[Photos: Simon Veres]

Let The Chips Fall Where They May

Each of the wall pieces in Julia’s exhibition “Five Finger Discount” center around an oil painting of a rather old-school shop: multiple butchers (kosher and not-kosher, of course), a flower store, a tailor. Within them, time seems to move at snail speed. One of the butchers is even eternally stuck celebrating the holiday season; it’s just that nobody knows which one. 

This reminds me how when I moved to Vienna, I used to eat at this cheap sushi place. The wait staff was rude, but in a nice way, always forcing customers to drink plum wine after each meal, and the pricing pretended that it was discounted. A closer look into the menu revealed that the red fonts offering “50% off ” were actually part of the original graphic design. What claimed to be a special discount, just that week, was the regular menu since years.

The air of nostalgia spreads a metaphorical stench of mothballs across the objects and carpet-tiled exhibition space. While all the shop-window-like sculptures connect to consumerism of some kind, it may not be the fast-lived, technologically centered one which keeps Silicon Valley up at night. Instead, withered flowers, marble eggs, and labor-intensive production processes, like cutting dovetail joints and meticulously gluing the tiniest rhinestones, enhance the feeling of a time flow of honey consistency.

Suppose the traditional painting frame was there to create some sort of wall-pedestal, enabling the viewer an even more impressionable look at the artwork. Julia‘s frame-like objects have nothing in common with such functionality. On the contrary: their depths cast shadows, their glass mirrors and the view is constantly interrupted by decoration. The occasional attempt to light these frames clearly does not have adequate lumens to allow a proper look at the paintings in the center. However, as much as all those materials and objects just seem to be getting in the way — one may wonder if they just as well deserve a closer look — yes, please!

While a lack of doors may make it impossible to shop at the stores Julia has brought to the gallery, some of their potential goods or those of other establishments have made it into the exhibition space and onto the carpeted floor: three jack-o-lantern-shopping-bags and a shop window gift box with a bow the right size to put on a convertible for high school graduation. Each of the objects in the space emits light and double-functions as a lamp, thus raising the question of whether the packaged goods were dropped and left behind during a shopping or even shoplifting frenzy or whether these sculptures may be the shoppers or kleptomaniacs themselves in this twisted temporary bubble of a shopping mall.

If this shopping center had a food court, they’d be serving tiny, soggy hot dogs with frozen Jägeritas, stale riffle chips with baileys, and vase-water from two-week-old bouquets for the children.

[Text: Gabriele Edlbauer]

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