Katharina Gruzei – URBAN REFLECTORS, 8 min. 2019


The establishing shot of the video shows a densely built urban landscape, which is contrasted by a concrete and fenced open space in the foreground. The area around a river in Tokyo is the scene of a strange phenomenon. An indefinable silver mass begins to move and seems to inflate from within. The wafting sculpture, which at times reminds of an organic body, then again acts like an architectural element, grows and in the next scene decays again to a small wrinkled accumulation on the ground. The erection and collapse of this foil take us to four places whose apocalyptic mood is enhanced by sound. Silver foils that are used for covering cars, bikes and motorcycles are commonly seen in the streets of Tokyo. Urban Reflectors picks up on this appearance and the Japanese culture of wrapping and packing, which can also be read as an act of caring. Being part of the everyday life in Tokyo, the intervention in public space is only discovered by a few passersby.

The narration is embedded in places that contrast with the stereotypes of Tokyo as a metropolis of millions. Accompanied by a dystopian sound, the video creates an apocalyptic mood that raises questions about the nature of public space and its use. Due to its geographical location, Japan is permanently threatened by natural forces and has developed comprehensive disaster control measures. Nationwide installed loudspeakers in the public area are intended to inform the urban population in the event of a disaster. But they are also used in everyday life, for example, to warn children before dusk to return home. As a basis for the sound of the video, field recordings were used with recordings of these public announcements. A voice speaking from “off” in public space moreover has the bitter connotation of authoritarian systems or dictatorships and corresponds to the human bodies that act as mobilizers of the in- and deflating silver form. The Japanese announcement is initially not translated, but used as a means of sound design and only made comprehensible at the end with subtitles.


Katharina Gruzei, Klagenfurt, Austria, 1983.
Katharina Gruzei works with photography, film, video, installations, media-performances, sound and objects. Working conceptually, she experiments between these disciplines and arrives at a unique crossover language.
Her field of interest is the use of media as a political as well as a sociological and cultural tool. She works on visual strategies to decode the construction and ideology of Imagery. This research starts from a single image and often ends up in archives. By using found footage she unfolds cultural history as a field of artistic research in which she introduces her own thoughts and statements. Her videos and photographs reveal a distinct interest in the border between still and moving image. Her visual language explores the potential of resistance and empowerment within artistic practice.
Gruzei also researches in field studies which she, later on, reconstructs in spatial installations that encompass sound, objects or whatever evolves from her exploration. Her work is exhibited in international contexts.

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