Daedalus Vienna

Foucault’s Pendulum and the Giantess Mnemosyne

Günter Metken

The transmedial society Daedalus, founded in Vienna in 1984 as a forum for discoveries in the space of the arts, thought and history, has uncovered traces of the course of modernity and tendencies in contemporary art through exhibitions, spatial installations, installations in urban public spaces, films and symposia.

In the diversity of concepts, it is committed to accuracy and to visions; even the most minute manifestion has defended the belief in the mode of poetry. Just as there is no acceptance of aesthetic hierarchies, there exists no ranking of categories for Daedalus.

The works of 1984–2010 evolved along the lines of explorations in European art collections and studios, by painstaking  studies of sources in archives and in dialogues with artists, scholars and philosophers. The materials thus discovered were installed in museums, galleries or urban spaces. The ethnological emphases on Vienna can be considered a special characteristic.

In 1984, the first appearance of Daedalus was dedicated to Michel Foucault 1 . His thinking has formed a red thread through the projects of the transmedial society ever since. The French philosopher was surely the driving force which really set the ball rolling in this undertaking. Foucalt saw and experienced himself as a man of passion. His thinking exerted violence because, as Gilles Deleuze remarked, it moved “outside recognition and security”. Thinking as a dangerous exercise in which life and death, reason and and lunacy were at stake- the parallel with Friedrich Nietzsche is by no means coincidental.It is also a kind of thinking that progress in times of crises, discovery by discovery, and can thus be cinsidered artistic.

It did not only, or not primarily, result in theories, but uncovered dependencies , relations of power, problems of knowledge and speech enabled thereby. This may well have been done along the lines of historical epochs, but always with an eye on the present. Foucalt was interested in the development of historical forms as a prerequisite of our own relation to power, penalties, sexuality. The fact that he was a passionate, revolutionary thinker concerned with the search for a new way of life, a new style, made him a driving force fort he motion which Daedalus wanted to bring to the intellectuel inertness of Central Europe- the more so because he argued from the perspective of the common man, the ‚homme infame’, any grain of dust. Foucault used the Nouveau roman expression ‘on’, which translate into English as ‘one’, for those nameless people who are suddenly and incidentally confronted with power, dragged into the spotlight due to a coincidence – a complaint, an investigation or a trial – and gotten to talk – more Chekhov than Kafka, says Deleuze.

Michel Foucault’s catchy booktitles say it all : “Folie et deraison”, “Naissance de la clinique”, “Surveiller et punir”, “Histoire de la sexualite”. We recognice immediately where power is located and what tools it uses: regulations, locking people away, depriving the poor, unadapted, all those who ignore the order decreed by God  or His world representatives. The result is that asociality, monomania, crime are rampant on outskirts of the city, the state, society and its juste milieu. Imposed from a distance, their code of behavior, their legal and aesthetic regulations remain alien to the ‘homme infame’ as a subject without identy.

Foucault considered his way of thinking a war machinery. He basically issued scholarly pamphlets, incendiary ammunition. Daedalus took this archaeology of knowledge up as a holistic stimulus and translated the impulses into reality in visuel field resaerch and artistic tracing.

In 1993, Mnemosyne became the leitmotif of an event honouring Aby Warburg at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts 2  Mnemosyne, cultural memory, was Warburg’s central goddess.The show of skies and the Mnemosyne-Atlas were brought together in an exhibition by Daedalus. It was centred around the library and was staged by French couple of artists Anne und Patrick Poirier.

According to Greek mythology, Mnemosyne, a female Titan, slept with Zeus for nine days and bore him the nine muses. For Warburg, the giantess with the crackjaw name was the patron saint of this quest. It was under her name, which means memory and raises the arts to nibility as the children of memory, that he wanted to publish a work to open up the entire gamut of his research like an illustrated atlas.

The point was the survival of ancient forms through Humanism and Baroque into the present. In them , Warburg, sought recurring structures, constants of expression as a kind of psychology of mankind. As a typicall Mnemosyne work, Daedalus undertook to reconstruct the charts.At times, this reminds us of photo- montage and cinematography, the triumph of which Warburg experienced directly. What he created during his travels, in hotel rooms -editing, re-arranging pictures - was actually art; visuel sequences, rhythms which gave one an impetus, quasi overwhelming one in dancing movememts, with argumentation sometimes being forced,subordinated to the flow of lines in ist consistency: iconographic prophesy born from the spirit of music.

Museum of Man. Edition Daedalus 1996.

 1. Dust Defying the Cloud. Michel Foucault.
Museum of the Twentieth Century, Vienna / Winter Gallery, Vienna.

 2. Mnemosyne. Aby Warburg.
Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna / Deichtorhallen, Hamburg.

Exhibitions · Publications · Presentation venues, Vienna


1984 Dust Defying the Cloud. Michel Foucault.
Museum of the Twentieth Century, Vienna / Winter Gallery, Vienna.

1985 The Beggar from Livorno. Amedeo Modigliani's Faces.
Temple of Theseus, Volksgarten Park Vienna / Salle de Bal, Palais Clam Gallas, Vienna / Riding Arena of the Vienna Riding Institute.

1986 A Small Yes and a Big No. George Grosz.
Museum of the Twentieth Century, Vienna.

1986 The Laws of Hospitality. Pierre Klossowski.
Winter Gallery, Vienna.

1986 Stories about Cy Twombly.
Temple of Theseus,Volksgarten Park Vienna / Indoor tennis court at Schönbrunn, Vienna / Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna.

