Wolfgang Wirth - Territory 2016

28.10.2016 - 26.11.2016

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In his exhibition Territory the Austrian artist Wolfgang Wirth shows a series of works reflecting on the present situation of Syria and the Near East.

The attempt to follow and understand the developments in Syria is constantly causing a feeling of mere confusion. Too many forces and interests seem to be involved in order to be able to get a clear image of what is going on; of what reality is.

The basis for Wirth´s series of works is a map by Auguste-Henri Dufour (1863) showing the state of the territory of the Near East in the middle of the 19th century with the present Syria in its centre and covering areas such as the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey, Cyprus, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, the north of Egypt, Iraq and parts of Iran. Since then this area has faced many developments and political changes that are in many ways responsible for its present situation.

Cartography is based on geometry; on lines that organize the territory – different from the lines though, that have been drawn throughout (colonial) history to create or redefine states. Territories have been cut into patches of political interests, ignoring given realities and causing long-lasting problems. Such territories carry uncountable inscriptions of reality. Maps try to show them, but always fail to comprehensively do so, not least as they leave out the faiths of people.

The civil war in Syria is inscribing countless new realities into its territory. New lines are drawn; front lines as well as those representing the movements of refugees, among many others. The Syrian people is divided, scattered and displaced.

The interior of the parliament building in Damascus, as home to the political representation of the Syrian people is excessively decorated with Islamic patterns. Some of them can be found throughout the Arab world, some of them are more local. Such a pattern appears behind the speaker’s desk in the parliament of Damascus. Several medial images show Assad in front of this wooden panelling. Its pattern distracts the attention away from the speaker, forcing the eye to get lost in its hypnotizing maze.

In Wirth´s series Territory patterns taken form the interior of the parliament in Damascus that are painted onto reproductions of the formerly described map. The individual works show up to five different patterns; some of them transparent, some of them fragmented or distorted and interwoven into each other. The territory represented in the map is carved up into many little patches. The different patters create a confusing and in the same time intriguing web of lines that makes it difficult for the eye to grasp the painted reality it perceives.