Kay Walkowiak »If Colors Could Speak«


The central motif of the series If Colors Could Speak presents an architectural piece derived from the utopian planned city of Chandigarh in India, conceived by Le Corbusier during the 1950s. A speaker’s podium, poured in concrete in a brutalist manner, floats as a futuristic relic of a failed Modernist utopia against the backdrop of a black void, almost like a museum piece placed on a velvet cushion behind glass. Who is supposed to speak from this podium? And who is there to listen?

Kay Walkowiak has preoccupied himself with Le Corbusier’s planned city several times before, among others in his dystopian scenographic video work titled The City Lost which has been shown at Vienna's Leopold Museum as part of the group show Traces of Time in 2017.

Kay Walkowiak The City Lost

Film still of The City Lost, 2017 by Kay Walkowiak

The City Lost shows a succession of black-and-white, unpeopled shots that join to create a visual archive of Chandigarh’s architectural forms and formal compositions. Unlike the video works of the Chandigarh Trilogy, the spatial pictures, despite their documentary character, are explicitly elevated to the level of the historic imaginary. Walkowiak achieves this by overlaying the depicted visual archive with an audio track that borrows from famous science fiction films such as Blade Runner and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Via the sound plane, the city is thereby contrasted with culturally generated forms of futuristic visions familiar from the genre of the science fiction film. Walkowiak thus evokes the memory of an idea of the future that, while it has inscribed itself in Chandigarh’s formal language, has now become history. As he did in the video works of the trilogy, the artist explores utopian aspirations historically associated with Chandigarh, but in The City Lost, he simultaneously gives it the character of a dystopia.

Using a fragment of the remains of Chandigarh is today, Kay Walkowiak once more investigates into what originally was a euphoric design how people could live together. The colors employed individually across the pieces of the series are derived from a color palette, developed by Le Corbusier, suggesting a minimum of diversity and individual expression in an otherwise conformist societal vision. What if Colors Could Speak?

01 Kay Walkowiak If Colors Could Speak Leopold
06 Kay Walkowiak

Kay Walkowiak (*1980 in Salzburg) lives and works in Vienna. His work comprises a complex mixture of installation, sculpture, video art and photography and combines conceptual and post minimal strategies. In many of his works the artist explores the historically and socio-culturally defined handling of form and questions its functional positioning as a projection surface for timeless utopias.

He studied Sculpture and Multimedia at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, Photography and Video Art at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and Expanded Expression at the Zokei University in Tokyo.

Kay Walkowiak has participated in various international group exhibitions since 2004, most recently at the Kunsthalle Tübingen, in 2018. Solo exhibitions include the MAK – Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna, the Soulangh Art Space in Tainan, the Austrian Cultural Forum in New Delhi and the Node Gallery in Tokyo. Kay Walkwiak is represented by Zeller van Almsick in Vienna.

Text: Florian Langhammer
Photos: Florian Langhammer

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