Transformer Station – Rainer Prohaska, Krems an der Donau, Austria, Cleveland Bound: Tying it All Together
Austrian artist Rainer Prohaska’s work is as much about construction as about the final structure, according to Danielle Meeker, the Transformation Station’s gallery manager. During his three-month Creative Fusion resdiency, Prohaska will create and install work in the outdoor space adjacent to the contemporary art gallery and half-time annex of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Apart from temporary installations on the occasion of the Republican National Convention, it will be the first installation there.
Prohaska “makes the connection between installation and performance art very clear,” Meeker says. He favors modularity and flexibility, and he uses material common to construction projects, like I-beams and lumber. “He considers the act of building it very important,” says Meeker.
Prohaska sometimes enlists teams of assistants to accomplish his pieces, and Meeker says it’s possible local teenagers will be recruited for the Cleveland project. Prohaska’s interest in pulling people into his work is one of the reasons the gallery chose him for its Creative Fusion residency. “We’re already a very collaborative space—that’s a huge part of our mission,” she says.
When the artist arrives in Cleveland at the beginning of September, he will land in a divided place, the purple battleground of a swing state in a presidential election season. But he will not be unprepared. He will bring construction straps.
Much of Prohaska’s recent work involves binding and fusing, attaching and connecting. “He’s inspired by orange ratchet straps,” says Meeker. While he sometimes uses the straps to embed strength into his constructions, many of his pieces are just as often about illusions of power and utility.
The straps he used to tie several structures of Vienna’s Albertina Museum together he considered as line, as if replacing pencil and paper with the belts and the buildings so the objects are literally—and merely—drawn together. The piece, called “Drawing an Orange Line,” creates a unity, but a tenuous one.
A series called Nonsense Technologies presents operating equipment does nothing—on purpose. The concept, Prohaska says in his artist statement, is a physical object “in opposition to” finality, productivity, and effectiveness. “Technology becomes here a method to ask questions, a process of research without a need for the unequivocal answers.”
An installation in Shanghai from last year called “The Emperor’s New Clothes” may prove to be useful research for the American political season. The title, according to Prohaska’s statement, “is intended to draw an analogy between, on the one hand, [Hans Christian] Andersen’s story and, on the other hand, the nature of beliefs systems that lack an empirical basis.”