Group Exhibition: "unter flaschen - The Fledermaus at the Bar du Bois"

May 13 – October 24, 2020

Artists: Chiara Bals, Diana Barbosa Gil, Katrine Bobek, Eva Engelbert, Daniel Fonatti, Johannes Frauenschuh, Andreas Harrer, Anna Hostek, Anastasia Jermolaewa, Gea Kalkhof, Selma Klima, Leena Lübbe, Felizitas Moroder, Ann Muller, Florian Pfaffenberger, Raphael Pohl, Carolina Rotter, Lisa Sifkovits, Julia Steinbach, Stefan Thater, Julian Turner, Astrid Wagner, Maria VMier, Johanna Odersky, Bartholomaeus Wächter, Laura Welker
Text: Cosima Rainer


An exhibition by Bar du Bois in collaboration with the department ofmSculpture and Space - Hans Schabus, University of Applied Arts Vienna
On invitation of Cosima Rainer, Head of Collection and Archive

Cabaret Fledermaus was a site of metamorphosis and emancipation. In a sense, this important venue of Viennese Modernism has now “risen again” in a twofold way! From around 1907 to 1909, Cabaret Fledermaus experienced its heyday. The to this day legendary venue was planned and lavishly decorated by protagonists of the Wiener Werkstätte and with its program that brought together multimedia artistic production, discourse, and social interaction in an entirely new way, sparked off a frenzy of all senses. The Wiener Werkstätte, which was co-guided and financed especially by the arts patron, and style expert Fritz Waerndorfer, and its aesthetics functioned as a vital vehicle by which a younger generation of upper-middle-class Jews sought to emancipate themselves in their struggle for cultural recognition—something that in view of resentments and antisemitism was not a given. By funding the theater, Fritz Waerndorfer strived to cement his role as a producer of modernist culture. Apart from him, there were no external patrons. This made for a degree of artistic freedom reflected not just in the architectural design but also in the lively and progressive program of Cabaret Fledermaus. Today, this can only be appreciated through documentary material, since the building in which the cabaret was located was completely destroyed in 1945.

Bar du Bois is a Viennese artist group, which has existed in various networks since 2013. Bar du Bois is literally also an actual bar: a bar on the move. Its furnishings are constructed by artists, and it is run by artists as well. Bar du Bois’s artistic practice combines numerous agendas such as working within a collective, challenging hierarchies within the art system, questioning the exhibition space as representative site, applying a travesty of styles and formal languages and relating them to the exhibition space. The group’s work developed as a contrast to the phenomenon of recognizable artistic authorship, and it involves a critical engagement with the art market’s fixation on commodities and the history of the white cube. Instead of investing in established standards like these, Bar du Bois (in English “bar made of wood”) places its faith in the composed chaos of the artistic collective. They celebrate patchwork and the type of exhilaration that brings ideas to life and social monads together.
By establishing a network of their own in the form of a temporary artist-run space with a bar, they search for contemporary opportunities for constructive counter worlds and collaborative strategies in the art world. Each exhibition space is artistically dealt with and commented on at large and, employing trompe-l’oeil techniques, is transformed.

In collaboration with students from the Sculpture and Space department in the context of a course led by Eva Engelbert, various aspects of the historical Cabaret Fledermaus were considered, artistic strategies for de-/reconstructing respectively for updating history were explored and questions about the possibility of constructive forms of escapism were raised. At the invitation of the Collection and Archive, this collective presents the exhibition unter flaschen. Die Fledermaus in der Bar du Bois at the University of Applied Arts Gallery Heiligenkreuzerhof. Here, Bar du Bois refers to Cabaret Fledermaus as a venue that was exemplary for emancipatory as well as escapist tendencies. On the one hand, due to its role in the struggle for artistic self-empowerment, on the other with its performance program that allowed for experimental dance performances by the Wiesenthal sisters as well as absurd grotesques by Peter Altenberg.
Flamboyant accounts by contemporaries swirl especially around the cabaret’s bar; among other things, it was called a “colorful cave of horrors” decked out with numerous “satirical references.” Berta Zuckerkandl, again, described the cabaret’s bar whose walls were covered with a mosaic made of thousands of tiles and whose vividly colorful display was almost psychedelic as a “brilliant introduction” or “scenic prolog [Dekorprolog].”

In 2019, based on the only one existing black-and-white photograph, the Collection and Archive was able to reconstruct this exceptional experimental spatial constellation in form of a stylistic adaptation.
The ceramic décor was developed in cooperation with experts and artists such as Beate Seckauer and Maria Wiala. It is now possible to sense the artistic vision of this extraordinary establishment. The reconstruction based on designs by Josef Hoffmann, Bertold Löffler, and Michael Powolny is on show in the exhibition Into the Night. Die Avantgarde im Nachtcafé at the Belvedere in Vienna until June 1, 2020. Since 2003, the Collection of the University of Applied Arts Vienna has a scale model of Cabaret Fledermaus in its possession, which has been traveling the world as a much sought-after exhibit. Now a walk-in “inner world” has been added to this key reference of Viennese Modernism.


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