Work / Text / CV / Contact
en/ de

The Kurgan-Complex
Missing Limb
Keimzelle des Staates
Strict Machine
Schizo Revolte
Repetition Compulsion
Anlage M
[Read July 1st, 1858.]

The Kurgan-Complex

In this exhibition conceived for the Salzburger Kunstverein, Markus Proschek postulates that the use of prehistoric artifacts for the study and reconstruction of the past often leads to contradictory interpretations. These often then contain opposing ideological positions, from, for example, the “Inevitability of Patriarchy” to the “primordial matriarchy.” 

In archaeology, the artist believes, objects are identified as “witnesses” while also being subjected to the dominant patterns of thinking and taxonomies. In this respect, an accurate reconstruction of complex symbolic systems is doomed to failure, because we would thus only encounter our own stereotypes and ideas within it. 

In one artwork, Markus Proschek arranges Neolithic axes in a complex structure based on the model of pre-historian Oscar Montelius (1843-1921). Corresponding with the Darwinian Zeitgeist, Montelius organized artifacts according to their similarity in structures resembling family trees. However, this genealogical structure can be read in multiple ways. Findings of hammer-axes, for example, were often used as an indicator of Indo-European immigration from the Russian-Ukrainian steppe. The Lithuanian archeologist Marija Gimbutas (1921-1994) coined the term “Kurganization” to describe this process. The negative image of these Kurgan nomads has even reached popular culture, as shown by the fictional character Kurgan, the immortal antagonist in the fantasy film Highlander . Gimbutas also postulates that this immigration represents the beginning of patriarchy in Europe, a thesis that is still controversial today, but nevertheless raises general questions about the continuity and changeability of social structures. 

Another piece that recreates the shape of a Minoan coffin shows images of axes on its surface. The double-axe motif is dealt with here in varying contexts and the shifts in meaning associated with them. The object itself holds artifacts from the comparatively recent past: Johann Jakob Bachofen’s Collected Works, including his influential piece, Das Mutterrecht (1861), in which he collected and interpreted philological sources for a prehistoric, primordial matriarchy.

By bringing together additions to the Minoan frescoes found in Knossos made by the Swiss painter Emile Gilliéron (1851-1925) with images of the original fragments, the artist shows that these reconstructions are “creative” processes in which the boundaries between scientific work and contemporary, aesthetic production cannot be clearly identified. 

In this comparison of originals, reconstructions, and fiction, Proschek also targets the arbitrariness of historical knowledge that inevitably appears through selection and placement of archaeological elements. The exhibition investigates this paradox of the impossibility to establish an objective position in an attempt to give a voice to what the artist calls the “silent witnesses of the past.”