That dreaming has a part in history – as historical unconscious – goes back to Walter Benjamin, when in 1925 he still relied on the power and pathos of a surrealistic and emancipatory concept of freedom. Then, when the (nightmare) dreams of the Third Reich had been overtaken, he collected in the unfinished Passages work (1934−40) a conception of history starting from the ruins of the past and determining the present, which he called simply “Geschichtsraum.” In Franz Kapfer’s Geschichtsraum, it is right-wing extremist symbols hanging from rusting chains that work to destroy Europe.
Kapfer’s installation In the Back the Ruins of Europe (2019−21) immerses us in a shadowy realm ‑as if gathered on a battlefield, unmanned gladiator shields are staring at us. If Spartacus, freeing himself from the chains of Roman antiquity, was long an inspiration for the left, right-wing extremists now claim to be the new gladiators rising up against oppression. Kapfer’s associative thickets of history usually become a problem for viewers because it reveals how easily formerly binding iconographies can be politically warped.
The installation serves as the framework for a lecture performance by the artist.
Franz Kapfer (*1971 Fürstenfeld, lives in Vienna) exhibited at Expo 2000, Hanover; Atelier Augarten, Vienna; Salzburger Kunstverein; Oberes Belvedere, Vienna; Kunstpavillon Innsbruck; Busan Biennial and Kiew Biennial.