An Internship in Austria

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By Grayson Ruple, BFA Studio Art, Emphasis: Graphic Design »

Set photograph of “”Dämonishe Leinwände: Beyond”” at the Reaktor.” (image 5) Photo by Grayson Ruple

During the summer of 2019, I completed my BFA internship with the artist duo Kozek Hörlonski who are based in Vienna, Austria (image1). The artists, Peter Kozek and Thomas Hörl, are interdisciplinary artists whose work often includes performance, installation, video, audio, and digital media. From May to August, I was able to assist Kozek Hörlonski with two major projects, attend two performance art festivals, sit in on classes/workshops at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, engage with several professional artists, and visit a variety of exhibitions.

Grayson Ruple, Peter Kozek, and Thomas Hörl on the first day of working on “Kompositum IV / GOLEM.” (image 1) Photo by Grayson Ruple

The task of locating an internship that meets your interests can seem daunting, and for me this uncertainty caused a large amount of stress. However, I began with making a list of artists whose work I most respected. At the top of this list, was Thomas Hörl. The previous summer, I had come across an exhibition of his work called MATTHIAS TANZT at the Salzburger Landesinstitut für Volkskunde. This piece had an enormous effect on me, and after visiting I contacted Thomas Hörl expressing how incredible my experience at the exhibition was. Months later, when it was time to secure my internship, I contacted Thomas Hörl again inquiring about the possibility of interning for him. He responded positively with a list of future projects that he and Peter Kozek had planned. During the time leading up to my starting date, Peter and Thomas informed me about places to stay, transportation, art events, and a rough schedule for the summer.

I anticipated that this experience would be incredible, but I also anticipated this experience to be expensive. In my BFA Folio course, we began talking about the BFA internship. Professor Liz Smith informed us about the incredible internship experience she had during her undergraduate degree, and she constantly expressed to us how important the internship experience is. She told us to secure the best experience we could, and figure out how to finance it after. In other words, we should not let finances limit us on finding our dream internship. In that moment, I knew I wanted to strive for the best experience that I could achieve, so I began saving money rapidly. In addition, the Windgate Scholarship for BFA internships was an incredible aid in financing my experience, and I am extremely grateful.

May 10th I arrived in Vienna. Upon arrival, I navigated myself from the airport to my flat in the fifth district of the city, Margareten. I briefly settled in until meeting Thomas and Peter for a welcome dinner in front of the Piaristenkirche. Over dinner, they expressed how happy they were to have me helping them for the summer, and they asked me to join them after to do research for a project that would be completed later in the summer, Dämonishe Leinwände: Beyond. After dinner, we went to the apartment of Alexander Martinz and Martina Menegon who are colleagues of Peter in the TransMedia Art Department at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. Once there, I was briefed on the project concept, and we began doing research together. The entire time I was included in the discussion, conceptualization, and development of ideas. This initial meeting was just a glimpse into how the summer would transpire into a pivotal-educational experience.

Peter and Thomas’s studio at the Bildhauergebäude Des Bundes. (image 2) Photo by Grayson Ruple

Peter and Thomas’s studio was at the Bildhauergebäude Des Bundes which is a gated area owned by the Austrian government. The area consists of two large buildings that were built in 1873 for the World Fair. Now, each building has been converted to house several studio spaces for professional Viennese artists (image 2). Most days, I would take the U-Bahn to the studio around 9:30 where I would meet Thomas and Peter. They would brief me on what needed to be accomplished for the day, and we would start working. Around 1:00 Thomas would prepare lunch. We would share a meal together and discuss the project we were working on, talk about upcoming art events, and share information about American and Austrian culture. After lunch, I would continue to work until about 7:00. At the end of each day, I would either take the U-Bahn back to my flat, or I would go with Peter and Thomas to an art event.

“Kompositum IV / GOLEM” performance at the Syrian refugee camp in Traiskirchen, Austria. (image 3) Photo by Grayson Ruple

The first project I was able to work on was a community based performance art work called Kompositum IV / GOLEM (image 3). This piece was centered around the middle european mythology of the golem which is a clay trinket that performs an act of your wish. During this performance we engaged with the people of Traiskirchen where Thomas, Peter, and I led them in a golem building workshop. After the golem was created, the person would write a command to the golem on a piece of paper, and the person would set the golem to dry on the shelf with the piece of paper. After all three performances, we composed a nonsense “spell” from combining all of the commands. Each participant was then invited back to the “Brennfest und Golemausgabe” where we fired the golems, the spell was performed, and the golems were returned to each of the participants. Each performance of this event was held in a post-industrial location in the city of Traiskirchen which drew a diverse crowd of people. I even met an Austian resident named Jack Ink who is a glass blower and a former employee of the Arkansas Arts Center. In addition, we planned a separate performance at a Syrian refugee camp where we helped facilitate community between the refugees and the citizens of Traiskirchen.

Set photograph of Grayson Ruple and Vito Baumüller preforming in “Dämonishe Leinwände: Beyond.” (image 4) Photo by Grayson Ruple

Starting at the beginning of July, we began working more intensely on the second major project, Dämonishe Leinwände: Beyond. This piece was the final part of a three part art film series which conceptualizes postmodern horror film in relevance to contemporary Austrian social and political issues through six distinct scenes. We met with Alexander Martianz again to translate our research into the six scenes. Once we decided on what each scene would contain, we began location scouting, securing locations, designing the sets, designing the costumes, and contacting performers. This part of the process took about two weeks; however, after this stage, we were ready to begin shooting. We shot for about two weeks (image 4). Each shooting day was usually followed by a preparation day which allowed us to organize all of the materials for the next shooting day. Each shooting location was an incredible space. This spaces included: the Arnulf Rainer Museum, University of Applied Arts Vienna, Notgalerie, Trabrennbahn, 21er Haus Blicke Kino, Babenhof, and Reaktor (image 5). To conclude the project we celebrated with a huge cookout at the studio. Everyone who worked on the project, students from the university, and the artists from the Bildhauergebäude Des Bundes came together to celebrate.

Outside of working on two major projects, I was able to help with/attend several other art events. At the end of each semester at the University of Applied Arts, the university hosts the University Festival Week where the students of each department exhibit the work they created during the semester. During the weeks leading up to the festival, I was able to attend Peter’s Performance and Space course where I got to engage in idea development and critiques. In preparation for the performances at the festival, I got to help with performance schedule, performance locations, and how each performer wanted their performance documented. In addition, during the festival I documented each of the performances. Aside from the University Festival Week, I was able to attend two performance art festivals with Thomas and Peter: Die Wiener Festwochen in Vienna, Austria and Impulse Theatre Festival in Cologne, Germany. At both festivals, I was able to attend several performances for free because Peter knew the Festival Directors. In addition, I attended several exhibition openings both on and off the scene. These included one exhibitions of Thomas, Peter, Martina, their friends, and their students. One of the student exhibitions was even in an abandoned apartment. Other art related experiences I had included: attending a lecture on Bio-Art, attending a lecture of Virtual Reality Art, Attended the Diploma work presentations of the graduating students in the TransMedia Art Department, visiting the Social Design Masters Program at The University of Applied Arts Vienna, and visiting several sound art performances.

My internship with Kozek Hörlonski and the experiences associated with it has been a pivotal experience in my Fine Arts education. It has broadened my understanding of creating, exposed me to new forms of art, informed my world perspective, and pushed me to grow as a person. I am immensely grateful to the UCA Art Department for pushing me to strive for the best internship experience and to Kozek Hörlonski for allowing me to have it.