Guided Seducer: An Interview with Markus Schinwald
"Corridor of Uncertainties" is currently on show in Munster – a surreal
fairy-tale landscape that catches the viewer off guard. Regardless of
whether the young Austrian Markus Schinwald has children kidnapped by
marionettes of figures like the Rat-Catcher of Hameln, or populates
anonymous hotel rooms with bizarre protagonists: subtle abysses are always
lurking behind his dreamlike scenarios. Maria Morais met the artist
in Vienna for a talk.
Schinwald, Foto: Maria Morais
bodies, clothes, prostheses. The props are borrowed from the theater.
Unreal scenes take place in hotel rooms that seem strangely lifeless. The
people moving in them perform strange acts, their bodies bound by the
constraints of fetish-like clothing whose ultimate meaning remains
Schinwald’s films, photos, and installations are both
bewitchingly beautiful and uncanny. And they’ve brought him, almost
imperceptibly, to the forefront of the international art scene. The
artist, who was born in 1973 in Salzburg, transfers mental states into
their physical equivalent. Yet when the human body no longer suffices to
plumb the depths of the psyche, marionettes take its place. Then the world
is understood as a stage upon which odd stories are played out that always
strive for one thing: to open a psychologically charged inner world to the
Schinwald, Children's Crusade, 2004,
Stills, Courtesy Galerie Georg Kargl, Wien
Maria Morais: In your video
work "Children’s Crusade," (2004) children play a central role. Along with
the historical events connected to the Children’s
Crusades of the Middle Ages, you also refer to one of the best known
legends of the Occident, the "Rat-Catcher
of Hameln," a kind of Pied Piper. What fascinated you about these
Schinwald, Dictio Pii, 2001,
Still, Courtesy Galerie Georg Kargl, Wien
Schinwald: Actually, the choice of themes was a
coincidence. I originally wanted to work with a children’s choir.
Throughout the course of my research, I happened upon the story of the
Children’s Crusades, which is barely known, because the Church tends to
play down this chapter in its history. What interested me was that
historians are still arguing over how it happened. There’s the fact that a
large number of children – 30,000 in Cologne and even more in France – set
off on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. There is nothing to support this on the
part of the Church. There are even speculations over whether it wasn’t
actually slave traders who were behind it all. It’s also open to
interpretation whether the children really wanted to wage war against the
unbelievers, or if they were supposed to move the enemy to tears to such a
degree that he would voluntarily put down his weapon. The fact that
certain details of the various stories coincide precisely, while others do
not, created a kind of "gap" that interested me. And so I connected the
historical tale with the Rat-Catcher myth, which, in a topographical and
chronological sense, is interestingly close to the historical events.
part do the mechanisms of seduction and error play in "Children’s Crusade"?
very large one. This is why a marionette plays the major role. Someone is
always guiding a marionette, of course. I was interested in showing that a
seducer can also be guided in this manner. It’s never clear who is
actually behind this two-faced marionette. I see the figure more as a
place-holder that has to be substituted by something or someone else.
anonymous marionette is a very unsettling leader.
works seem unsettling, then it’s because there’s this "gap," a state in
which things could assume different meanings or not be explained at all.
This begins with the prostheses in my work. You can’t immediately ascribe
any particular meaning to these things. They’re devices that fulfill an
And it’s just this mood of the unknown and
alien that makes your situations and scenarios seem like dream images.
What interested you in the investigation of the unconscious?