Face Farces - Body Poses

Films made while he worked inspired Arnulf Rainer to create an independent group of artworks that captured the nervous tension and transformation of his face when he was drawing intently.

“When I’m drawing, I feel excited. I talk to myself, pull faces, and swear at people. I am constantly moving and transforming my body, character and person. It was these side effects of artistry that I wanted to lend a life of their own.” – Arnulf Rainer, Face Farces, 1971

He made his first self-portraits in postcard size in 1968, pulling faces in an automatic photo booth at Vienna’s Westbahnhof railway station. His expressions in these photographs, however, did not correspond to the tension and emotion that he aimed to convey. Thus Rainer drew over these photographs in order to lend them greater emphasis. Initially he showed some restraint, setting only certain accents that were important to him. The more intensely he worked on his photographs and the more absorbed he became in talking to himself – entering into dialogues with himself – the more his image was transformed. Rainer enhanced himself. He assumed facial expressions and theatrical poses for the photographs. In a second step, he used graphic and painterly means to intensify the expression in these images. Painting as self-reproduction and imaginary self-creation.

The work phases were relatively short. Once Rainer had stimulated his mirror image all the way to extroverted self-communication, the pictures were taken, mostly by a trusted photographer. The next step was to make a selection from the hundreds of moments captured in quick succession in these photographs. Weeks later, after a cooling-off period, a second selection took place and Rainer, annoyed by the inability of photography to capture his ecstatic moments, made his first corrections.

The principle of superimposition through double imagery was expanded by Rainer’s overlapping of media and of two forms of expression. He merged the performing arts with the visual arts, and photography with painting. The language of the face – its self-expression – was suddenly understood as art, and thus the boundaries between art and life were broken down.

(Text: Christa Armann)