quote of INDEX Releases from the Austrian Avant-Garde

Part 1: Austrian Exhibitionists

By Robert Mark Grossman and Andrew Grossman

"While Ressler’s collective politics refuse the arrogant solipsism that typifies common perceptions of avant-gardism, the work of sculptress-videomaker Gertrude Moser-Wagner repositions a stubborn experimental individualism within the context of ecologically-tinged crises that practical politics have been unable to remedy. Operating through her self-discovered formula of “concept and coincidence” (also the title of her INDEX DVD), she seeks to “take sculpture beyond gravity…to find a visual form of transportation for this process.” This notion is ideally represented in her Ouroboros (2000, above), wherein a three-minute image shot through a microscope lens in the laboratories of the University of Göttingen is transformed into a transparent, untainted political statement, a “sculpted” allegory of the dangers of genetic manipulation. Ouroboros, a genetically altered nematode named after the mythical snake which bites its own tail, is a favorite of genetic vivisectionists because of a membranous transparency that makes its nervous system easy to study. The liner notes tell us that the removal of a simple gene dooms the poor creature — “ROL6,” as scientists dub it — to snake around in tail-chasing circles for the remainder of its existence (sometimes clockwise, sometimes counterclockwise), a trenchant metaphor portending the inevitable self-destructions of genetic tampering and misapplied notions of (tail-biting) relativism. Andreas Weixler’s ambient soundtrack employs an “interactive acoustic modulation” to electronically distend a hypnotic vocalization of the word “ouroboros,” lending a surprising, otherworldly pathos to the confused destiny of this universalizable petri dish victim. At first, the aestheticizing of the worm’s rhythms via the droning voice seem amateurish, even bourgeois, and Ouroboros threatens to broach the unintended, tittering campiness that single-minded obscuritantism too-often provokes. But potential camp soon gestates into alarmingly sterile eeriness, and ROL6’s relentless gyre, as perceived through the microscope lens, becomes a kind of biotic sculpture, an organic infinitum that achieves Moser-Wagner’s desire to transport forms “beyond gravity.” It is an image endowed with tremendous paradox and foreboding, not so much a film as an a posteriori exhibition of the perverse ignobility of all biological exploitations. By the brief film’s end, Weixler’s magnetic repetitions of “ouroboros” breathe into the worm paradoxical life, suggesting that without a human resonance the sadistic byproducts of our heedless research go largely undocumented.