Franz Kapfer utilizes extremely simple means in his performances, videos and photo installations. In their simplicity these means correspond with the empty gestures, rituals, symbols and monuments which Kapfer takes up, in order to transform them, and with them, himself. Such an artistic program has tradition in that it links with the history of body art of the 1970’s, though one must differentiate here. Kapfer’s indifference towards the use of the body as a stylus –as a writing utensil (reminds of Bruce Naumann) is characteristic.
Yet the body – his body – does not appear as a surface (reminds of the sado-masochistic contributions of the actionists).
Kapfer works with dynamic pose, masking or staging his own appearance. Precisely this aesthetic decision moves him remarkably close to the practices of feminist body art, which not only revised the sexes against a wall of resistance, but also re-invented social mythology.
Kapfer takes up this attitude and passes it on, which not only lends his art an astonishingly independent note, but at the same time, and rather subtly, political weight. The bulk of heterosexual men know very well that “manliness” is a masquerade. Yet they cannot embody, let alone live, this knowledge.
The monument of manliness is not the only matter that releases Kapfer’s work from its frozen state. The artists’ prop room also includes national and catholic-Christian symbols and/or rituals. All these monoliths are pushed to re-performance, are updated, whereby Kapfer’s re-performance differs from the original. (Nobody will claim that the staging of the language of political or church representation is strange). The difference between Kapfer’s performance and the representation of the powers that be lies in the direction of the motion, because power representations are still images by character, they seek to freeze time and serve an aesthetic of death. Kapfer looks for a direct, physical entrance to the utility value of these attributes. Because their utility value is zero, a more or less grotesque situation develops. The production of the artist appears grotesque at first sight.
A second look reveals that the actual and truly grotesque part lies in the requirement for validity of any attributes of power.
The Foro Italico in Rome, Mussolini’s attempt to establish a link to a history felt to be glorious, is the setting and resource for Kapfer’s BIG GYM – of Roman summers in the Foro Italico “.
The work consists of two elements: a video documentation of the place and its current use”