FLiege: Uncovering the Depths of Vienna’s Off–Space Cosmos

eSeLSCHWARM Foto FLiege: Finissage "Eating our Roots" (Viktoria, 20.2.2023) eSeLSCHWARM Foto FLiege: Finissage "Eating our Roots" (Viktoria, 20.2.2023)

eSeLSCHWARM-Ambassador FLiege Interim Report

While bureaucracy and art sound like definite counterparts, corresponding with the MA 7 is an essential milestone that keeps the Vienna off-space world running. Many of the spaces I visited in the past five months of eSeLSCHWARM off-space explorations season 1 needed the favor of the "Magistratsabteilung Kultur" to breathe. Others might anxiously await the goodwill of their landlords (rest in peace, Kunstraum ZRS). Only a lucky few have found a patron or another source of stable, disposable income that allows them to run their space independently from city budgets and advance annual scheduling.

Money makes the world go round, and the art space world is no exception. While the broad dependence on public money leads to off-spaces in Vienna dealing with some institutionalization, the benefit of not being dependent on ticket sales is often passed onto the artists that are granted the platform - often emerging, sometimes in their first solo show, usually supported by a caring team of artists that run their space as a passion project within the sometimes rather impersonal Vienna art world.

eSeLSCHWARM Foto FLiege: Rehearsals of Porosity (Kevin Space, 17.2.2023) eSeLSCHWARM Foto FLiege: Rehearsals of Porosity (Kevin Space, 17.2.2023)

In the past five months, I was on a mission to discover the variety of the Viennese self-made art scene. Out of the three dozen places I visited, most of them made an appearance on the eSeLSCHWARM Instagram and had a pin on the physical map in the eSeL-Rezeption. But there were also occasions that made me decide not to feature a place, such as being yelled at, pulled into a storage room, or being suspected to sneak one toilet usage rather than being actually interested in the exhibition.

I noticed two poles of the Vienna art scene - the people that are able to afford art, and those that make its production part of their identity. I realized that I felt most comfortable and curious about spaces that don’t cater to one of these groups, but appear inviting to passers-by and neighbors. There are spaces where you can actually have a curious conversation about the exhibited topics, and there are spaces where the art can serve as a nice backdrop to curious conversations about your friends’ life updates. There are spaces that extend their programming to the street in front of their building (Improper Walls) or even include the neighborhood (SOHO Studios). There are spaces that shine a cozy light into the night and spaces that make you go to the second-level basement on a nice summer day (shoutout Minuszwei). My off-space explorations had me take the longest subway journey of my time in Vienna (Contemporary Matters Studio) and open unassuming doors of my neighborhood (basement).

While the goal was never to create a complete map, I am looking forward to a fall season of off-space explorations and maybe explore new depths of their potentials that reach beyond the art scene. I hope to highlight spaces that are more off the paths I’ve covered already.

eSeLSCHWARM Foto FLiege: Ana Loureiro "Communication Chamber" (Galerie Utopia / Kulturzentrum 4lthangrund – Alte WU, 10.6. - 22.6.2023) eSeLSCHWARM Foto FLiege: Ana Loureiro "Communication Chamber" (Galerie Utopia / Kulturzentrum 4lthangrund – Alte WU, 10.6. - 22.6.2023)

Interim report records and statistics

  • Clearest concept: sehsaal (four seasons for the meaning of space this year)
  • Most off-space: Galerie Utopia (used to be the cafeteria of the economics university, now feeding visitors with leftist ideas)
  • Largest space: Neuer Kunstverein Wien (used to be a car dealership)
  • Smallest space: Shared award for ENTRE and Außenstelle Kunst (the latter is originally a storage room)
  • Most underground: Minuszwei (on the -2nd floor)
  • Closest to the clouds: [only made it to the second floor, send suggestions please]
  • Most hyperactive: Wohlmut (self-given award, sometimes host several events per week)
  • Oldest space: echoraum (opened in 1988! Now under second leadership team)
  • Most chaotic: Setzkasten (their collection of knick-knacks grows with every project)
  • Most clean: wasserwasser³ (has a drain so it can be rinsed when need be)
  • Best neighborhoods for an off-space stroll: Grundsteinviertel (they even have a fest), Volkertplatz (GOMO, Kevin Space, philomena+), Reindorf (Improper Walls, echoraum, Viktoria)
  • Districts covered: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 15, 16, 17, 20, 22, 23
  • Districts missing: 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, 21

I am happy to outdo any of these in season two - for suggestions for any category, email me at fliege@esel.at or send a message on Instagram.

Photos & Text: Fricka 'FLiege' Lindemann

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