Herewith we commemorate the artist, researcher, exhibition organizer and former curator of Shedhalle, Marion von Osten.
Full of admiration we take a look back at her time at Shedhalle, where she worked as a curator between 1996 and 1998 realizing various exhibition projects.
Marion von Osten belonged to the first generation of curators who contributed significantly to the programmatic revision of Shedhalle from 1994 onwards. This included opening the curatorial program to more unconventional forms of exhibition making and promoting interdisciplinary collaboration between artists, scientists and socially engaged initiatives.
The team consisted of Renate Lorenz, Sylvia Kafehsy, Ursula Biemann and Marion von Osten, who all pursued a practice at the intersections of art, discursive procedure and political commitment.
At that time Shedhalle established an explicitly feminist perspective for the first time. The program was asking questions about collective possibilities to change the conditions of art production.
The aim was – and still is – to break up the dominant roles of curators, artists and cultural producers and re-think these roles within the institutional framework.
During her time as a curator at Shedhalle, Marion von Osten realized several legendary exhibition projects, including Irene ist viele (1996), SEX&SPACE (1996), Alt.Use.Media (1997), SUPERmarkt – money/market/gender politics (1998) and MoneyNations@access (1998).
What these projects have in common is a critical examination of hegemonic structures: Marion von Osten has always been committed to giving space to marginalized groups and opening discourses that examine structures of discrimination and stereotyping. An important approach was to overcome the boundaries between theory and practice and to develop a hybrid understanding of roles and spaces.
The group exhibition SEX&SPACE was dedicated to “Gender Spaces” – gender-specific attributions concerning spatial and architectural aspects in urban private and public spheres. Together with the participating artists, Marion von Osten examined the extent to which urban space is determined by a traditionally male, white perspective: Who is represented in private and public spaces and who is excluded? How can social and cultural counter-images be developed? For SEX&SPACE, Marion von Osten transformed Shedhalle into a television studio, a stereotyped backdrop in the limbo between private and public space, where norms were deconstructed and became negotiable.
This approach of creating settings for critical media-practices in the exhibition space was developed further in the next projects. In 1997 she transformed Shedhalle into a digital, audiovisual studio that explored alternative media practices and forms of distribution. And in 1998 a production facility for fanzines, videos and sound recordings was set up at Shedhalle. Discourses from the underground scene in and around Zurich, self-organization and activism were formative for the program of Shedhalle.
The exhibitions SUPERmarkt – money/market/gender politics (1998) and MoneyNations@access (1998) can also be seen in this context. The “supermarket” was understood as a way of critically re-thinking economies.. Here, postcolonial approaches and counterstatements to hegemonic and eurocentric representations were developed. The exhibition examined the economically motivated border politics of Western Europe. Representations in the media were examined and artistic strategies of an alternative, anti-racist media practice were developed.
After working as a curator at Shedhalle Zurich, she taught as professor of artistic practice at the Institute for Theory of Art and Design in Zurich and at the Institute for Artistic Teaching at the Vienna Academy as a professor of art and communication.
From 2014 onwards, Marion von Osten was the curator and artistic director of the research and exhibition project Bauhaus Imaginista, which focused on the intertwining of Bauhaus and modern ideas around the globe. In the Bauhaus year 2019, all international stations of the project came together in a large exhibition at Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin.
Marion von Osten set important impulses, initiated significant projects that have strongly influenced the practice of Shedhalle to this day.
Nowhere else do debates about political incapacity to act, the empowerment of formerly marginalized groups and ecological sustainability meet in such a condensed form as in culture. Museums, art galleries, festivals and theaters are laboratories for change and laboratories for utopias.
We will all miss Marion von Osten. She was a person who always stood up for the potential of hybrid, collaborative practices in art and culture. A person who, driven by political and social questions, initiated interdisciplinary and transnational exhibitions and projects that continue to shape the art world until today.
Her work will live on at Shedhalle. Her values, her thinking and her impulses remain a source of inspiration and a role-model for the further development of our institution.
The team and the board of Shedhalle
Archive material can be found here and at Shedhalle.
Obituaries of her companions can be found here:
Photos: Archive of Shedhalle, installation views of the exhibitions SEX&SPACE (1996), Alt.Use.Media (1997), SUPERmarkt – money market gender politics (1998)