With their ugly invitation and childish title, 'Hallo Bawag', Marcus Geiger and Peter Kogler set the tone for their witty, grandiloquent show. The centrally located BAWAG Foundation, operated by the Bank für Arbeit und Wirtschaft, is known to be a difficult place to install work - the architecture feels more like a bank or office than an art space. In previous shows here Ernst Caramelle and Georg Herold responded with site-specific works, but 'Hallo Bawag' is the first exhibition to tackle this odd space, which has been defined by economic constraints, head-on.
This was not subtle institutional critique. Geiger employed one of his favourite approaches: parodying other works, by using cheap materials. The Swiss artist (who, like Kogler, lives in Vienna) chose in this case not, as he has with earlier pieces, to re-make works by venerable artists such as Donald Judd (Judd's, 1987) or Bruce Nauman (Bruce Nauman, 1994), but to respond to the window decoration in the designer fashion store next door. Transforming the BAWAG's glass front into a shop window, he displayed two of his Terry-Towelling suits in a similar setting made of toilet paper. Geiger made the first of his waggish gentlemen's ensembles in 1990, creating a kind of prosaic version of Joseph Beuys' metaphorically laden felt suit (Anzug, Suit, 1990). For the current project he and Kogler dressed people from the Vienna art scene in outfits they had especially designed and asked fashion photographer Elfie Semotan to photograph them in an appropriately professional manner. However, the context of Geiger's shop pastiche gives these carefully staged images a mocking note. In the real boutique young models smile out from their photographs. Alongside them, a former artists' muse and an ageing architect appear more like fashion victims.
Inside, Geiger and Kogler turned part of the show into a mini-retrospective. Many smaller works were displayed on Geiger's simple yet clever system of interconnected modules (Untitled, 2003). In general, it was Geiger who gave the show most of its charm and explosive force. One reason for this is that Kogler's visual language is at its best in large empty spaces, and such a space was lacking here. Kogler's ornamental structures, made of pipes, tubes or cerebral convolutions, became emblematic of 1990s 'network thinking' - perhaps his most familiar work was at the 1992 Documenta IX, where he papered the walls of the Fridericianum with computer-generated Ants (1992). The memory of this made the encounter here with his ur-ant kind of touching: it appears in an untitled 1981 Super-8 film, crawling over a Campari ad in an Italian newspaper. While Geiger's work is distinguished by his handmade, unique pieces made of cheap materials, the seriality and anonymity of industrial production are dominant factors in Kogler's works.
Geiger and Kogler studied set design together at the end of the 1970s. Since then both artists have continued to create environments that emphasize the performative dimension of the spaces they employ - so this project by the two artists, both now in their mid-40s, was fruitful. They set up a party room in the cellar, complete with huge felt carpet Geiger placed on the floor, stylized self-portraits (Teppich, Carpet, 2003), and lamps on plastic buckets (3 Stehlampen, 3 Standing Lamps, 2003 ). Kogler's Umkleidekabine (Changing Room, 1998) and Discoscheibe (Disco Disc, 2003), a lectern with a rotating disc, are props for an imaginary performance. On the opening night, however, neither drinks nor DJ sounds were offered. This lounge was not of the 1990s ambient kind - it was obviously more in thrall to a 1980s vibe. Geiger's contribution consisted of two extremely bad paintings (2 Gëmalde, 2 Paintings, 1986), while Kogler's video Mavo (1987) featured representatives of the Vienna scene at the time. Kogler also used a closed-circuit camera to film regulars at an artists' pub, Mavo, a work that recalls Warhol's 'Screen Tests' from 1964-6. In their 'Factory' Geiger and Kogler obviously do not imagine an egalitarian art counter-culture, à la Rirkrit Tiravanija. Rather, they ironically introduce us to the artist as the kind of master of distinction that banking houses might feel attracted to.