Lisl Ponger

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gender, identity, politics
Visual Arts (Film, photography)
Europe, Western, America, Central
Germany, Austria, Mexico
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September 1, 2004
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Lisl Ponger
Lisl Ponger. Courtesy the artist.


Creating folklore

ARTIST STATEMENT/ POSTCARD PROJECT OF THE HOUSE OF WORLD CULTURES 2007 ´The main issue that occupies me at present is the relationship between artistic production and political discourse, where the overlaps, conjunctions and frictions occur between the two ways of perceiving, analysing and proposing discourses and producing knowledge. Both of them generate their questions from factual research in connection with political and economic contexts though art has the possibility of employing a less linear logic. Thus art can generate knowledge which might be received as a text to be used as the basis for political action if art was accorded more trust. The process of visualisation of researched content in films and staged photographs always presents certain problems: the question of the unambiguous nature of propaganda versus the multi-layered character of transformation. In other words, art in the service of politics versus coded art which is, therefore, not as easily understood. I am equally concerned with a critique of stereotypes of the Other and how that can be achieved without reproducing and thus further inscribing them in the visual memory. In short, the representation of politics and the politics of representation.´ (Lisl Ponger) Born in Nürnberg in 1947 and now living in Vienna, Lisl Ponger may be one of the most notable film-makers and photographers in the German-speaking world. Her works focus on themes like foreignness and identity and on the West´s parochial view of other cultures together with its consequences on our perception. In this respect her approach is basically critical. Indeed she once said: ´We travel to the loveliest places, but what we see is only the folklore we anticipated.´
It is hard to label the oevre of photographer and filmmaker Lisl Ponger, created in more than 30 years. But there are certain constant features, admittedly rather abstract ones, that can be used to describe the works of this artist, born in Nuernberg in 1947 and living in Vienna since the beginning of the seventies. They tend to show everyday oddities that often go unnoticed and to turn them into norms of their own right. The exotic becomes normal, and the normal exotic, prompting viewers to revise their pigeon-holes.

This strategy is used with equal success on things near and familiar and on things far and strange, as in series of photographs that Ponger took of places that semm “exotic” to the Western eye, cities like Damascus and Cairo, or Ethiopia and Dakar. Ponger believes that exotism is always a question of perspective, so, not surprisingly, she already has worked extensively on ethnographic representations. The Western view on other cultures makes them seem even more remote and alien than they might be – and this is where Ponger starts with changing the perspective little by little. That is, the exception from the norm can only exist in connection with the norm – question one of them and the other will come into closer view, too. One of her best-selling books has been her collection of photographs ´Alien Vienna´ (1993), which shows the variety of cultures and nationalities in the Austrian capital.

Ponger´s approach is plainly political but still very subtle. Documenta 11 in Kassel 2002 showed a series of photographs which she had taken just after the excesses at the G-8 summit in Genoa. There was no lack of drastic subjects to be shown at the time, but Ponger´s ´Summer in Italy´ focuses on scenes which are calm and seemingly unspectacular that will reveal their true content only at a second glance: A closed iron fence with an official insignia, an improvised barrier with Carabinieri ribbons and a sealed manhole cover - these hints suffice to reveal the situation.

At the end of the 1960s Lisl Ponger moved to Vienna and studied at the Graphische Lehr- und Versuchanstalt (College for Graphics). She then worked for a time as a photographer, recording the early performances of Viennese actionists and performers like Otto Muehl, Hermann Nitsch and Peter Weibel. In 1974 she moved to the USA and Mexico, where she stayed for four years and discovered the medium film. Back in Vienna she made a series of conceptual Super 8 films like ´Souvenirs´ (1981), ´Tendencies to exist´ (1984), ´Train of Recollection´ (1988), ´Semiotic Ghosts´ (1990) and ´Passages´ (1996), in which she blends elements of feature films with freely associative scenes in the spirit of structuralism. Montage was organized in terms of light and shade, rhythm and motion, real space and film space. Even here she remained true to her theme of identity - of its fleeting, changeable and ambiguous aspects, of the sense of belonging and of personal limits.

