barbara kraus, mixed feelings
barbara kraus, mixed feelings
barbara kraus, mixed feelings
barbara kraus, mixed feelings

barbara kraus


mixed feelings

Reinsberg was chosen as the scene and production location fort he project "Mixed Feelings", having previously been selected as the setting for "Common Cause" in 1999. Five artists came to live in Reinsberg for an extended period of time to learn about the events, the history and the stories surrounding the village, and to familiarize themselves with people and institutions, with public life, social conflicts and strategies of self-portrayal for marketing purpose. The real effect of "Mixed Feelings" was hidden between the lines. The preparations and development of the scenario were initiated by Karl Prüller, car mechanic and untiring promoter of cultural activities in the village, who incidentally was responsible for the castle ruin experiment with all ist performances as well as for promoting organic gastronomy in the village. "Mixed Feelings" clearly reflected the kind of intense and discursive operation mentioned above. The project of 2001 proved a continuous tightrope walk in as much as artists had to be found who were keen enough to do on-site piece-work and became engaged in internal as well as external discussions. They then had to be encouraged to go into what seemed at first sight a village very much closed in itself, to carry out research there, to speek approaches and prepare possible stagings. Local residents were at the same time reserved and open, they showed interest, wanted to participate in discussions yet were quick to cover up situations and would alternately open and close doors. As both the preliminary research and the actual project were carried out in a true-to-life situation and some of the artists showed a keen interest in dealing with concrete village history/stories, it was possible to find a real and tangible basis for discussion and critique which is quite rare in the arts world otherwise. At Reinsberg, however, it was not possible to remove oneself from the core issue or to make critique part of a closed art system. The fabric of stories/history, of participiants and recipients was too closely knit for anyone to break away from. There was the case of Hofmühle (mill) where Ricarda Denzer and Barbara Kraus, in preparing ist history and the stories surrounding it, found themselves caught up in a discussion with one of the local families, the mayor and Mr.Prüller on how much biographical detail was to become part of the artistic work. Conflicts were the inevitable consequence and the artists had to interrupt their work temporarily. Several talks were conducted and it soon became clear just how important individual biographies were for recognizing collective processes. Suddenly, looking at the dealing with an outsider’s life story was no longer considered an act of voyeurism but rather a way of coming to terms with common history outside any person’s private or family life. Many of the artists came from similar village or small-town backgrounds, a fact which opens up additional perspectives fort he whole scenario. The boundaries between people’s own history, their stories and memories, and those of the village had become blurred. The title is descriptive of the structure, the procedure and the actual course of the project. It refers to the "mixed feelings" people have when "strangers" enter their village. There are the "mixed feelings" of being at home, in a place of intimacy and familiarity, while at the same time being on the outside, being looked at suspiciously, having no access to communities, etc. And then there are the "mixed feelings" of being looked at as an artist, a young person showing interest, but also as an intruder, a stranger, someone from Vienna (the city!), or even a left-wing activist. The former supermarket Gruber, located next to the church in the village center, was adapted as the main communication hub. The Hofmühle, an old mill with a lot of history and many stories to tell, was chosen as a second focus fort he project.

"Schneckenfalle" (snail trap), a performance by Barbara Kraus, also had its origins in the stories around the old mill. However, the discussions about the mill eventually led the artist to change her mind about a woman she was originally going to create with the material she had come across. For her performance she came up with a hybrid between snail and human being, a metaphor for the ambivalence of desire. "The desire for circumstances that are dry, ordered, clearly defined and comrehensible, in contrast to the appeal and fascination of damo, slimy-slippery, dark holes." (Barbara Kraus) The figure thus created was seen in the streets of Vienna days before its appearance, it came to Reinsberg before the opening, attended the Reinsberg nights, a village festival which took place at the same time, and then as night fell, appeared before the audience, having previously been announced on TV. Shrieking sharply it pushed its way to the speaker's desk, its gestures full of sexual connotations. Surrounded by luscious lettuce plants it began to preach about the "church's fear of women", using a language reminiscent of antiquated threatening speeches. In the second part of the performance, the snail withdrew into a house made of leaves, slipped out of its previous role to read out texts and protocols about the treatment of women during the inquisition and the persecution of witches. All this was performed in the village square in front of the church which was part of the reason for the heated discussions and strong reactions among the local population both during and after the event. It was no longer the project, the works, the nature or content of the performance they were concerned about, but the daring costume, the sexual connotations of the gestures and the obvious attacks on the church.

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