“Artistic research”

“Artistic research”

Hannes Egger from Lana is a concept artist. But he is also a curator, publisher, philosopher, festival director and many things more. An encounter.

“In the beginning was the Word”. Should we really start our portrait of a fairly worldly artist with a quote from the Gospel of John? Yet when looking at Hannes Egger’s work, this quote is what almost immediately comes to mind. The word – in our mind or spoken aloud – as a starting point for analysing our world, as the origin of the artistic process. Hannes Egger, born in 1981, read philosophy at the universities of Vienna and Rome before turning
to art, because he was “fed up with reading books”. While he felt that the written word was too one-dimensional, he stuck with what could be committed to paper. For him, the starting point of his artistic work is what can be drawn on a sheet – and drawing is essentially what we do when writing individual letters, which, when combined, form language, i.e. words.

Hannes Egger is a concept artist, and most of his works are installations; three-dimensional objects inviting viewers to participate, to no longer be mere observers, but to turn into performers themselves. A prime example of that is his work “The Artist is absent, perform yourself” – an installation consisting of a small platform, a kind of dancing stage with instructions inviting viewers to become performers themselves. Sometimes cameras are set to capture the spur-of-the-moment artistic expressions, sometimes photos are taken and often the artist himself studies the scene. “I really like this observing approach”, Egger says, also
referring to the participation encouraged by his work. For him, his works are “objects of study in disguise”, i.e. his exhibits aren’t the product of his artistic research, but work in progress. His work is always based on an initial thought or idea which is then developed into a concept during the course of his “research”. Very often, the artist also adds some ironic or playful touches. And it is only when viewers start interacting that Egger finds the answers to his artistic research questions. “It’s not necessarily the language or symbols used, but sometimes just a tiny movement
or the way people interact with my installations”, he says.
It's all in his head
Egger is especially thrilled about exploring the different levels of his thought experiments turned into real-world objects: the dimensions, the interactions with the visitors, the visual axes as well as the relationships that evolve. He does a lot of research (so he hasn’t given up reading entirely, after all), pins newspaper clippings, pictures and written thoughts onto corkboards, draws very basic black-and-white sketches. Egger is self-taught; his drawings are always stylised, utterly frugal, downright simple. He is not very interested in one-dimensional, finalised work, like
pieces you would hang up in your flat or office. The origin of his work of art is in his head, and he often brings in craftsmen and video or sound technicians to realise his installations. Therefore, his studio set up in the former forgery on his parents’ farm in Lana mostly serves as a storage space, private archive and workshop.

Egger’s series of works called “Blanco” is a prime example of his approach defined by participation and his ironic view on the business and reception of art. The series comprises several white, but signed sheets, on which the new owners can draw whatever they like. Customised art, so to speak. The series was bought by the province of South Tyrol. “see you” is Hannes Egger’s contribution to the Austrian pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale – a camera located in one of the corners of the pavilion sends a live stream out to the Kürsinger Hütte mountain hut located right below the 3,666-metre-high Großvenediger peak in the Hohe Tauern mountain range. This was the first time people could see
Venice from the Großvenediger, thus bringing together the city and the countryside, alpinists and guests at the Biennale, making all of them objects of art themselves. At the Venice location, only a small panel informed visitors of the installation in place.
Cultural highlights
Culture Festival in Lana
However, Hannes Egger is not only a concept artist. For several years now, he has served as the artistic director of the “Lana Live” festival, a cultural festival that is dedicated to the transdisciplinary and monothematic study of Lana and the surrounding region and takes place each year at several, sometimes unusual, locations. Music, performances, exhibitions, lectures and many other events are held at places like churches, industrial parks or,
like this year, in the residential areas of Lana. Moreover, Hannes Egger is one of the editors of “Kulturelemente”, a magazine that is published several times a year and addresses both political and art-related topics. He has acted as a curator for several exhibitions, developed concepts for museums for locations such as the Marienberg abbey and is currently working on a concept for Castel Tirolo.

Hannes Egger’s work rarely includes references to the region he comes from; his pieces are no classic regional art, but, as he says, Lana is the place to be for him: not too big, not too loud, not too busy. This is where he has his family, a dog, a garden, four chickens and, last but not least, the mountains, which make your legs grow heavy, but clear your mind.
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