Olivia Erlanger “Appliance” at Kunstverein Gartenhaus, Vienna

Written by the artist and performed on the opening night, the play Humour in the Water Coolant is the story of a woman haunted by the appliances in her new home. Using the play as its starting point, the installation lingers between domestic suburban interior and theatre set. The play’s title references the aqueous humour of the eye and mechanical fluids found in engines, revising the metaphor of a body as architecture to body as appliance. Inferring different attitudes, class and aspirations through object placement and interior organization, the installation unfolds as an archive, a reading room and a space for action. Erlanger presents an environment inspired by Norman Klein’s idea of “scripted space” and informed by historical exhibitions such as MoMA’s “Houses of the Future” (1932) and “Good Design” (1950). Here, the gallery becomes a fractured, transparent house offering a psychic isometric view. The layout and function of different rooms of the home are defined by their appliances rather than perimeter walls.

Set during a séance to rid the home of its haunted aura, the play explores the pan-psychic potential of domestic objects. The appliances, now able to speak, express their emotional lives, rife with dissatisfaction, sadness, and ultimately a desire to connect and love. The psychological effects of their declining usage and functionality antagonizes the idea of technological improvement as a positive development, reframing it as a means of escape. What does ageing mean for these objects “born” on the assembly line, whose parts are easily replaced or whose obsolescence is already planned?

at Kunstverein Gartenhaus, Vienna
until October 29, 2022

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