Statement by Cornelia Lauf

“Progress” is a relative concept. The projects I realized with museum in progress are not really about innovation as much as about altering perceptions. I have written a text for the great large-scale image installation of Ken Lum. This installation encouraged Viennese citizens to reflect on their populace and values, with philosophical queries and commonplace questions that spanned a wide variety of topics. Lum’s piece is timeless, as all great art is. And its usefulness was timely, and prescient of what is a rising worldwide wave of xenophobia and fear, as our technological world creates chasms of incomprehension and nostalgia for “safer” times. The outcome of this unease is a swing to the right, and a closing down and shutting in, and adherence to false myths of origin. We sought to counter that, in a work on colour and with messages that subtly taught right and wrong.

The second project was also about perception, a poster with Joseph Kosuth, when we were on the board of the American Foundation for Aids Research. This advertisement appeared as a double-page spread in Der Standard, and was printed in gorgeous full colour. And it addressed the issue of getting used to the arrival of a terrible disease and the prejudice surrounding it. With the current reactions to Covid-19, “The Chinese Flu”, “It was caused by the French!”, “Made in USA”, a “German brought it to Italy”; “The Italian disease”, etc., this kind of awareness campaign, using the sinister virus molecules as actors, was many years in advance of current uses of newspaper for public art, and showed art itself as a form of advertising.

The final project, perhaps my favourite, was the small contribution that museum in progress asked when I had just given birth to my second daughter, Klio. I could barely even think, and yet, I felt apologetic to use my own gender, as an excuse not to be “professional”. I confessed my state and my priorities – being a mother, and have never regretted eschewing a more visible career in favour of being a practically full-time wife and mother.

I’m nearly 60 and have seen a lot of art in the name of progress, but not so often progress in the name of art. The general venture of museum in progress has been one significant step in what can and is possible in our times. Using the hammer of culture to smash misperceptions and xenophobia. Using the forum of public space as theatre, to address audiences that may not venture into a museum. To take matters of social and political urgency into the realm of great aesthetics – that is the challenge for this wonderful association, and one to which it has risen with wide and justified acclaim.