In 1991 Ponger’s illustrated book ´Doppler Anarchy´ was published with photos of the Viennese art scene from the wild years 1967 to 72, followed in 1995 by the book ´Xenographic Views´ and in 1999 together with Felicitas Heimann she brought out ´Viennese Attitudes´, a book of photographs based on a reconstructed town plan of Jewish Vienna in the 1930s. A year earlier, together with Peter Handke, she had published a book with texts and pictures, ´A Word-Land´, which was a lyrical and also documentary journey through old Austrian territory in four sections: Kärnten, Friaul, Istria and Dalmatia. Her work as a filmmaker also focuses more and more on the documentary. She has also been active on behalf of feminism as in her book ´Women in Vienna´ (1999), the first volume of the project ´Make Women Visible´ launched by the ´Women´s Office´ of the city of Vienna, followed two years later by a book of photos about female migrants to Vienna. Lisl Ponger lives and works in Vienna.
Author: Ulrich Clewing


1947 born in Nuremberg, Germany
1967 moved to Vienna, where she studied at the Graphische Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt
1974-78 stayed in the USA and Mexico
1988 won an Austrian furtherance award for cinematic art
1994 won an award of honour for cinematic art;
became a member of the Viennese Secession
1998/99 & 2001/02 visiting professor for artistic photography at the Universität für Angewandte Kunst (University for Applied Art)



Film / TV
2004 Phantom Fremdes Wien 35 mm, (blow up from S8), colour, sound, 27 mins 1999 déjà-vu 1996 Passagen 1990 Semiotic ghosts 1988 Train of recollection 1987 Substantial shadows 1986 Sound of space 1985 Container-contained 1984 Tendencies to exist 1983 Film-an exercise in illusion II 1982 Souvenirs 1981 The four corners of the world 1980 Film-an exercise in illusion I 1979 Space equals time-far freaking out


