In his first solo show since 2006 Föttinger’s illuminated sculptures show us views and snippets of every day life in Asia: cables and wires in front of billboard advertising in Bangkok, Saigon and Phnom Penh, rice fields in Java, Bali and Lombok, girls on scooters in Saigon, housing blocks in Hong Kong, home-made Cambodian gas stations or a Sulfur mine inside a volcano in Java.
Sometimes as a typological series, sometimes as a cubist-style, multi-perspective view onto a situation, Föttinger’s depth of field photography builds the surface of his sculptures. Their form relates to the theme of the pictures, as in “Reispille” (rice pill) or the “Saigon Wrap”. The cylinders supported by rods leaning against the wall, too, contain the theme of their image, or in a way isolate it. Cables form a ferocious net, connecting citizens and transporting telephone and digital data. On the billboards, the models and their products are crossed and altered by the cables almost like a hatching pattern on a drawing, hinting that not only individual, but also collective consumtion messages are transposed. Like fixated walking sticks, Föttinger’s “Wire Sticks” carry their images, phallic and animalistic at the same time.
The individual and the masses, the male and the female are reappearing images in the work of Föttinger, which contains the touristy, romantic or sexually motivated view onto the unfamiliar; just as Föttinger’s political and historical interest in the rural depopulation, globalization or gender studies becomes evident.
A rice field, wrenched from nature in geometric shapes and appearing as green habitat from the sowing to the harvest, does not show the effort it takes, driving farmers into the city, towards the skyscraper images that are woven together on Föttinger’s hanging light sculpture, in which the outside facade is reverted to a body inside a room within a house.
Van Gogh’s paintings of Brabant peasants, Paul Citroens skyscraper collages or Romanticism’s glorification of nature resemble the groundwork for Föttinger’s very contemporary montages. In one instance, the artist alludes directly to a predecessor: couturier Paco Rabanne, who became famous for his Catsuit for Jane Fonda in Barbarella 1968, and whose dress designs combining metal rings and small plastic sequins appear futuristic, sexy and energetic. For this exhibition, Föttinger constructed a dress like this – it is printed with the image of a jackfruit, a heavy and gigantic yellow breadfruit from tropical Asia that combines many sexual symbols with its biomorphic form and unusual pimples. Like the other sculptures the chic manifold dress stands in an interesting relationship with its motive, which is not only symbol for fertility, but also creates a peel, a cover. This well-fortified uniform for the modern woman from Jakarta, Phnom Penh or Saigon seems to be equipped with an everted vagina dentata, the vagina with teeth as a mythological, in this case modernized and illustrated weapon. The resistance against exploitation and political pressure, against the presidential party state, the corrupt communistic or the monarchist military regime in this region comes from women. Föttinger designs a guerilla-costume for an Asian Barbarella in a patriarchal-feministic gesture.
Text: Rita Kersting