Philipp Timischl’s exhibition ‘Hostile Habits Domestic Monuments, Class Drag/Vienna’ signals the maturation of an artist whose work to date has been concerned with our condition of technological asphyxiation. Timischl’s work intimates an existence within a youthful, gender-blending, creative demi-monde that takes its decadence straight, no chaser: a milieu that parties, travels, records itself for social media and communicates across different continents, bridging life and art in the process. His previous artworks were painting-video-sculpture hybrids, in which self-referential footage was juxtaposed with collage on canvas. The question then was: how to combine flat-screen monitors and canvases into a seamless amalgamation of painting and technology that vacuums up the streams of media?
Timischl’s second solo exhibition at Galerie Emanuel Layr presents six large-scale works on canvas and 26 drawings (all works 2017) in which a cartoon raccoon serves as a leitmotif. HD panels (five in all) still appear, but here they are free-standing video-sculptures slip-covered in a fake raccoon fur mask reminiscent of the work of Cosima von Bonin. Raccoons seem to be Timischl’s wily stand-ins for his artist peers-in-crime who, like dexterous mammals, cavort nocturnally in groups, consuming whatever comes their way.
A plush, low-pile beige carpet alters the gallery space, elegantly injecting somatic comfort. Collaged across white monochromes are rows of small, scribbly sketches on paper and cut inserts of canvas. A clear epoxy resin seals them to the surface like jpegs trapped behind glassine i-screens. Thick beads of acrylic paste ornament the border of each drawing, presenting them as windows within a larger frame.
A reference to the television show RuPaul’s Drag Race (2009–ongoing), Class Drag is a double entendre on class and gender role-play, comprising ten portraits placed within a single canvas. One of them depicts Timischl – in drag, rendered in a pop homage to Julian Opie – alongside the outlandish drag performer Divine. Screwed onto the lower end of the canvas is a clear Lucite sign engraved with the text ‘Class Drag’. Underneath the painting, the artist has installed two raccoon drawings very close to the ground. To see them, the viewer has to bend down to the vantage point of said creature. Hence the often used drag expression, ‘Who’s in charge now?’, reiterated in some of the pictures.
Another white monochrome with a Lucite text sign, Hostile Habits Domestic Monuments depicts the interior of HHDM, the Vienna exhibition space that Timischl used to co-run, also referenced in the title’s acronymic word play. Picture and gallery architecture dovetail nicely here. Architecture is also depicted in Which Artwork Reminds You of La Défense?, which shows the grand arch of La Défense, the purpose-built business district outside of Paris. Four looping videos flit through fake-fur masks; one appropriates an infomercial for La Défense, linking city tourism and artistic lifestyle. Next comes an edited mash-up of a Linkin Park concert in Moscow, while a third plays the promotional video for Xlsior - Mykonos’s annual hedonistic gay festival. In between each episodic appropriation is a 15-second video intermezzo of Timischl exiting an Uber in drag, about to enter a Vienna nightclub.
Timischl, to extrapolate from society’s savage rush of consumption, has distanced himself from the obsidian mirror we interface with. Through image and caption, these works reverberate with the simultaneity of screens. In lucid moments of Dionysian outbursts, Timischl renders those digital memories into diarist yearnings of yet another night spent raccooning about town.
Main image: Philipp Timischl, Class Drag (detail), 2017, mixed media on canvas with engraved acrylic glass and frame, 2 x 2.8 m. Courtesy: Galerie Emanuel Layr, Vienna