Exhibition Künstlerhaus Factory Vienna
August 11th to 27th, 2023
Curated by Black Ferk Studio. Matthias Mollner and Judith Schossböck
ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome) is a monster: one that many affected people and their loved ones in Austria and around the world are fighting. A severe and not uncommon multi-system illness, there is no treatment for the root causes nor generally accessible therapy to date. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the millions of individuals affected by Post or Long COVID, this often unrecognised and trivialised illness has shifted more into the public awareness.
“Even trying to put on an exhibition with this terror is complete madness,” was one of the thoughts that went through the minds of Judith Schoßböck and Matthias Mollner in autumn 2021, when they came to the decision to translate their experience into art. Expressing their personal stroke of fate as art is a way of processing their experiences and intimate insights into a silent and invisible world lived each day by millions of people who are missing from society (#MillionsMissing), who mobilise their meagre energy reserves for daily survival and recognition. This is an illness that stands in diametric opposition to the commonly accepted ideals of motivation and performance, as simple activities and exertion are punished with a worsening of symptoms.
In this exhibition Mollner, Schoßböck (a.k.a. Black Ferk Studio), and other artists and creatives reflect on the reality of living with ME/CFS. To create art in this context becomes a special activity that is tied to risk, as sufferers of the disease experience physical consequences. The hypersensitivities the illness often causes are further challenges to artistic endeavour and community participation.
The exhibition shows various artistic perspectives together with information on the illness in different contexts: From the personal views of those affected to the standpoint of society, from helplessness to activism, from the isolation of the individual to the collective view, from the emotional experience of perpetual crisis to scientific fact. The exhibition tells stories from the “nightside of life” (as Susan Sontag called illness), provides insight into coping strategies, and seeks to utilise openness and dark-yet-colourful humour to counteract suffering and neglect.
Link: Künstlerhaus Factory
With works by
The knowledge oasis is a table object with blue palm trees designed by Matthias Mollner. Here the topic ME/CFS is illuminated from different perspectives with information on the medical and political background, videos from activists, photos of protests, information graphics and further links.
These reading materials are available in the online exhibition as .pdf files. References to scientific articles, websites, social media, etc. can be accessed directly via the respective links.
Authors: Austrian Society for ME/CFS (ÖG ME/CFS), Michael Gomez, Sunniva Innstrand, Judith Schossböck
Catalogue of topics as .pdf download (in German)
Statements about the exhibition
The exhibition in the Künstlerhaus reeeeally touched me. It was one of the most emotionally moving exhibitions I have ever seen. Maybe because the artistic creation takes place under such extremely difficult conditions so that the works take on their own, unique radicalness.
As someone affected by ME/CFS, this exhibition touched me incredibly. I didn’t expect how emotional these exhibits would make me, but each one touched and moved me deeply in my soul.
ME/CFS is a serious and by no means rare multisystem illness, of which we know far too little, and for which there is no causal therapy nor generally accessible treatment to date. Following the Covid-19 pandemic and due to the millions of those affected by Post and Long Covid, this illness is on one hand more visible (with unfortunately many more people affected now), on the other hand it is still misunderstood and trivialised by society and the health system.
A big thank you and sincere recognition goes to Judith Schoßböck and Matthias Mollner for their courage and commitment to implement such a daring and challenging endeavor, providing an insight into these hidden worlds through an art exhibition — in analogue form in the FACTORY in the Künstlerhaus, and now as a digital display. Real pioneering work is being done here! Thank you also to the affected artists who, in this exhibition, reflect the reality of life associated with ME/CFS in varied ways and with great effort.
What can art do? What can an exhibition like this achieve? Art can create awareness! The strength of artistic works can lie in the fact that they are touching, perhaps even evoking an emotional state of emergency that tempts us to think. Feelings are more powerful than pure intellect and a theory-heavy discourse, such as analyzes and statistics about the disease and its consequences. In this way, an imaginary, ideational space can be created in which empathy is awakened and recognition can be achieved — recognition and, as a result, hopefully support for chronically ill people who are often not seen and excluded by our society.
They can be seen in the exhibition. Something extraordinary has been achieved here and I am pleased that the Künstlerhaus was able to provide the location for it and that the show can now continue to be seen in digital space.
On 18 August 2023 a symposium took place within the framework of the exhibition. The program included expert talks, a reading and a performance.
- Reading Barbara Kaufmann — Die Verdächtigen (The Suspects)
- Talk Dr. Martin Komenda-Lett — Beyond Known Structures: ME/CFS as a challenge for medical practice
- Talk Dr. Jennifer Blauensteiner — MicroRNAs of Blood Vessels in ME/CFS
- WE&ME Foundation
- Talk Andrea Strohriegl — Community and Activism: What difference can one make together?
- Austrian Society for ME/CFS
- Talk DDr. Markus Gole — Fatigue and Mental Illness: Differential diagnostic ways to ME/CFS
- Performance Matthias Mollner — Stop and Go
Univ.-Prof. Dr. Joachim Hermisson and Matthias Mollner
- ORF2 (Austrian Broadcasting Corporation), Aktuell nach 5, 10 August 2023, Report: Markus Greussing
- Kronen Zeitung, „Kunstkampf gegen die Erschöpfung. Wiener-Künstlerhaus-Schau ‚Crash!ʻ thematisiert Multisystemerkrankung“, 10 August 2023
- Ö1, Kulturjournal, radio report, „Ausstellung CRASH! im Künstlerhaus“, 11 August 2023, Report: Julia Salender
- Esel.at, Photo series exhibition opening, from eSeLSCHWARM Ozelot (Joanna Pianka), August 2023
- MeinBezirk.at, „Wenn alles zuviel wird — Neue Ausstellung im Künstlerhaus am Karlsplatz“, 11 August 2023, Report: Salme Taha Ali Mohamed
- ORF Topos, „Verdrängte Krankheit macht Alltag zur Qual“, 21 August 2023
- ORF2, Zeit im Bild 2, „Stiftung für Erschöpfungssyndrom ME/CFS“, 22 August 2023
- ART Magazin, 8/2023, Ausstellungen — Der Kalender: CRASH
- Riffreporter.de, 22 August 2023, Report: Martin Rücker
- MeinBezirk.at, „Kunstkollektiv Black Ferk gibt chronischer Erkrankung eine Bühne“, 11 September 2023, Report: Patricia Kornfeld
Blogposts und podcasts:
- Corona-Wissen: „CRASH-Symposium im Künstlerhaus Wien: MECFS sichtbar machen“, 19 August 2023
- Kunst-und-Trauma.de: „Ein Backstage-Wunder: ME/CFS Ausstellung ‚CRASHʻ in Wien im August 2023”
- Podcast series „Die Stadt in dir, Folge 8: Tiere, Krankheit, Danzig“, 15 Oktober 2023, from minute 4, Report: Eva-Maria Wohlfahrter
- Post Exertional Mayonnaise: „Crash! Judith Schossboeck & Matthias Mollner reflect on severe ME art exhibition“, podcast, 11 January 2024