Monday, September 22, 2008


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“Mama” is a short video (TRT 1’ 35’’, looped) by the Austrian media artist Richard Jochum, New York 2008.

“When my father turned 60, I asked my siblings to produce a book for him as a gift. We entitled it “Our Father” and I wrote a few chapters. Being able to do so, surprised me. I was not aware of how easily words came to me about my father; some of the texts were a bit dada, others theatrical, some more analytical and although I praised him to the skies, there was criticism, too. When my mother a few years later turned 60 I could not produce anything like that at all. The relationship that I had with her, proved to be beyond words. I could not capture it, could not verbally describe it, felt way too embedded in a relationship that was “bloody” to start with: coming out of her womb.

The video that I created goes back to this observation of a visceral relationship with my mother beyond the grip of a verbal structure and language. I never was able to produce this somewhat very personal piece of video until an open call for submission intrigued me to set the idea into tape. The short movie is made to be looped, because addressing a mother and calling out for her will always escort us and keep being an indelible impulse.

P.S. If the video is shown in a space, I envision it to be displayed on an old tv-screen which is placed at the height of an imagined crib and would stand in the corner of a room. Crying out for a mother would then turn into what it was planned to be: an installation piece and not only a video."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sisyphus On Vacation

"Sisyphus On Vacation" is the product of a two-week artist-in-residency in the Austrian Alps in August 2007. The sculptor and media artist, Richard Jochum, carried greyish painted stones totaling 692 pounds to the top of the Bielerkopf, the closest mountain range (2389m altitude) to the site of the residency (1950m altitude). Persuasion is part of the project where friends, acquaintances, and hikers are invited to help carry some of the 61 stones uphill.

The project aims for the almost impossible rather than to maximize the possible; given that art cannot move mountains and land art, in particular, seems almost absurd in a context where the landscape itself is shaped with utmost beauty and splendor. Thus the project intertwines a tragic moment with a comical one. To haul 61 stones uphill will not stop the erosion of the Alps. To try it, nonetheless, turns the attempt at best into a good joke.

To participate in a cumbersome hauling while sweating profoundly equals a ritual purification of sorts in a world that has gone crazy and will not concede to peace at all. It imitates the old Greek figure of a blinded Sisyphus in his futile attempt to roll a boulder uphill that would only roll back down just before reaching the summit--again and again. The Alps will ultimately do the same, and instead of Zeus it will be Gravity who is enforcing the job. Subsequently, it seems slightly bizarre to paint grayish stones gray, scale them, and add numbers to them as if surveying land. As it is delicate to persuade co-hikers to participate in carrying stones manually when anything alike nowadays is done by machines.

"You are doing quite the opposite of what everybody does", was the reaction of a giggling hiker who walked down from the summit. "Everybody schleps stones down, and you are hauling them up."

We give what we have. Our doubts are our passion. Our passion is our purpose. Everything else is the lunacy of art. (Philip Roth)

"Sisyphus on Vacation becomes a communal ritual of giving back to the mountain, but what the mountain never asked for in the first place. The small mound of painted stones stands awkwardly against the towering mountain range as marker of too little and too late. There is something though in the gesture of the self-inflicted trial by the artist and his voluntary collaborators that attests to the power of communal effort and healing. One silent, solitary stone joins another and another until their voices are too loud to ignore. (Aphrodite Désirée Navab)


Atlas is the Greek God and Titan who led the rebellion against Zeus for which he was condemned to bear the heavens upon his shoulders. The story has it that he became the personification of endurance. The short video picks up on the ancient legend and continues a series of trials, tribulations, and enactments by the Austrian sculptor and media artist Richard Jochum. The artist is digging his way through the territory of Greek mythology. Atlas will be performed on the summit of the Austrian Alps in August 2008 and shown at an exhibition at Columbia University in fall 2008. The video shown serves as a first draft for a project in progress. Atlas is the sequel to "Sisyphus on Vacation" which was performed 2006 and shown in 2007.
Formats available: Quicktime (.mov)

IndexFinger #1-3

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IndexFinger #1 is part of a photographic video portrait series on the decisive role of a gesture, namely the index finger, throughout the history of religion, philosophy, and pop-culture. #1 is a psycho-dramatic imitation of Wilhelm Busch's famous 19th century graphic novel, Max and Moritz ( which still plays an essential role in German-speaking popular culture. The depicted part is based on the illustration of the fourth trick. This segment focuses on Lehrer Laempel, the heamadster of the local school who is a feared moral authority. As the story unfolds he gets blown up by the two main characters who are child pranksters, Max and Moritz. The novel itself is a cautionary tale about the destructiveness and the drama resulting from going over the edge of naughtiness. The video portraits were created by Richard Jochum and greatly supported by Aphrodite Désirée Navab. Altogether they constitute a tryptich installation which will be part of the group exhibition, "What's Good Must Not Necessarily Be Evil", at Kunstraum Vaduz, Liechtenstein in April/May 2007.

