Monika Pichler  

Silk prints

By Paolo Bianchi

Sitting on the back of an elephant and observing poor, wild India with pitying amusement as a discerning white man exemplifies the wonderful amazement of a European. Those who wish to not only see, but also comprehend will not be able to avoid a deeper study of foreign cultures. The more one knows, the more one sees. Those who know, are more perceptive.

It is often so that one must travel far from one's own doorway to learn more about oneself: the wide world as a school of life. When one travels, the passive biography starts to become unbounded to take on an active form as a mental geography. In geo-graphy the bio-graphy returns to itself as another, as a guest. Contemplation is preceded by leaving the narrow constraints of a home that is not infrequently more uncanny than homely. Yet one question remains unanswered here: in which direction do you turn to pray in an airplane?

It is February 14, 1997. The artist Monika Pichler, aged 36, sits in the train traveling from Linz to Vienna making notes: "There was a certain Ida Pfeiffer from Vienna, who started traveling at the age of 45, after fulfilling her conventional motherly obligations, and traveled throughout the world around 1845. In 1842 she traveled to Palestine and Egypt, in 1845 to Scandinavia and Iceland, from 1846 to 1848 she traveled through Brazil, Chile, Tahiti, China, East India, Persia, Asia Minor and Greece; from 1851 to 1855 she undertook a second trip around the world, traveling by ship to Madagascar in 1856, where she was arrested and expelled from the country. She died in 1858 in Vienna of the aftereffects of the strain of this last journey. ... I would like to awaken memories of Ida Pfeiffer." No sooner said than done. "Ida's Traveling Carpet" by Monika Pichler is based on a multiple allusion: perhaps Ida Pfeiffer brought carpets back with her from her journeys; in any case, the traveling carpet conveys something that is both homely and nomadic at the same time. "Because it is moveable," the artist notes. "A floor that you can take with you, and aside from that, the Orient was much in fashion in the Biedermeier era, including the Oriental carpet."

Low instead of high is Pichler's motto, or in other words: nomadism rather than Better Homes & Gardens. Off to the camels, instead of traveling before the flickering firelight on television. Flow instead of fly. Staying in flow makes Pichler the habitual traveler, the eternal wanderer, who is nowhere at home except in motion. Perfect holidays are boring. The unforeseen, though, is what remains vibrantly in memory. It is often more exciting to travel reading than to submit to the movement of travel itself. As a reader, Pichler is a nomad with her eyes. Since the Vatican decreed in 1985 that the papal blessing via television screen loses none of its effect, there is no longer any reason to travel to Rome.

When the artist is traveling, it is not only with the self-image of her identity. She is also on the road aesthetically - not as a new authority, but as a nomadic, unsteadily wandering and anti-narrative energy. For those who travel aesthetically, the question arises as to an oppositional strategy, a vision to counter tourist imperialism.

To counter the tyranny of the masses, the traveling aesthete counts on the subversion of what is his own, even if that does not spare him from long lines at the check-in counter at departure time. What matters to him in the course of his passage is an ethically aesthetic position in a global culture, his intercultural standpoint in a new cosmopolitan space, his image in the world. Traveling, including Pichler's imaginary travels, comes from the traveler's pleasure in the world.

March 16, 1997: on the train EC 660 "Joseph Moor" from Vienna to Linz, Monika Pichler uses the time to make notes. "I will read Ida Pfeiffer's travel journals and start right away with the first concrete screenprints - I will concentrate on the things that she brough back or could have brought back with her. From her journey to the Holy Land, that might have been a carpet." The artist thinks about what she has read: "Travel journals written by women are also primarily read by women, because then they don't need to leave their own hearth."

The reason for all the misfortune of this world is that man cannot stay quietly in one room, maintained Blaise Pascal, Frenchman of the 17th century, who invented the hypodermic syringe and the calculator and died in 1662 at the age of only 39. Instead of lying motionless in his room like a cocooned insect waiting for a new season to start, the human being is a tempo-setter and a restless being: yet his journey around the world in 80 days leads into a void. For even the most remote corners of the world have already been traversed. The true garden of Eden is the wasteland. It would be more appropriate to quote the title of a book by Julio Cortàzar, a "Journey Around the Day in 80 Worlds". Monika Pichler's carpets are these worlds - they are carpets of life.

Paolo Bianchi, cultural writer, Baden (Switzerland)
(translated from: Monika Pichler, Siebdrucke, Ausstellungskatalog Galerie im Traklhaus, 68. Ausstellung im Förderprogramm des Landes Salzburg, 1998)