Osvaldo Romberg: Theater of Transparency
12.07.2009 – 27.09.2009

»Theater of Transparency« is the title of an installation by the Argentinean artist Osvaldo Romberg. At the centre of the work are his videos the protagonists of which are puppets.
Today transparency defines our every environment: from galleries to cityscapes, the spaces that we live, work, and interact in are invariably cloaked in see-through skins of glass. Early modernists already dreamed about transparency, beginning with Bruno Taut's iconic Glass Pavilion (1914) at the Cologne »Deutscher Werkbund« Exhibition, to the clean lines of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's »Farnsworth House« and the all-glass facade of »Philip Johnson's house« in New Canaan, Connecticut.

For historians such as Alfred Barr, Sigfried Giedeon, and Henry-Russell Hitchcock, the International Style in modern architecture was formally and conceptually inseparable from the work being done at the Bauhaus, as well as the abstract art of Cubism, Purism, and Dutch abstraction. In »Giedeon's Space, Time and Architecture« (1941), he argues that twentieth-century architecture and painting developed along parallel conceptual pathways. Similarly, the influence of painting on architecture was the subject of Hitchcock's book »Painting Toward Architecture« (1948).

In »Theater of Transparency«, the Argentine artist Osvaldo Romberg takes up this parallel history of painting and architecture. While Romberg's artistic development began with a conceptual approach to painting, his work finds new articulations today in the field of architectural experimentation and electronic media. The »theater« features three videos that the artist has produced during the last few years. These video productions are at the center of the event, together with the protagonists of these narratives – namely a series of humanoid dolls and puppets made of transparent acrylic. In making these videos the artist has used these dolls as projection surfaces, highlighting the fact that they have no fixed meaning. Their very identities and sexualities are in a state of perpetual flux, echoing our modern fascination with consumerism and individual choice.

The videos reflect his desire to universalize the world as an image by mixing narratives, personalities, and temporalities through a post-historical collage technique. Romberg extends the historically determined nature of collage, freeing it from fixed paper and placing it in free-space, where the image behaves like free-floating signifiers. In so doing, he disregards fixed histories and classifications, emphasizing instead an expressive relationship to history where the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Shakespeare, and Che Guevara seemingly co-exist.

From the transparent humanoids to the translucent screens, Romberg's work calls attention not simply to the massive visual culture that governs our modern world, but also its emptiness and negativity. Content-wise, Romberg extends the collage techniques to encompass the theater of identities as a theater of masques and personae (a typical subject of postmodernism) and shows the dark side of the modern dream of transparency: delirious machines are traded on a market of desire. Transparency creates monsters like the sleep of reason. Transparency is a theater hiding a market of guilt. Our relation to rationality, to culture, is purely theoretical.

Born in Buenos Aires the painter, media and concept artist Osvaldo Romberg lives and works in New York, Philadelphia and Isla Grande, Brazil. He has participated in numerous exhibitions throughout the world. His work »Mikve at Masada« could be recently viewed as part of the exhibition »Medium Religion«.

Work descriptions:

From Paradise to Paradise: A Hypertext about Love (1997–2003)

"Out of Paradise into Paradise" focuses on the evolution of love between the two plastic humanoids Carlos and Isadora. During the course of the history of suffering, of lies deceit and perdition, the connection between love and guilt dissolves and the portal to paradise opens.

Jesus de Buenos Aires (2006) 

The video shows a transformation of the passion of Christ. This time however the "inquisitors" are Jacques Lacan and Sigmund Freud. To the sound of tango music and accompanied by pictures by Giotto and Pasolini, Jesus assumes the guise of a revolutionary who reappears as Che Guevara.

Romeo & Julieta According to Romeo (2008) 

The work treats the ultimate love story of William Shakespeare from the perspective of the Argentinean macho Romeo. In the end Romeo and Juliet decide against mutual suicide and unite to become a single hermaphrodite entity. Charlie Chaplin plays the role of Romeo, while Greta Garbo, Grace Kelly and Rita Hayworth personify Juliet.

Organization / Institution
ZKM | Medienmuseum

Neue Galerie Graz