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IndexFinger #2
is part of a photographic video portrait series on the decisive role of a gesture, namely the index finger, throughout the history of religion, philosophy, and pop-culture. #2 is a psycho-dramatic imitation of Leonarda Da Vinci's famous oil painting, Saint John the Baptist, painted between 1513-1516, housed in the Louvre, Paris. Da Vinci's paintings often depict esoteric, androgynous characters with a slight touch of an almost diabolic darkness. John the Baptist shows the saint pointing towards somebody else, the gesture of a disciple towards his master. The video portraits were created by Richard Jochum and greatly supported by Aphrodite Desiree Navab. Altogether they constitute a tryptich installation which will be part of the group exhibition, "What's Good Must Not Necessarily Be Evil", at Kunstraum Vaduz, Liechtenstein in April/May 2007.

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IndexFinger #3
is part of a photographic video portrait series on the decisive role of a gesture, namely the index finger, throughout the history of religion, philosophy, and pop-culture. #3 is a psycho-dramatic imitation of Raphael's famous fresco "The School of Athens" depicting the major philosophers of ancient Greece. One of its central figures, Plato, serves as a template for the 3rd video portrait, showing him while holding his right arm up and pointing with his index finger towards -- most likely -- the sun as a sympol for the scholastic trinity of the good, the whole, and the truth. Raphael's fresco from 1510-11, housed in the Museum of the Vatican, is frequently a focal point of an inflamed debate among art historians over its historical value, yet it was understood to be one of the central paintings introducing neoplatonism in Italy. The video portraits were created by Richard Jochum and greatly supported by Aphrodite Desiree Navab. Altogether they constitute a tryptich installation which will be part of the group exhibition, "What's Good Must Not Necessarily Be Evil", at Kunstraum Vaduz, Liechtenstein in April/May 2007.

Video Line _ Man/Woman

DVD “Man/Woman” by Richard Jochum. 2006. HDV-Movie, TRT 00:10:02

Man/Woman is a project in which I asked about 30 people which where on their walk through Central Park New York whether they see themselves as a man or a woman. The question came always unprepared - reflected in the diversity of answers. The movie has been produced in collaboration with Voom HD Lab 2006. It is a sociological study with surprising answers, short cuts about people's self-representation, about identity, sex, and gender.

Video Line _ Halt II

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Artist Richard Jochum saws himself off the branch he sits on and falls. Sound: sawing noises, and branch cracking. New York 2007. Continuation of a performance series which started in Vienna 2001.

Video Line _ The Rosary | Sibha as a Communal Sculpture

Installation: The rosary / sibha as a communal sculpture. American University Cairo, New Falaki Building, Egypt. The installation was built in a collective effort on March 8, 2007 and is on temporary view on the roof top of the New Falaki Building.

Visiting Professor of AUC Richard Jochum invites students, faculty, and the public to become part of a communal sculpture: a huge, 40 meter large communal prayer necklace.

"The sculpture of the magnified rosary beads changes the scale and sector of the original. From the private meditation of an individual holding her rosary, the sculpture becomes a public one inviting communal contemplation. By moving it from the private to the public sector, the rosary becomes an object for discussion and debate. At the same time, however, the change in scale from hand-held to larger-than-life transforms the giant rosary into a subject commanding a presence within the same space of its viewers. Its uncanny resemblance to a chain recalls both the positive and negative connotations of the many types of chains in our world: from the chains that are used for prisoners to the chain that links memory itself. A chain that connects one religion to the next in the significance of prayer, could also be a chain that prevents connections to be made. Painted sky-blue and being a site-specific installation on the roof, the rosary beads seem to bring a piece of the sky down to sit on the rooftop for conversation. As both an object and subject of inquiry, the sculpture re-presents the locals relation to the global, inviting discussions of the ways in which we are linked together and implicated, and ways that we could forge better relations."

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Video Line _ Snow II

Snow II is a video performance by Richard Jochum, Austria/New York 2008 and shows how the artist rolling a ball of snow until he gets exhausted. The ball is growing and continues to grow after help arrives. But there is a limit to it; soon the group of helper is bigger than the ball thus making progress impossible. Most of the video has no sound; as if snow pacified the noise; only at the end and when a tractor arrives to assist the human crowd can we hear the humming of a machine.

The short video (TRT 00:02:41) deals with the relationship between human labor and natur, complexity, ritualized trying, and Sisyphus. "One must imagine Sisyphus happy" (A. Camus); even more so in winter wonderland where the stones to be rolled consist of snow and the laboring effort is shared by a group.

With many thanks to: Robert Jochum, Irmgard Wehinger, Magdalena Wehinger, Mathias Wehinger, Fidel Jochum, Irma Jochum, Aphrodite Desiree Navab, Werner Walser, Evi Walser.

Formats available: Quicktime (.mov)

Video Line _ Selfportrait as a Group

Artists have been making self-portraits for centuries, emphasizing the self as an individual entity. My series, “Selfportrait as a Group,” follows this tradition but pays tribute to the others who are involved in the making of the self. Be they friends, family or colleagues they influence any portrait that I may make of my developing self. The yearly picture to be taken changes and grows as do the people who have left a place in my life. Thus it is not a static portrait of an individual person but a moving image of a group that continues to influence each other. This series aims to highlight the self as a communal being who is interconnected. The video portrays the many factors and people who are involved in the making of three isolated photographic moments.