Exhibition / Installation
2007 Lisl Ponger. Imago Mundi. Landesgalerie Linz am Oberösterreichischen Landesmuseum, Linz, Austria 21 Positions. Austrian Cultural Forum, New York, USA Zerrspiegel. Sixpackfilm, Vienna, Austria Votivkino, Vienna, Austria 2006 Neuerwerbungen für die Sammlung 2006. Neue Galerie Graz, Graz, Austria Lisl Ponger. Beute. Charim Galerie, Vienna, Austria Wahre Bilder. FO.KU.S, Foto Kunst Stadtforum, Innsbruck, Austria Krieg der Knöpfe - Kinder und die Welt des Krieges. Ursula Blickle Stiftung, Germany Kunst Asyl ´06. Kunstauktion zu Gunsten von Asyl in Not. Atelierhaus der Akademie der Bildenden Künste Wien, Vienna, Austria Grosser Bahnhof. Wien und die weite Welt. Wien Museum, Vienna, Austria Mozart. Zeitgenössische filmische und fotografische Annäherungen zum Phänomen Mozart. Museum Moderner Kunst - Stiftung Wörlen Passau, Passau, Germany Why Pictures Now. Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, MUMOK, Vienna, Austria Qua e lá / Hier und dort. Andreas Dworak, Branko Lenart, Elfriede Mejchar, Michael Michlmayr, Lisl Ponger, Beate Schachinger, Eva Brunner-Szabo - Gert Tschögl. Palazzo Costanzi, Sala comunale d´arte, Triest, Italy Hier und Dort (Qua e La). Fotogalerie Wien, Wien / Österreich - Palazzo Costanzi, Sala comunale d´arte, Triest, Italy Es ist schwer das Reale zu berühren. Videoarchiv. Grazer Kunstverein, Graz, Austria - Kanal B, Berlin, Germany 2005 Buchpräsentation und Plakatausstellung: Arbeitswelten. Kammer für Arbeiter und Angestellte Wien, Wien / Österreich - museum in progress, mip, Vienna, Austria Zur Tektonik der Geschichte. Forum Stadtpark Graz, Graz, Austria Präsentation CharimGalerie. Art Cologne 2005, Köln / Deutschland - Charim Galerie, Vienna, Austria Projekt Migration. Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne, Germany Wahrer als wahr. Alte und neue Mythen des Gedenkens. Charim Galerie, Vienna, Austria Phantombilder. Sixpackfilm, Wien / Österreich - Top Kino, Vienna, Austria Labyrinth Trap. Niederösterreichisches Dokumentationszentrum für moderne Kunst, DOK, Sankt Pölten, Austria Realitäten ll. Gesellschaftswerte. Fotogalerie Wien, Vienna, Austria Identitäten. Forum Schloss Wolkersdorf, Wolkersdorf, Austria Police. Festival der Regionen 2005. Geordnete Verhältnisse / Ordered states, Österreich - Landesgalerie Linz am Oberösterreichischen Landesmuseum, Linz, Austria State of the Art. 1. Zentrale SoS Botschaft und Ausstellungsraum, Vienna, Austria Präsentation Charim Galerie. Charim Galerie, Wien / Österreich - ViennAfair 2005, Vienna, Austria Das Neue 2. Augarten Contemporary, Vienna, Austria Huis Clos. Roomer´s Sight. IG Bildende Kunst, Vienna, Austria World Café (2). Tanzquartier Wien, Vienna, Austria Die Regierung. Paradiesische Handlungsräume. Vereinigung Bildender KünstlerInnen, Wiener Secession, Vienna, Austria 2004 Black Atlantic. Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany Double Game / Triple Gain. Charim Galerie, Vienna, Austria Interventionen gegen Rassismen. IG Bildende Kunst, Vienna, Austria Lisl Ponger. Place Myths, from gray to sunny. Charim Galerie, Vienna, Austria SHAKE Linz & Nice. Staatsaffäre / Affaire d´Etat. O.K Centrum für Gegenwartskunst, Linz, Austria Villa Arson, Centre National d´Art Contemporain, Nice, France Tour-ismos. La derrota de la disensión / Tour-isms. The Defeat of Dissent. Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona, Spain Dak’Art, la Biennale de l’art africain contemporain, 6ème édition. Secrétariat Général de la Biennale de Dakar, Dakar, Senegal Destiny Deacon / Lisl Ponger. Salzburger Kunstverein, Salzburg, Austria Trading Places ¬ points of encounter between art and migration. Pump House Gallery, London, UK Gegen-Positionen. Künstlerinnen in Österreich 1960-2000. Museum Moderner Kunst - Stiftung Wörlen Passau, Passau, Germany Backstage Tourismus - Reisebüro. Forum Stadtpark Graz, Graz, Austria Lisl Ponger. Phantom fremdes Wien 1991/2003. Wien Museum, Vienna, Austria Niederösterreichisches Dokumentationszentrum für moderne Kunst, DOK, Sankt Pölten, Austria 2003 Frauenbild. Fotografie, Skulptur und Video aus der Sammlung des Niederösterreichischen Landesmuseums. Niederösterreichisches Landesmuseum, Sankt Pölten, Austria The Bourgeois Show - Social Structures in Urban Space. Dunkers Kulturhus, Helsingborg / Sverige Mimosen-Rosen-Herbstzeitlosen. Künstlerinnen. Positionen 1945 bis Heute. Kunsthalle Krems, Krems an der Donau, Austria Die Verklärung des Un-Gewöhnlichen. Charim Galerie, Vienna, Austria Formen der Organisation. Galerija Škuc, Ljubljana / Slovenija - Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst Leipzig, HGB, Leipzig, Germany ZUGLUFT. Aktuelle Kunst aus Wien. museum in progress, mip, Vienna, Austria Präsentation: Zugluft / Aktuelle Kunst aus Wien. Kunst Zürich 2003, Zurich, Switzerland CHOICE: 2002 Documenta 11, Kassel 2001 Künstlerhaus Wien "Du bist die Welt", Vienna 2001 AK Galerie / photographies 1999 Ethnographisches Museum Geneva, 1998 Central Saint Martins Art School, London 1996 Museum für Völkerkunde Vienna, 1993 Kunsthalle Exnergasse Vienna


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the partner institutions.

Postcard Project

(01 March 07 - 31 December 08)

Black Atlantic

(17 September 04 - 15 November 04)


CD «ImagiNative»


produced in conjunction with the Black Atlantic project of the House of World Cultures, Berlin 2004