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LISL PONGER – ART ABOVE ALL ELSE

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The Diagonale 2024, which will take place in Graz from April 4 to 9, has a special section dedicated to the Nuremberg-born Austrian artist Lisl Ponger.

Photography and Cinema

The Graz film festival, the famous Diagonale, scheduled this year from April 4 to 9, has been able to dedicate space and attention to art since its foundation in 1998. This year’s edition, starting in less than a week, has in its programme a special dedicated to the artist Lisl Ponger, who was born in Nuremberg but is Austrian to all intents and purposes.

After studying in Vienna at the Graphische Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt, specialising in photography, Lisl Ponger also started working as a film and media artist, as well as, of course, as a photographer. Famous in this respect are her portraits of artists associated with Viennese Actionism such as Hermann Nitsch, Otto Mühl and many others. In any case, in all her different artistic expressions, Lisl Ponger has managed to focus on racism, stereotypes and the construction of the gaze: all this, without losing sight of the focal point played on the dual antitheses of home vs. foreignness and memory vs. oblivion. The long journeys, which later became stays, to Mexico and the United States must be included in this typically ethnological approach that, added to the cameras used by Ponger, were able to give life to true works of art, somewhere between documentary and photographic reportage.

Interested, as mentioned, in exploring the constructed nature of cultural identity, her investigation into the ideas and – often stereotyped – images of others has a clear academic bent, reaching into the aforementioned ethnology but also the methods of collecting and gathering visual data typical of anthropological research. Take the camera and go, sit, shoot, document everything and contextualise in depth: this is how I imagine her at work. Noteworthy, in this sense, is Lisl Ponger’s project, dated 2014 and realised in the main hall of the Secession, with the eloquent title Museum für fremde und vertraute Kulturen, an exhibition set up as a fictitious museum dedicated to the meticulous reconstruction of real ethnological museums, organised in various exhibition rooms, including Wild Places and Vanishing Middle Class.

In terms of filmmaking, Lisl Ponger started shooting in 1979, always remaining faithful to the aforementioned research method and themes. Her debut short film, Space Equals Time – Far Freaking Out, was followed by sixteen other works, including the politically inspired still life Imago Mundi (2017), the reflection on photography Semiotic Ghosts (1991) (1991) and her penultimate work Déjà Vu (1999), a short film focusing on the theme of the perception of others, one of the cornerstones of Lisl Ponger’s artistic research, winner of several awards, including the Österreichischer Förderungspreis für Filmkunst in 1988 and the Österreichischer Würdigungspreis für Filmkunst 6 years later, for her outstanding work in film.

Addicted to vivid colours, dynamic photos with a movement that can generally be traced back to film and the frames that can be made from it, Lisl Ponger currently lives and works in Vienna, after two experiences as a visiting professor at the Akademie für angewandte Kunst in the Austrian capital and participation in the film exhibitions documenta11 and documenta12. Alles Gute für die Zukunft, Lisl!

Info: the page of Lisl Ponger on iMDb