Artist Talk: Herwig Turk (Vienna)


The Austrian artist Herwig Turk (University of Applied Arts Vienna) will give on November 22, 2016 an artist talk about his work and his current project/exhibition “Landscape = Laboratory”, Tuesday, 4:15–6 pm at Vordere Zollamtstraße 3, Lecture Hall 14 (3rd floor).

Herwig Turk’s work is based on the examination of complex scientific topics through art. The material culture of the high-tech laboratory is seen by him as an intriguing environment, in which the significance of the term “landscape” is also reflected; a landscape that, between political determination and industrial instrumentalization, becomes an experimental laboratory. Thus, the terms “laboratory” and “landscape” blend seamlessly in his project/exhibition “Landscape = Laboratory”, currently on show at the Carinthian Museum of Modern Art/MMKK. In his talk Herwig Turk will focus on his research projects like “The Bonneville Laboratory”: Since 2005 the he has developed a series of videos and installations at the Great Salt Lake in the U.S. State of Utah, for example: INVERSUM (2008), Lakeside (2012), Clymanbay (2013), Hogup Pumping Station (2014), and his most recent work Linescape (2016). The project’s title “The Bonneville Laboratory” refers to prehistoric Lake Bonneville, now dried up, which existed until the Pleistocene 14,500 years ago, covered more than 51,000 square kilometers, and extended into today’s State of Nevada. One of its remnants is the Great Salt Lake.

In his video and photographic works Herwig Turk approaches the conditions under which time and space is perceived within a landscape of extremes that by nature of its barrenness and hostility questions our very notion of “landscape”. Utilizing a variety of media he pursues a visual narrative that seeks a revision of the cliché-ridden reception of American Land art of the 1960s and 1970s, the historiography of which continues to be dominated by attention to monumental earth works by artists such as Robert Smithson, Michael Heinzer, or Walter De Maria. Exponents of Land art produced their works in remote locations like the Great Salt Lake and the Lake Bonneville region, a purported protest against the established art system in America. The dimensions and natural materials of Land art, the selection of remote desert regions as the locations of their production and reception, sought to create a unique aesthetic experience in stark contrast to the traditional experience of art in urban venues. The arid landscapes in the American West, accessible only with difficulty, were imagined to be endless, timeless, and without any history, and thus promised to provide the artists with a new form of aesthetic autonomy which could not be appropriated for the commercial interests and exploitation by museums and private galleries. This founding myth of the Land art movement, to locate their artworks in terrain that was empty or ahistorical and thus to break spatially and ideologically with the art system, Herwig Turk seeks to deconstruct. In his works he documents the toxic legacy and how the deserts of the American West — long before Land art discovered them — were shaped by human technology, for example, by uranium mining or being used by the U.S. military as a testing ground and for restricted facilities. For instance, the Dugway Proving Ground (DPG) has been utilized by the U.S. military since 1941 for testing biological and chemical weapons, and also the restricted facility Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR), which is near Spiral Jetty, an icon of American Land art, created in 1970 by Robert Smithson. Scars and marks on the land, visible on aerial photographs, reveal the Utah desert has been turned into an outdoor laboratory or a large field for experiments — an apocalyptic place — as a landscape that is profoundly affected by the deployment of weapons and technology; something that Land artists like Robert Smithson somehow managed to ignore.

Herwig Turk lives and works in Vienna and Lisbon. His projects and artworks engage with the fields of art, technology, and science. From 2010 to 2013 he was Artist in Residence at the IMM (Instituto da Medicina Molecular), Lisbon. From 2003 to 2009 he worked with Paulo Pereira, Director of the Centre of Ophthalmology at IBILI (Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Life Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Coimbra. Recent exhibitions of Herwig Turk’s work include shows at the MAK Museum für angewandte Kunst, Vienna, the Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul, the Neues Museum Weserburg, Bremen, the TESLA Labor für Medienkunst, the Georg Kargl Gallery, Vienna, and the Transmediale festival, Berlin. His work is currently on show at the MMKK (Museum Moderner Kunst Kärnten). The exhibition “Herwig Turk. Landschaft = Labor” opened on September 29, 2016 and will run till January 8, 2017. Since 2014 he teaches as Senior Artist at the Institute of Social Design, University of Applied Arts Vienna (

The Guest Lecture Series of Professor Ingeborg Reichle’s seminar “Bioart – Biodesign – DIY: Reframing Life in Current Artistic Practices and Design Approaches” is an informative and stimulating opportunity to hear from distinguished artists about what’s going on in the emerging fields of bioart and biodesign and will help our students build their network of contacts. Our guest lectures are open to all.

Date and time: Tuesday, November 22, 2016, 4:15–6 pm.
Venue: Vordere Zollamtstraße 3, Lecture Hall 14 (3rd floor).
[themify_icon icon=”fa-file-pdf-o” link=””] Guest Lecture Herwig Turk