In her video work “Yaw” Katharina Gruzei combines two supposedly distant worlds under the term “Goldhaube” (“gold cap” or “golden hat”). In addition to the traditional Austrian headdress, which is referred to with this term, Austria’s military air surveillance system also bears the name “Goldhaube”. The artist takes up this aspect and devotes herself to homeland security in a double sense; rites and the military. While the Austria-wide network of radar systems watches over the borders of Austria, the rites and customs preserve traditions and maintain them through constant re-performance. The golden hat initially served the bourgeoise as a tool of class distinction from the general public. It is inherent in both “Goldhauben” that they define the “own” by drawing the border to the “other” and thereby construct otherness.
As a formally load-bearing element, the artist introduces a rotary movement that recalls circular time concept and to which she then links the dramaturgy: radar domes filmed in a circular motion, rotating radar systems, monitors with circling radar fields and a revolving stage as a reference to the constant repetition of customs. The “move-in circular course” remains perceptible throughout the video and refers to the two self-contained systems, which are supposed to create belonging or togetherness through their isolation and strict demarcation.
With the title “Yaw”, Katharina Gruzei uses a term that is common in aviation, meaning the rotation of a body in space that rotates about its own vertical axis. The aerial cinematography evokes associations with images that are part of the collective memory. The bird’s eye view is reminiscent of military shots that we are familiar with from war reports. The artist transfers this panoptic view, which should make everything visible, to the deconstruction process of a traditional golden hat. The camera follows the process of disassembly with the military-connoted perspective from above, while a second camera perspective accompanies the careful dissection of the magnificent golden hood on the wearer’s head.
The young protagonist dismantles the golden hat down to its basic structure with caring accuracy and with sovereign hand movements. In the course of dissolving the precious bonnet, questions of identity and generation conflicts linked to the customs arise. Katharina Gruzei makes the many hours of manual work (between 250-300 hours) involved in the production of a gold hood visible by successively dismantling the hood into its components in the reverse process of dissecting.
In addition to the manual breakdown of the golden bonnet, the artist questions social aspects and social constructions that are linked to the object. The attraction of this caring and almost benign operation is that it exposes all the profane materials from which the bourgeois gold bonnet wearers originally tried to differentiate themselves. Coarse linen, wire and other support aids emerge from the gold sheen of the sequins. In the reduction, the hood is increasingly becoming a helmet. The exposed wire frame ultimately looks like a winged headdress, which in turn refers to the surveillance from a birds-eye view and therefore to the monitoring of the air.
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.