In his art, Andro Wekua combines collective and personal memories into poignant, in part disturbing representations. The gloomy and uncanny as phenomena and fear as a symptom of the human psyche play a big role in Wekua’s works. He purposefully uses formal devices – often well known patterns from the horror film genre – to create a narrative structure that evokes corresponding feelings. Wekua grew up in the former Soviet republic of Georgia and was driven out of the country in the course of the Civil War. In his installations, collages and films, pictures repeatedly flash up that are related to this aspect of his life. Personal aspects in his work, however, only serve as an illustration enabling him to raise more general questions about universal truths. What happens when our subjective memories mix with foreign images? When we try to fill gaps in our memory with historical or contemporary documents? Or when fantasy provides the cruellest of answers? The last question revolves around the psychology of “getting the creeps” and corresponds to a popular stylistic means of Wekuan scenographies.

In his pictorial works, Wekua combines motifs he finds in magazines, on the Internet or in photo albums in painterly fashion and with pastings into multi-layered, kaleidoscope-like collages. Experiences and lore overlap on a visual and narrative level. He also applies this technique in his sculptures, installations and particularly in his films and videos. His often dramatically presented installations attest to a tendency towards the narrative: naturalistically reproduced albeit alienated figures seem to be frozen in situations – similar to a video still – revealing only a moment of a more complex whole. Characters from his installations appear as protagonists of his filmic works. Wekua collages by using figures of his earlier works, taking pictures out of their context and putting them in a new structure. The new elaborately produced film that will be shown at the Kunsthalle Fridericianum testifies to this principle. Never Sleep with a Strawberry in Your Mouth is a filmic collage that brings together images from memory with the narrative logic of the horror movie.

At the Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Andro Wekua is presenting for the first time Pink Wave Hunter, a work group that conjures up the heavily destroyed and abandoned buildings of Sukhumi, the city in which he was born. In 15 individual architectural models, he combines his memories dating back 17 years with information gained from research on the internet and photo exchanges with other exiles. The fact that these are not faithful reconstructions, but highly subjective constructs, is revealed not only by the visible “memory gaps” – for example, when a sculpture shows only the façade of a building because the memory was not sufficient for the rest. The choice of materials, which differs with each building, also seems to be subjective and above all emotional. His selection of buildings is based on their personal relevance to him, on the one hand, and on their general popularity on the other. Wekua points to a fundamental problem here: we can view the past only through the distorting mirror of subjective memory, inextricably entwined with collective memory and the ideal images that superimpose themselves on repressed memories. When we envision the past, we always apply it to the present. Wekua visualizes these pictorial layers of memory with an acute sense for the repressed that he conjures up in his work. This is also apparent in the older video work By the window (2008), which when viewed together with the new film seems to anticipate the latter, which, for its part, intensifies the images and additionally boosts their intensity with horror film-like narration. The exhibition also includes paintings, collages and sculptures which, in typical Wekua fashion, appear as mysterious figures whose context unfolds in the imagination depending on the viewer’s past experience and is only hinted at in its outlines.

In collaboration with the Kunsthalle Wien and the Castello di Rivoli in Turin, a three-volume catalogue published by Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, is produced to accompany the exhibition.

Andro Wekua

Andro Wekua, born 1977 in Sukhumi, Georgia, began to study art in Basel in 1995, after abandoning his studies at the University of Tbilisi during the Civil War in 1994. Wekua lives and works in Berlin and Zurich.

Among his most recent solo exhibitions are Never Sleep with a Strawberry in Your Mouth at Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna; A Neon Shadow at Castello di Rivoli, Turin, both in 2011;  Books, Editions, and the Like at the Swiss Institute, New York, 2010; Workshop Report at Museion, Bolzano, and at the Centre d’Art Contemporain Wiels, Brussels, both in 2009; Sunset. I love the Horizon at Le Magasin CNAC, Grenoble, as well as My Bike and Your Swamp at De Hallen, Haarlem, and at the Camden Arts Centre, London, all in 2008; and Wait to Wait at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 2007.

Andro Wekua participated in a variety of group exhibitions such as 10.000 Lives, 8th Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju; Contemplating the Void: Interventions in the Guggenheim Museum at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, (all in 2010); Bad Habits at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; modern modern at the Chelsea Art Museum, New York, (both in 2009); and Shifting Identities: (Swiss) Art today at the Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, 2009, and at Kunsthaus Zürich, as well as Life on Mars, 55th Carnegie International, Pittsburgh (both in 2008).


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