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REIMO WUKOUNIG – DER SCHMERZRAUM DES ZÖGLINGS 33

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by Peter Putz

grade: 7

The documentary Reimo Wukounig – Der Schmerzraum des Zöglings 33 by Peter Putz stands out for providing the protagonist with the right conditions to express himself without forgetting details or strong words, in what is to all intents and purposes a celebration of his career. At the K3 Film Festival 2023.

Now Reimo speaks

Presented in a beautiful evening at the Secession on May 23, 2023 and subsequently at the K3 Film Festival 2023, Reimo Wukounig – Der Schmerzraum des Zöglings 33 is a documentary by artist Peter Putz dedicated to the life of Austrian painter Reimo Wukounig, produced to celebrate his 80th birthday. In this short documentary film of about 40 minutes, the focus of the narrative is the work of the painter from Klagenfurt, strongly influenced by his experience in the orphanages of Carinthia in the 1950s.

What resulted was not only a beautiful and enjoyable interview, as stark and simple as the cycle of drawings that more than any other embodies the artist’s most intimate experience, but also a discreet half-hour lecture, in which curators and art experts explain and contextualise Wukounig’s exhibitions, one of which is the cycle of ovals shown at the Albertina, an absolutely remarkable hymn to symbolic abstractionism.

Camera ready, close-up and we immediately start with the story of Reimo Wukounig, born in 1943 and already fatherless at the age of four. At the age of seven, he entered the orphanage ‘Harbach-Limmersach’ in Klagenfurt, and eight years later the state youth centre ‘Rosental’ in Görtschach. Here he met Dr. Wurst – a doctor also in charge of the centre’s renovation – and the abuse and violence that seemed to be commonplace there, in a distorted and sick normality.

The focus of Reimo Wukounig – Der Schmerzraum des Zöglings 33 will be precisely the influence that this routine of shameless nudity and strenuous work in the fields will have on the artistic poetics of Wukounig, pupil number 33 in this enormous room of pain. Graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna in 1967, Reimo Wukounig took part in the Venice Biennale nine years later, enjoying great success. Here, representing Austria, he presented the ‘Inhale-Exhale’ cycle, a true sublimation of his experience as an abused pupil, resulting in a huge production centred on his painful and, in a way, inescapable experience.

The fine work by Peter Putz, a painter himself, but also a director and graphic designer, includes precisely providing the protagonist with the right conditions to express himself without forgetting details or strong words, in what is to all intents and purposes a celebration of his career. This is further strengthened by the skilful alternation of footage and Wukounig’s works – above all the cycle Der Schmerzraum des Zöglings 33contextualising not only the composition of works and installations, but also the exhibitions or shows in which the Carinthian painter took part. Between Neuhaus, Vienna and Klagenfurt, Reimo Wukounig, despite the sight problems that have limited his artistic activity, also had the honour of being part of The Beginning, the inaugural exhibition in 2020 of the new Albertina Modern, a modern ‘spin-off’ of the Albertina, located on Karlsplatz.

The ideal frame within which we could ideally place all this has a name and an author: ‘das Ewige Archiv’. Translatable as the eternal archive, director Peter Putz’s monumental work is a photographic documentation of everyday life in our time, a kind of encyclopaedia of contemporary entities, continuously updated since 1980.

The unusual perspectives that characterise this important work are also perfectly traceable in the disquieting pictorial worlds of Reimo Wukounig, capable of reaching a level of disquieting amazement similar to that of Francis Bacon, a great interpreter of solitude (the installation Lost in Space is, in this sense, emblematic), of neglect and of the “brutality of facts”. A bit like that experienced by young Reimo, abandoned and forced into a solitary – moral, rather than social – childhood, but nevertheless fortunately destined for great works and exhibitions, despite his having been orphan number 33 in Rosental.

Original title: Reimo Wukounig – Der Schmerzraum des Zöglings 33
Directed by: Peter Putz
Country/year: Austria / 2023
Running time: 39’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Peter Putz
Cinematography: Monica Parii, Patrick Spanbauer, Peter Putz, Manuel Bachinger, finnworks
Produced by: Peter Putz

Info: the page of Reimo Wukounig – Der Schmerzraum des Zöglings 33 on the website of the K3 Film Festival