Immortality, seduction, violence – the combination of these attributes associated with the figure of the vampire has laid the ground for popular sex & crime stories for centuries. The myth of the blood-sucking creature is firmly anchored in society’s collective desires, fears, and drives.
As is well known, Irishman Bram Stoker was not the first writer to focus on the figure of the vampire more closely – his famous novel “Dracula” (1897) was highly influenced by the work of his compatriot Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu and his female vampire “Carmilla” (1872). But it was Stoker’s Dracula character who became the quintessential vampire. His tale is not only a classic of Gothic literature; it has also been interpreted as a metaphor for the hypocrisy and prudery of the Victorian era. With his Count, he created the perfect anti-hero: superhumanly strong, supernatural, uninhibited.
Ever since, the vampire myth has adapted to societal contexts and conditions, along with a changing external appearance (from “Nosferatu” to “Twilight“). Secrets, power, sex, fetish, and anarchy are the political as well as aesthetic dimensions of the figure. The exhibition addresses the vampire and his/her enigmatic lifestyle as a fundamental sociocultural phenomenon: When vampirism is defined as the symbolic sucking of energy and resources from other living beings and our environment, the term can also be expanded to parasitic relations and toxic conditions – and doesn’t end with the fascinating character of a living blood-sucking undead. This exhibition stakes out the reception of the vampire myth in contemporary art, which is often conveyed through pop culture, and a broader semantic field that unfolds through the figure of the vampire.
*1983 in Vienna, lives and works in Vienna.
Sarah Rechberger’s artistic explorations are deeply rooted in a scientific investigative spirit. Her works often have a laboratory-like character and resemble precise, articulated experimental testbeds, which reflect fragile constellations of life and social processes and structures. In her project A-Symbiose (2012/2013) she created an in vitro biotope for the manual cultivation of orchids. The procedure developed for the industrial mass production of these plants served as a precedent: an artificial habitat sustained by nutrients and germ-free air and water.
The plants are isolated, only exposed to light from the outside, while needing to be protected from environmental influences like bacteria or mould. By contrast, in their natural habitat orchid seeds require a symbiotic fungus – mycorrhiza – that feeds the embryo for germination. This fungus infects the orchid seed, invades it, and provides it with all the necessary vital substances. Without this infection, the protocorm would die.
Upon human intervention, the orchids – which only grow in symbiosis with mycorrhizal fungi in nature – suddenly exist in “a-symbiosis”, a fundamental change of relations. When airborne mould spores enter this artificial habitat, a process of displacement commences. The spores land on the substrate, proliferate rapidly, and ultimately overgrow the orchids. The mould depletes the resources of the substrate and dominates the habitat forever.