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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.

Exhibition tour

With works by

  • Christina Baltais, Cover
    Christi­na Baltais 
  • Untitled Artwork
    Ruth Braham 
  • Whitney Dafoe, Cover
    Whit­ney Dafoe und Mark Tuschman 
  • Sibylle Dahrendorf, Cover
    Sibylle Dahrendorf 
  • Mila und Sabine Hermisson, Cover
    Mila und Sabine Hermisson 
  • Hazel Hughes, Cover
    Hazel Hughes 
  • Sunniva Innstrand, Cover
    Sun­ni­va Innstrand 
  • Noli Kat, Cover 2
    Noli Kat 
  • Matthias Mollner, Cover
    Matthias Mollner 
  • Missing Neighbor, Cover
    Mar­tin Keogh aka The Miss­ing Neighbor 
  • Olivia, Cover
  • Anna Parker, Cover
    Anna Parker 
  • Judith-Schoßböck,-Cover-2
    Judith Schoßböck 
  • Ilse-Sjouke,-Cover
    Ilse Sjouke und Mar­tine Brandt 
  • James Strazza, Cover
    James Strazza 
  • Anil van der Zee, Cover
    Anil van der Zee 

Knowledge oasis

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)

Con­tri­bu­tions by

  • Broken Battery, Cover 2
    Bro­ken Battery 
  • Faraz Fallahi, Cover 2
    Faraz Fallahi 
  • Unbenanntes Projekt
    Franziska Hannig 
  • Reante Mowlam, Cover
    Renate Mowlam 
  • Kristine Cornelia Paulsen, Cover
    Kor­nelia Paulsen 

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.

It is deeply admirable what has been achieved by those affect­ed and their rel­a­tives in this exhi­bi­tion and I am grate­ful that this lit­tle-noticed ill­ness has received attention.

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.

State­ment on the exhi­bi­tion open­ing on 10 August 2023

Wel­come everyone,

It´s Judith writ­ing from her bed in Upper Aus­tria. I am very pleased that this way I can share some thoughts about our heart project. And so I´m going to inte­grate myself a bit, and make myself vis­i­ble this way.

I´m good at that, although I per­son­al­ly have the rare luck that many con­sid­er my sit­u­a­tion and find cre­ative ways in which I can still be present. And still: as a chron­i­cal­ly ill per­son I have mean­while shame­less­ly learned this inte­gra­tion exercise.

That one has to active­ly do this in many sit­u­a­tions, if one doesn´t want to dis­ap­pear, and that this can also be exhaust­ing, was already known by a gob­lin I real­ly like:

“Being vis­i­ble makes you tired,
Heav­en forbid!”

That’s what Pumuckl says. And:

“Pumuckl dis­ap­pears
nobody finds him
because what you can´t see
that doesn´t exist.”

The work of our stu­dio is aimed pre­cise­ly against this prin­ci­ple, against an “out of sight, out of mind”. Because we are con­vinced that what is oth­er­wise hid­den can be real­ly fas­ci­nat­ing, mov­ing and important.

More than two years of orga­ni­za­tion, often dur­ing health cri­sis mode, are now behind us — to say it was a chal­lenge would be an understatement.

Between fight­ing author­i­ties and symp­toms, the real­i­sa­tion of such a project with this dis­ease nat­u­ral­ly also means many cut­backs: being able to see your part­ner less, no exper­i­ments with med­ica­tion, even few­er breaks in a world where there is nev­er any vaca­tion any­way. Some days I felt like I was on a dou­ble ham­ster wheel — that of the ill­ness and that of the project.

It is also a par­tic­u­lar chal­lenge to show works by con­trib­u­tors who are cur­rent­ly fight­ing the mon­ster them­selves. Some of the artists shown here could not access their works them­selves or write texts, oth­ers unex­pect­ed­ly spent sev­er­al weeks in hos­pi­tal. Then it was about impro­vis­ing or cre­at­ing equiv­a­lent alter­na­tives. Hence the cre­ative con­di­tions of some works are also reflect­ed in our exhi­bi­tion. We are glad that we can still present them all — thanks to many unit­ed forces.

Because this is what it always boils down to. Great things are pos­si­ble with them — and noth­ing without.

I would thus like to thank every­one who helped with mak­ing our project pos­si­ble: my won­der­ful and tire­less part­ner, our project part­ners, all the artists and our friends. But also and espe­cial­ly all the strangers, who may have stum­bled upon our project coin­ci­den­tal­ly, and with­out know­ing “the mon­ster” yet.

Your inter­est and shar­ing of our project means a lot to me, as you are help­ing to cre­ate more vis­i­bil­i­ty, knowl­edge and exchange, but above all: being able to show impres­sive and spe­cial art.

I wish you a lot of great impres­sions — oh well: the Pumuckl would also like to add some­thing, namely:

“Any­one who has seen me once will always see me — invis­i­ble I am now only to oth­er people.”

With this in mind, we wish you a nice expe­ri­ence in the online ver­sion of our exhibition.

Symposium CRASH!

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

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