Intensivstationen 8 Intensivstationen 7 Intensivstationen 6 Intensivstationen 5 Intensivstationen 3 Intensivstationen 1
Archival Ink Jet Print | 137,5 cm x 110 cm (Edition: 5 +2 AP) 85 cm x 68 cm (Editon: 6 +2 AP)

Intensive Care Units (II)

To what extent Lois Hechenblaikner can be considered an investigative journalist exposing ugly facts with his large-format camera is also made clear in his other series; perhaps best by the one dedicated to après-ski chalets which have been sprouting at the edges of slopes for the last two decades. The impression presented to the guest of an authentic hospitable pub-like atmosphere conveyed by wood paneling or carved furniture is in stark contrast to the situation in the cellar of the chalet. Technically clean, the basements are mainly full of different coloured tubes neatly laid out like electric cables in a machine room, sometimes tangled into each other in a huge mess. This tubing appears as complicated as one imagines the innards of a particle accelerator – but are only carrying beer, tea with rum, mulled wine and vodka.

Drinks don’t, of course, come to mind when you see the photos; you wonder what the guests are actually being filled-up with. Were the hoses not labeled on a central panel, you might even suspect chemicals in them, especially since they come from tanks and canisters. You are reminded of an intensive care unit (which the après-ski chalet may very well be for some, in a totally different way).

It is already well known that hospitality and tourism are mainly a question of logistics, but this has rarely been so vividly presented as by his photos. Although probably no one has the illusion that the rural village inn atmosphere you experience upstairs is genuine, still, as a guest you would never expect to be so managed: computerized measurement systems in the basement record exactly how much is consumed.

What Hechenblaikner shows us is reminiscent of the practices of ancient philosophers: To restrain carnal desire at the sight of a beautiful woman, think of her bowels and your craving will disappear instantly, says an old adage. Here again we see the skeptic who can show us the reverse side of a concept, a downside, and who produces total ambivalence, uncertainty, and thus also instills doubt in us. Throughout his work, Lois Hechenblaikner’s aim is to reveal those downsides, to scratch the thin surface of the beautiful illusion – to blow the whistle.

Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich

Wolfgang Ullrich, born 1967, is Professor of art history and media theory at the Academy for Design in Karlsruhe. In numerous publications, he deals with the concept of art history and criticism, visual sociological issues and consumer theory. Books (selection): With his back to art. The new status symbols of power (2000); The history of blur (2002); Hang deeper. About dealing with art (2003) What was art? Biographies of a concept (2005); Pictures on a world tour. A critique of globalization. (2006); Wanting more. How consumer culture works (2006) Wanted: Art! Phantom image of a joker. (2007) Refined art. Practice before reproductions (2009); Phenomena of prosperity (2010), Believing in art (2011).