1986 Who's afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue. Barnett Newman.
Albert Schweitzer House, Vienna.

1986 Yesterday Drifting Sand. Alberto Giacometti.
Museum of the Twentieth Century, Vienna / Winter Gallery, Vienna.

1986 It Was a Starlit Autumn Night in the Year 1204. Per Kirkeby.
Museum of the Twentieth Century, Vienna.

1986 Hush, Hush, the Most Beautiful Vowels Empties. Meret Oppenheim.
Museum of the Twentieth Century, Vienna.

1987 Velocity and Disappearance. Paul Virilio.
Museum of the Twentieth Century, Vienna.

1987 Paul of the Birds. Paolo Uccello.
Museum of the Twentieth Century, movie theatre, Vienna.

1987 Fur and Skin, Rags and Hair, Metal and Blood. Michelangelo Caravaggio.
Museum of the Twentieth Century, movie theatre, Vienna.

1987 Diary of Locations. Artaud : Van Gogh.
Museum of the Twentieth Century, Vienna / Tower of the Lunatic asylum, Vienna.

1987 The Legend of a Piece of Wood. Piero della Francesca.
Academy of Applied Arts, Vienna.

1988 The Analyst and the Visual Arts. Jacques Lacan.
Faber Gallery, Vienna.

1988/89 The Echo and its Painter. Jean Le Gac.
Shop in a Vienna suburb / Faber Gallery, Vienna / Palais Palffy, Vienna / Palais Clam Gallas, Salle de Bal, Vienna.

1989 The Fetishes of Travesty. Pierre Molinier.
Faber Gallery, Vienna.

1989 The Life of the Infamous People. Vienna around 1700.
Palais Clam Gallas, Salle de Bal, Vienna.

1990 From the Touch of the Model to the Volcano of Passion. Paul-Armand Gette.
Faber Gallery, Vienna.

1990 daedalus – daedalus. The Invention of the Present.
Mumok (Museum of Modern Art), Vienna / Station hall of Südbahnhof railway station, Vienna / Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna / Salle de Bal, Palais Clam Gallas, Vienna.

1991 Nunga and Goonya. Nikolaus Lang.
Faber Gallery, Vienna / Insam Gallery, Vienna.

1992 City and Wilderness. Vienna 1000–1500.
Faber Gallery, Vienna / Stock-im-Eisen-Platz, Vienna / Basiliskenhaus, Schönlaterngasse, Vienna.

1992 The Death of Orpheus.
steirischer herbst, Alpheta-Halle des Arland Geländes, Graz.

1993 Mnemosyne. Aby Warburg.
Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna / Deichtorhallen, Hamburg.

1993/94 Les Fleurs du Mal. A History of Poverty in Vienna, Prague, Budapest and Trieste in the Years 1693 to 1873.
Austrian National Library, Great Hall, Vienna / Austrian Museum of Ethnology, Vienna / Faber Gallery, Vienna.

1995 Their Limbs so White, and such their Grace. Photographs of Boys in Nineteenth-Century Vienna.
Faber Gallery, Vienna.

1996 For the Shape of this World is Ephemeral. A History of Vienna – Recorded by the Friend of Antiquity Aloys Bergenstamm (1752-1821).
Austrian National Library, Augustine Reading Room, Vienna.

1996 Bricklayer, Lime and Sand – The Painter Franz Anton Maulbertsch.
Austrian Academy of Sciences, Johannessaal / An excursion to the frescoes by F. A. Maulbertsch in Mikulov, Hradiště Svatého Hypolita, Brno, Kroměříž, Halbturn, Győr, Székesfehérvár, Sümeg, Pápa and Szombathely.

1996 The Museum of Man or Where Art and Science Find Each Other Again.
Austrian National Library, Oratory, Vienna.

1996 White Laundry – Silvery Smoke – Black Soot. Vienna: An Archaeology of the Capital in the Nineteenth Century.
Austrian National Library, Vienna.

1997 The Colour of Dusk. Gerald Zugmann.
Museum of Applied Arts Vienna, Gallery.

1998 From Dear Old Vienna of Days Long Gone. The Watercolour Painter Karl Blaschke.
Vienna City Hall, Volkshalle (People’s Hall).

1998/99 Mozart’s Magic Flute in the Hubbub of the Enlightenment.
Prague, Veletržní Palace.

2000 Greetings from Incubus. The Ernst Brodträger Collection.
Austrian Museum of Ethnology, Vienna.

2001/02 Alban Berg, Hanna Fuchs and a String Quartet, called Lyric Suite.
(Unrealised project for the Museum of Fine Arts, Vienna).

2003 Ah, soaring over all that blooms Is your bloom, blissful! Johannes Brahms, Opus 32.
Vienna Theatre Museum, Eroica Hall, Vienna.

2004 The Sermon on the Mount. Anton Webern.
Library of the City and Province of Vienna, Exhibition Room, City Hall.

2005 Eroticism and Death in the Dionysos and Orpheus Myths.
National Library, Oratory, Vienna.

2005 The Envelope of the Birds. Friederike Mayröcker.
Vienna Museum of Modern Art, Lounge.

2005 Europeans and the Rise and Fall of African Slavery in the Americas.
Austrian National Library, Main Reading Room, Vienna.

2006 daedalus notes 1984–2006.
Filmarchiv Austria, Metro Kino, Vienna.

2006 Mozart, Maulbertsch, Messerschmidt.
Albertina, Hall of the Muses, Vienna.

2007/08 A Red Ruby in the Tiara of Modernity. Aby Warburg.
Albertina, Study Room, Vienna / Budapest, University.

2008 Alphabet of Love. Amedeo Modigliani.
Er-Ich Hairdressing Salon, Vienna.

2009/2010 Alban Berg, Hanna Fuchs and a String Quartet, called Lyric Suite.
Vienna Lectures.

2011/2012 Antonio Vivaldi's Last Summer.
Karlsplatz, Vienna University of Technology.


Works Gerhard Fischer

Daedalus Archive

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