean the following. Large public museums and kunsthallen are often compared to cathedrals, and they warp the matrix of social relations in similar ways. They are often quiet and contemplative places where behavioral constraints limit the human organism from expressing its full carnal self. In museums one is invited to contemplate the gravity of that which transcends the individual (what we call “history”). Here art resembles the rigid body of hierarchy (what “history” has been salvaged is also therefore “good”) and thus one behaves in accordance to this sanctity. 

Project spaces, on the other hand, of which Pina is counted amidst Viennas more than 60, allow for an altogether different experience. Project spaces are one of the most relaxed and hybrid models for viewing art and enacting community. They hyperbolize the psychosocial chaos that makes art so important. Class relations here are at their most broken and distorted. You are allowed, even encouraged to be carnal, irreverent, debauched or inglorious. But more than anything they exemplify plurality, slippage, and nonconformity. If, ironically, there were a Eucharist here it is in the implosion of edges. It is the gaussian jouissance of collapsing object/point relationships, in their enmeshment. You are invited to linger in this non-Euclidean place and contemplate, like me, the way space morphs, informs, and alters our social biology. But I want to say one last thing. 

Café Heaven could be anywhere. This is its utopian ideal. Its utopian topology. It’s the anachronistic internet cafe that will never be free of the smell of must. It’s that grunge music venue that couldn’t possibly be up to code, into which you are excited and afraid to go. It’s the nothing-special coffee shop you love for its charm of persistence. It’s your favorite rat trap, whatever hole-in-the-wall, hidden gem that exists outside of “the relevant”. That vital architectural magic, that thing which is so normal that it is almost psychedelic. These types of places which patina the material of our experiences make urban life bearable, even beautiful. It’s Pina on any night they’re having an opening, people spilling out into the night. 

Or, in the end, it’s something altogether different.

– Arc M Sch

Pina is a non-commercial exhibition space in Vienna directed by artists and curators Bruno Mokross and Edin Zenun.

The exhibition at Salzburger Kunstverein prominently features a life-size model of the sous-terrain exhibition space in Vienna, contrasting the dimensions of the two Kunstvereins by inserting one into the other. Constructed from specially designed steel modules, this display structure will be used as a framework to the artworks included in the show.

Supplied with offerings from the Salzburger Kunstverein’s Café, visitors are invited to use the space as a hang-out spot to browse a merged selection of publications taken from both the archives of Salzburger Kunstverein and Kunstverein Pina.

With this exhibition, Pina wants to pay homage to the history-steeped gathering places of a sociable project space scene, and reflect on its own role within the institutional wickerwork of the art world.

Thank you: Dominik Anker, Sophia Haas, Therese Kaiser, Séamus Kealy, David Koch, Michaela Lederer, Katrin Petter, Arc M Sch, Sophia Stemshorn, Tobias Ternus, TULA Bistro (Julia Reinhartshuber & Sandro Eberhardt), Moritz Unterreitmeier, Guggenthaler Schlosserei, Robin Waart, Malte Zander

Photography: Georg Petermichl