10/03 - 30/06/2013
Love, anger, sorrow—emotions are life-defining, complex dynamical processes whose forms of expression are culturally shaped and socially learnt.
The exhibition “Big Emotions” addresses various manifestations of emotions and how they change in the historical contexts of different works of art. To explore the issue, about 50 contemporary artworks from the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin—among them pieces by Maurizio Cattelan, Douglas Gordon, Dinos und Jake Chapman, Damien Hirst, Sharon Lockhart, or Berlinde De Bruyckere—are placed in dialogue with an almost equal number of works from the different collections of the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum.
Within the historical difference that separates the individual works from one another, the focus is placed on connecting lines of expression whose basis is retrieved in the collective social memory. Particularly, it is Aby Warburg’s interest in the transformation and survival of “pathos formulas” in gestures, gesticulations, and facial expressions of people represented in pictures and other art media which will be subject to a present-day re-examination in the framework of today's expanded exhibition practice. From the perspective of a historical psychology of human expression, the inconsistencies and the “excess of the pathos formula” are what, above all, accounts for the enormous attraction that Warburg's ideas have for contemporary art.
The search for continuity and transformation in the representation of emotions in visual art shows that contemporary artists like William Kentridge or Shirin Neshat frequently borrow from pathos formulas as an “archeology of knowledge” to relate these complex and diverse elements to a number of present-day issues. Characterized by the fragmentation of the female body, the sculptures of Sarah Lucas, who renegotiates traditional visual rhetorics of bodily expression, open up a gender-critical perspective. Yinka Shonibare addresses topical postcolonial issues by harking back at culturally informed stereotypes and gestures and offering grotesque disguises for the subjects of ostentation and the striving for power, which play such an important role in the portraiture of the modern age.
The tension-loaded potential of idiosyncratic interpretations, which characteristically cross-reference one’s own present time, is also made accessible to visitors. For the juxtaposition and confrontation of continuing pathos formulas, as is demonstrated by works of Titian, Hans von Aachen, Bartholomäus Spranger, Francesco Furini, or Paolo Veronese as well as by contemporary art, produces a kaleidoscope of emotions shifting from love, joy and happiness to fear and anger and to grief and despair. The theatrics of emotional expression also provide the frame of reference for performative and musical interventions that will take place in the context of the exhibition in cooperation with the 2013 donaufestival.
Brigitte Borchhardt-Birbaumer, Irene Calderoni, Sylvia Ferino-Pagden, Hans-Peter Wipplinger