Zu Gast
Darja Shatalova
Bildraum 07, Vienna, Austria
18. 1. – 16. 2. 2023

Our eyes, restlessly moving, almost dancing, follow the lines and diagonals shooting from the core in multiple directions. Every single line of colourful fabrics, hand-written expressive notes, tokens of systems, symbols or other visual aids imply a passionate, deep dive into unexplored topics. An information cluster instantly triggers our fantasy. What are these? The eager notes of an explorer, accounts from a diary, mental maps, or obsessive doodles with signs of automatism combined with an intentional loss of control? The ability to decipher the seen emerges gradually, with the pathway to knowledge paved with hurdles of visual codes. But the fragments of numbers, specific names, and dates stimulate our curiosity, gently prompting us towards voyeurism. Connections are disclosed through accumulated lines of thread. We observe the filigree materials used hand in hand with gradual dissolution of the borderline between private and public. 

The multidisciplinary artist Darja Shatalova (b. 1988, Ufa) based in Vienna has created an imaginative spatial installation for the Viennese cultural institution Bildraum 07, following up on her rich artistic programme. Her work was naturally affected by her studies at the Studio for Transmedia Arts at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and the knowledge of mathematics she amassed at the University of Cologne. In her objects, installations, text notes, performances, and original books she collects, categorizes, evaluates and finally materializes data in visual forms. 

Her Zu Gast exhibition project, minimalistic in expressions but rich in content, embodies information collected by the artist throughout the past five years. Inspired by a visitors’ book from Dieter Roth Foundation in Hamburg, Shatalova has started to record all personal encounters at different locations: her flat, artistic residencies, and vacations abroad. Her personalized version of a visitors’ book has become a sort of a diary reflecting all her social interactions, whether with close friends, family members, co-workers, or people she only met once. What began as an innocent experiment transformed with the onset of pandemics into a particular control mechanism, becoming a memento of prior unlimited free movement and getting together.

Shatalova’s analogue approach to collecting information – through hand-made notes on loose sheets of paper and in notebooks – helps her to create her own systems and categories or discover new connections. Although she later digitalizes them to achieve greater flexibility, it is the imprint and her original artistic gesture, along with colourful variations and abstract-looking graphical symbols and codes, that are attractive by their organic form, while contrasting with the coldness of digital output. She covers, collages, and deconstructs scanned personal notes, eventually transferring them to gallery walls as monumental prints. Naturally, they lose their functionality and comprehensibility, transformed into expressive, abstract background drawings for a central, imaginative spatial map connecting people with places. 

Although we cannot know the identity of persons and whereabouts of the locations, Shatalova assigns a vicarious colour to each individual that corresponds with a specific coloured cord, running from the core of the installation into levitating aluminium profiles representing times and places of meetings. She leaves these dynamic spatial compositions to open explorations and interpretations by viewers. Shatalova forms borderline positions – be it through a contrasting character of materials used, an ambiguous interface between the personal and private, or a fluid line between conscious control and formal automatism – exploring relatively banal though rather intimate information made available to us. 
Michal Stolárik

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