FINAL PROJECTS X: OXYGEN. FLIPPING THROUGH FREDERICK KIESLER.
Birgitta Rottmann, Markus Schinwald, Meike Schmidt-Gleim
Wed, 27.09.2000–Sun, 15.10.2000
MAK Center L.A., Schindler House
Austrian artist Markus Schinwald, German artist Meike Schmidt-Gleim and German architect Birgitta Rottmann engaged the work
of artist, architect and designer Frederick Kiesler (1890 1965) and interpreted his ideology in an exhibition titled
Oxygen: Flipping through Frederick Kiesler. The exhibition was a prelude to the upcoming MAK Center exhibition,
Frederick J. Kiesler: Endless Space, opening in December 2000.
Known for his visionary, unorthodox ideas, Kiesler explored themes of continuity, infinity, dynamism and correlation, exploiting
the unbounded quality of space. With Oxygen, the MAK Center Residents looked at Kieslers designs for exhibition
displays. Much as Kiesler dissolved boundaries between artistic disciplines, the Residents combined imagery, text, sound,
photographs and built environments into a three-dimensional lifestyle magazine layout, unfolding in the spaces of the Schindler
The exhibition combined a new approach to Kieslers work with a discussion of his conditions for production, his life
and his surroundings. Much as with a magazine, image and text, the historic and the contemporary, fact and fiction are presented
in a playful, non-hierarchical manner. The magazine-exhibition titled, Oxygen gave a light, airy, contemporary
twist to Kieslers observation that museums are like oxygen tents." The exhibition included an inverted model of
Kieslers Film Guild Cinema (1929), the first theater in America designed solely for film projection. The installation
was a redesign of the eye-like ocular that the architect designed to shield the movie screen. Rather than showing
the expected film, this makeshift cinema features a still image of an auditorium and the sound of a film projector, casting
the visitor as both the subject (viewer) and object (film actor) of the installation. In both his work and his cultural analysis,
Kiesler blurred the boundaries between high and low culture. He credited the department store with introducing modernism to
the public through retail situations such as textile design and window displays. The department store acted as an interpreter
for the populace of a new spirit in art, declared the architect.
In Oxygen, Kieslers prescience in identifying shopping as a critical cultural experience is recalled through
the installation of a portion of the façade of the model house he created for merchandise display for the Modernage Furniture
store in New York. Accompanied by elevator music, this partial reconstruction of the Space House evoked the architects
design and intellectual legacy. Facts from Kieslers life are mixed with associative texts and videos, as well as quotations
from contemporaries such as Paul Scheerbart and Walter Benjamin in a third installation. A videotape of the opening scene
of Antonionis Zabriskie Point, which features a discussion among students, was overlaid with a fictitous
soundtrack of Kiesler debating his free-flowing ideas with strict Bauhaus believers. Because Kiesler placed great value in
rituals, a second video re-enacted his own notoriously quirky greeting gestures. The architects focus on the biological,
human and natural elements of life was recalled in the Residents use of an acrylic green carpet to lead viewers outside
to the grassy courtyards of the Schindler House. The story of his discovery of architecture was also represented.
In that apochryphal tale, Kiesler claimed to have first encountered architecture at three, when he crept under his nannys
voluminous skirts and lit a match!