Home: Four walls around a block and air from amid all that burgeoning, billowing matter with claws of stone, pinning it down. A house is your third skin. —Jenny Erpenbeck, Visitation
A written tapestry, like Erpenbeck’s pummeling text, is quite different to read as a solo experience, compared to how we are surrounded completely by sonic artistry. Even if you listen alone, it feels like you’re blanketed by Werner’s plentiful, metaphorical ghosts on Novaragasse. We imagine those lost souls as a group.
Since 2016, Werner has invited numerous listening stances: on the Viennese national radio network (ORF/Kunstradio) and on independent community stations (Radio Orange); in a gallery space as 8-channel public sound installation; in a building’s stairwell swarming as circus-like performance. She’s even slipped in a tape-loop beneath a balcony in Slovenia where Hitler once held sway over crowds in 1941.
Photo, Georg Weckwerth
That was a stunningly powerful experience when Reni Hofmüller draped her mesh-sewn antenna fabric down the center of the staircase, like it was dividing the space into past and present and we listened together to the inaudible past mixing with the audible mundane living of the house. —Karen Werner
Werner’s disembodied artistry has a wraith-like way of arriving, like a stealth radio signal. You can feel a breath across the back of your neck and summon up one of those many apartments dwellers, opening her door, quickly closing it after shaking out a rug, a blast of dust floating down the stairwell in the morning light.
Haus part 1 – Covenant of the Tongue
To go back to a house that holds memories, no matter the setting, is eerie. In Werner’s artistry, there’s certainly more hope for the present day, like a seance calling up the names. A circle or circus. Or a healing.
Shall we listen to the ghostly voices?
Haus part 2 – Zirkus