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forts, facts & fabrications

Olivier Hölzl's oversized paper works span across the entire visual space in Room 07. Working with stencils, cutouts, and mixed media, characteristic of the Austrian artist with French roots, allows him to be highly flexible and spontaneous in responding to the needs of contemporary society and the current art scene. In "forts, facts & fabrications," Hölzl delves into the symbol of the castle and the manifestation of societal utopias. Versailles, epitomizing hubris and nemesis, Ceauşescu's Parliament Palace in Bucharest, a megalomaniacal feat of the people, and the castle from the video game Minecraft, serving as a stage for virtual displays of power, inspired the artist to visualize the inherent ambivalence within all social groups. Viewers encounter in his works the vision of an ideal societal order, strolling through baroque idylls and digital dream castles. Hölzl also demonstrates in a multipart video installation how both productive and repressive forces operate within such systems. The centerpiece of "forts, facts & fabrications" is a six-meter-long stencil work, intricately depicting Versailles as an overwhelming testament to authority and simultaneously as a site of traumatic memory. The detachment of power from the reality of the country led the courtly ballet to the guillotine - le roi ne danse plus, the French people deemed the absolutist vision incompatible with reality. The common man is seen again raging against a self-proclaimed "earthly god" in front of the "House of the People" in Bucharest in 1989. Olivier Hölzl situates remnants of the self-aggrandizing tendencies of Louis XIV, Nicolae Ceauşescu, and other power figures, as well as the desire to create an alternative to the status quo, in the increasing permeability between the real and the fictitious-digital world. In settings made of bits and bytes, the user reigns as monarch in castles from Minecraft and similar video games. Even though the digital cubes are not real, the space they create for the player in their imagination is. Simultaneously a paper castle in the air and a castle of paper in the air, the essence of Olivier Hölzl's stencils and videos lies in the tension and indecision that can only arise in the space between reality and utopia. Esther Mlenek

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