Sayings and Proverbs

Every culture comprises big reservoirs of visionary sayings and proverbs. They often help us to struggle with events that ask us either to change our attitude or to find comfort in handed down knowledge and oral history. The purpose of this project is to collect them by asking 30 people to speak their favorite saying and tell the short story of it: when and how the phrase first entered his/her life. The result will be a series of short video blog entries which are posted on the internet and which are accessible to the exhibition audience. Sharing these gems of personal wisdom and landscapes of human resilience with each other will teach us about each others developmental whereabouts; and it will also bring cultural flavor into an often quite impersonal web.

History of Art

“History of Art”. 2005. Artist book. 7 x 10 inches.
I selected one chapter from Janson’s History of Art. Depending on which direction the reader starts to browse, a different story of art will be revealed. From the front side one would find Janson’s text but with empty spaces instead of proper names, a discourse without artists. From the rear direction the pages contain just the artists’ names, creators without context.

Dog Ears

PaperSeries, 2007-2008. Paper, photographs, digital fine art prints.

This series of work is based on a visual investigation: What happens when we unfold paper that we just crumbled? It will inherit visual memories and stretch-marks of what just happened to it, yet never return to its original two-dimensional state unless re-presented as a photograph. “Paper Works” are photographic prints that capture the story of these marks. Playfully going back and forth between the two- and three- dimensional space the series enacts what could be the difference between photography and sculpture, between history and memory.



Intersections and Interstices @ Macy Gallery · Teachers College, Columbia University · Tuesday, Nov 3 - Friday, Nov 28, 2008

The goal of the exhibition at Macy gallery is to show a variety of works by the Austrian sculptor and media artist Richard Jochum who has been a visiting scholar and artist-in-residence at Teachers College since 2004. The exhibition will display new and recent work in a variety of forms and media including video, photography, installation, and object art. Following its title - “Intersections and Interstices” - mixing these media and having them interact with each other will be a main focus of the show.

Presentated Works

Sisyphos on Vacation: Video projection (Projector 1) and photographic prints, 1 large, 4 small.
Atlas: Video projection, (Projector 2), 2008.
IndexFinger: Video installation with 3 mini-DVD-players behind picture frames, 2007-2008.
Mama: Video installation on a monitor with audio in sync with motion detector, 2008.
Video Screening: “Man/Woman” 10 min, 2006; “Halt II” 1 min, 2007; “The Rosary | Sibha as a Communal Sculpture” 5 min, 2007-2008; “Snow II” 1 min, 2008; “Selfportrait as a Group Picture #5”, 3min, 2005-2006; (on flat screen).
Proverbs and Sayings: Video blog project with about 20-30 short videos on computer screen for audience to browse through and to participate.
History of Art: Artist Book: 2005-2008, presented on a pedestal-shelf.
PaperSeries/DogEars: Series of 16 photographs, printed and matted, 2008 (in production)
Parasite: Painted wood with cardboard letters placed as object trouvé.

Artist Statement

(1) Although trained as a sculptor I see myself as a media artist. That means that my work is not limited to a single material, it includes all sorts of media. In a recent exhibition for instance I was showing 25 new installations: photography, objects, drawings, and video.

(2) I believe in the power of art. I think art continually has to find new images for the time we live in. For the conditions and issues we deal with: existentially, politically, physically, and globally. Searching such images is what I am aiming for.

(3) Going back and forth between knowing and doing feeds what we ultimately call culture. It is important to me to be involved in art practice from both a theoretical and practical stance. I usually get most inspired by artwork that comes from a balance between aesthetic form and conceptual content.

(4) My artwork is often based on some sort of humor. I like it when serious things come with a wink. It makes it easier to deal with, to digest, and to further construct.

(5) I do believe in an intriguing encounter between art producers and the public. To embrace education is a rewarding way to expand our creativity. Audiences can make us learn better, and see things we would not have known of. I understand both, intelligence and creativity to be profoundly social.

Richard Jochum, New York 2005-2007

Artist Biography

Richard Jochum is currently a Visiting Scholar and Artist-in-Residence at Teachers College Columbia University in the Department of Arts and Humanities and the Film and Education Research Academy FERA. He has worked as a media and video artist since the late 1990s and has had numerous international exhibitions and screenings. Richard received his PhD from the University of Vienna (1997) in which he undertook a study of strategies of coping with complexity in contemporary philosophy. His MFA in sculpture and media art is from the University of Applied Arts in Vienna (2001). Richard’s art practice is accompanied by publications and research in the field of cultural theory and media art and he has been awarded several grants and prizes. He is a member of node101, a collaborative community that spreads social media technology worldwide and taught courses in media studies and technology at Columbia University (New York), at the University of Applied Arts (Vienna) and at the University of Applied Sciences (Dornbirn). One of his most recent installation - an oversized prayer necklace as a communal sculpture – is exhibited on the roof top of the American University in Cairo, March – 2007. More information can be found at