Markus Schinwald (born 1973), whose complex on-site installations have most recently been on show at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Zurich (2008), the Kunsthaus Bregenz (2009) and the Kunsthalle Budapest (2009), is among the most distinguished Austrian artists of his generation. Since the late nineteen nineties, the human body as the projection screen of individual existence and as a cultural construct has been at the center of the works by Salzburg-born Schinwald who lives in Vienna and Los Angeles.
Central features of Schinwald’s work are impressive formulations of the human body, showing it as a barely trustworthy, malleable and manipulable shell. His work, which is playfully located in the visual arts as well as in the dance and performance scene, combines very diverse media ranging from magical mystic films and photographs to prosthetic fashion designs and reworked historical paintings in stage-like spaces to form complex interrelationships which radiate an eccentric ambivalence: their seductively beautiful surfaces have an almost hypnotic attraction on the viewer while the subjects remain structurally unsolvable and puzzlingly alien.
Schinwald gained international attention through the sculptural reworking of fashionable consumer items that, removed from their original functionality, force uncomfortable postures as portable prostheses. In a camouflage manner, however, subtle prostheses-like interventions and mask-like additions are fitted together in portraits of the Biedermeier era that stylistically conform to the original so exactly that they seem to always have been there. Prostheses-like apparatuses or manipulated items of clothing as a dispositive of control, discipline and autocorrection also fix the protagonists of his films in specified poses or force their motion sequences. The artificial extensions of the body decisively determine the film’s action that does not follow a linear storyline, showing the protagonists instead in strange actions without any recognizable reference system and in part as if externally controlled. The precise dramaturgy creates an atmospheric limbo in which the regular balance of power between the person and the thing, humanitas and artifact seems to have been abrogated and is targeted at the productive destabilization of the viewer.
Schinwald’s works go far beyond visual perception, focusing on the precise moment in which the rational disposability over the body expires, ultimately confronting us with the question of our own constructedness.