Was ist Kunst, IRWIN?

09. September 2023 - 28. January 2024 Dortmunder U, Level 3


When the group Rrose Irwin Sélavy was founded in Yugoslavia in 1983, its members Dušan Mandič (*1954, Ljubljana), Miran Mohar (*1958, Novo Mesto), Andrej Savski (*1961, Ljubljana), Roman Uranjek (*1961, Trbovlje - †2022, Ljubljana) and Borut Vogelnik
(*1959, Kranj) were between twenty-two and twenty-nine years old. They came from Ljubljana’s punk and graffiti scene. Together with the music group Laibach, the Scipion Nasice  Sisters Theatre, and the design department  New Collectivism (Novi kolektivizem; NK), IRWIN is one of the main groups forming the artists’ collective Neue Slowenische Kunst (New Slovenian Art; NSK), founded in 1984.

Was ist Kunst, IRWIN? (curators: Inke Arns and Thibaut de Ruyter) focuses on the Slovenian artist collective IRWIN, which is celebrating its fortieth anniversary in 2023. Since 1983, IRWIN has been grappling with the art history of Eastern Europe, specifically the ambivalent legacy of the historical avant-garde and its totalitarian successors – in other words, the dialectic of avant-garde and totalitarianism. Since the 1990s, the group has concentrated on a critical, iconoclastic examination of the art history of “Western modernism”. They playfully and cryptically juxtapose this with the “retro avant-garde” of an “Eastern modernism”. In the 2000s, NSK State in Time becomes relevant: a state without territory that nonetheless issues passports as a “confirmation of temporal space”. On the level 3 of the Dortmunder U, posters advertise travel to this fictional state.

The exhibition consists of two large chapters. The first exhibition chapter is concerned with black humour which is constantly present in the works of IRWIN. The second chapter deals with questions of the state – and how IRWIN, with that, comments on current topics such as migration. In the vertical space on level U4, IRWIN’s new production Was ist Kunst, Bernd und Hilla Becher? is presented in the window of the Museum Ostwall. The new production was created using the nine-part series Fördertürme (1973– 1989) by Bernd and Hilla Becher (from the MO collection).

On occasion of the exhibition, a new HMKV magazine (2023/2) will be published in October with Verlag Kettler. In addition to new essays by Inke Arns and Thibaut de Ruyter and an extensive photo documentation of the exhibition it will also contain a “source book” (texts: Inke Arns, Lara Both) that systematically breaks down the image sources of IRWIN’s works and situates them in their (art-)historical context.


We thank Gregor Podnar (Vienna) for his support.

Credit visual: IRWIN in New York, 1991, Photo: Leslie Fratkin | Design: e o t . Berlin

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