Ursula Mayer (London/ Vienna)

Ursula Mayer, *1970 in Austria. Lives and workes as artist in London. Works in the field of film and videoinstallation.


>> Exhibition 23.09. - 15.10.2006


>> Lectures/ Presentations/ Panel

Sunday, 24.9., 12 a.m. - 19 p.m.

Moderation: Marina Gržinić (Vienna/Ljubljana)

17:45 -19:00 p.m. Panel


bankleer (Berlin), Michal Blum (Vienna), Ursula Mayer (London/ Vienna), Artists Without Walls (Israel/ Palestine)

Starting from their own works the artists presented in the exhibition discuss whether there are still places which are surrounded by an aura of innocence.


>> Contribution in MALMOE 34:


Interview with Ursula Mayer by Lucia Farinati

LF: In your recent video works, Portland Place and Keeling, which forms part of your trilogy, you have chosen a specific architectonic context, namely the interior of a Victorian house and a modernist building. How did this fascination for domestic architecture come about? And how does this relate to your previous work, which focused more on the representation of the female subject through music and performance?

UM: In my work there is always a strong engagement with space, which started with the idea of occupying and claiming space in performing for example on stage or on a roof of a building. In my earlier works this was more related to popular culture and music. In my films I am using performances without focusing on completed forms, it is more a contested space where meanings of desire are generated, occluded and multi-interpreted. The shift from body to space is here enhanced through the films of Antonioni, Tarkovsky, Godard. But the subject of investigation is not just architectural it is also an inner psychological space. I do analyse how filmmakers use space as a fictional character in itself and how these directors, especially Antonioni, frames his actresses in wandering around empty houses and spaces, like erotic nomads. Their own inner lives seem to blend with the physical and interior space. The place is like a mirror and the filmed objects hide the lack of conclusive plots and allow an open narration.

LF: So the performative element seems quite central to your practice, is this why you also choose to work with a dancer?

UM: The trilogy began initially with the idea of constructing a film through a dance choreography which I didn’t use because what you see, is the end of an action, a performance that more or less is over. The cinematic device that I employed aims to address how the body becomes more a developer of time rather than a developer of an action. The performative presence is materializing something that goes beyond our knowledge, that alters the shapes of sites and imagines others as unsuspected modes of being.

LF: But the movements of the camera also frame the architecture almost like a body, as a sort of character in itself.

UM: Yes, I am filming and scanning places in order to narrate a space and display the location as a characterized fictional part of the film.

LF: There is also that dynamic of watching and waiting as in Antonioni’s films.

UM: Yes, there is always this expectation in the film that something is happening but nothing happens at the end.

LF: In parallel to the trilogy you are working on a new project that deals once more with a domestic architecture, the 2 Willow Road house.

UM: The house was designed by the architect Erno Goldfinger. He and his wife Ursula made it into a meeting point for many artists living in Hampstead in the 30s. The place is a perfect set because it is already charged by their obsession for art and architecture. I could never build a set like this with all these objects, furniture, art works.

LF: It is a kind of ready made!

UM: Yes, although the characters of my films will bring into play the figure and work of Barbara Hepworth which is somehow absent from this art collection. In addition of the art works displayed in the house I will work with a quasi-reproduced object of hers around which the story is woven.

LF: She will be the female protagonist of 2 Willow Road?

UM: My plots are open so their interpretations are open too. The film involves two women an older one and a younger one. Being different in age they stand for different levels of time and reality. Their actions in the house are consecutive, quasi-ritualistic, and overlapping, but they never meet. The object hallucinates the encounter, which never takes place and charges the space with poetized absence. The architecture shows boundaries and passages alluding to processes of memory.

LF: So what you have in mind is a story that generates and retrieves other stories through a series of artefacts and protagonists contained within the same space. A sort of Russian doll.

UM: Yes, a story that activates a circulation of time which does not need a beginning or an end.

LF: 2 Willow Road is a perfect example of modernist architecture and Barbara Hepworth’s work is also inscribed into the history of the modern movement, is there a nostalgia for that artistic time?

UM: I do not want to idealize the past. My work aims to re-study implications and the unrealized potential of that time. In revisiting places and re-enacting them I am offering an alternative way of reading them, an awareness of the ellipses of time.

LF: In discussing the birth of the interior Walter Benjamin wrote: “to live is to leave traces”. But these traces, we could add, are all potential stories, re-enactments, fictional architectures of time.

London, 13th June 2006

Lucia Farinati is an independent curator based in London.