Leopold Museum contribution to MQ Summer of Sounds

From the 31st of July, the Leopold Museum is presenting its main contribution to the MQ special event series “Summer of Sounds” – Arnulf Rödler’s haunting acoustic-visual installation “THEY – WHO ACCEPT ALL THAT IS OFFERED” which addresses the difficulty of separating fact from speculation.

Rödler’s ink drawings: pessimism in every detail

In their wealth of detail, Arnulf Rödler’s often large-scale ink drawings are reminiscent of etchings more commonly encountered in scientific textbooks. Their themes touch upon the necrotic and what has already been ruined. The artist’s works are inspired by the exhibition’s theme, which is one of pessimism and a rejection of any and all belief in progress,and impress with theirimaginative narratives and artistic precision.

Sound installation as connection to “Summer of Sounds”

Aside from the visual part of the exhibition, acoustic stimuli also play a significant role. Rödler composed a “sound installation” specifically for the project, which provides a tangible connection to the MuseumsQuartier’s “Summer of Sounds”.

Visualizing a biography

Visualizing the biography of Baron Nikolai Roman Maximilian von Ungern-Sternberg (1886-1921) forms the basis of the project “THEY”.While the installation peripherally traces the Baron’s life, its real aim is to emphasize the “speculative” elements of his biography. It is meant to be neither a historical treatise nor a political assessment.

Inviting visitors to challenge assumptions

The title “THEY” refers to the authors and distributors of a copied and/or accepted opinion. The subtitle “who accept all that is offered” is an invitation to approach these assumptions with skepticism.

“THEY”: the evolution of a title

Rödler’s series of graphic works “THEY” originally had no title. At the time of the artworks’ creation, the artist was studying the unsettling biography of a highly controversial figure – Nikolai Roman Maximilian von Ungern-Sternberg, the “Bloody White Baron”.

Separating facts from speculation

Rödler: “Ungern’s biography is based largely upon speculation. This unsettling uncertainty led me to investigate the separation of “facts” from “speculation”. In the end, I arrived at the conclusion that no matter how much they tried to gain “facts”, the findings of some biographers were still based on the glorification or demonization of oral lore.

Presentation of the series of graphic works in a prismatic object

Rödler’s working method is based on a serial production of graphic works that address a central theme and are adapted and positioned to fit the space they are to be presented in. Housing the 20 graphic works is a white, approximately 10-meter-long prismatic object that is illuminated from within.

Nikolai Roman Maximilian von Ungern-Sternberg: a Baltic German in service of the Czar

Hailing from an old Baltic German aristocratic family, Sternberg (Graz 1886 – 1921 Novonikolayevsk) attended the naval academy in Saint Petersburg, but was expelled from the academy for his lack of discipline. He voluntarily joined the Russian army and entered into service of the Czar. He participated in the Russo-Japanese War (1904/05) as a common soldier. Following his training as a cavalry man, he joined the Cossack troops. In 1913 he asked to be dismissed and traveled to Mongolia, where he joined the consulate’s troops as an extraordinary captain.

World War I and civil war

During World War I, Ungern served in East Prussia, fought in Poland, Galicia and the Caucasus and was wounded five times. During these years, he again drew attention to himself for lacking discipline. During the civil war, which had broken out following the Russian Revolution in 1917, he and General Grigory Mikhaylovich Semyonov, the leader of the White Army loyal to the Czar, traveled eastwards in search of volunteers. In 1918 they occupied areas on the Russian-Chinese border and cooperated with the Mongolian Buryats. Ungern was appointed Major General and became increasingly powerful. His methods became more and more brutal and he especially targeted Jews, who he blamed for the October Revolution and the forced abdication of the Czar.

Ungern as ruler of the Mongolians

As the situation escalated for the White Army, Ungern welcomed the fact that the Mongolian Khan asked him for help. While Mongolia had broken away from China around 10 years previously, it had been reoccupied by Chinese troops in 1919. Following costly battles, Mongolia was proclaimed a monarchy in 1921 and Ungern-Sternberg was made its sole ruler. He soon antagonized his people, however, and was handed over to the Red Army on the 21st of August 1921. He was sentenced to death by a military tribunal and was shot in Novonikolayevsk (present-day Novosibirsk).

Arnulf Rödler (visual artist)

Arnulf Rödler was born in 1976 in Vienna. Rödler trained at the Vienna College of Graphic Design, which explains a certain affinity of his works with comics. He went on to study conceptual art in the master class of Renée Green at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. The artist works with paper and ink merely ostensibly, for his oeuvre is not in fact reduced to the medium of drawing.Rödler works as an illustrator and freelance artist in Vienna. He is widely known for designing the programs for the Cafe Leopold. Apart from solo exhibitions, he has participated in numerous group exhibitions in Austria and abroad, most recently: “Narrationen”, Kunsthaus, Vienna (2013); “A house for everyone”, Tokyo Ito Museum Imabari (2012). His works have featured in numerous publications and exhibition catalogues (Edition Kahlschlag; Schwarzer Turm Verlag, Hamburg).

Azlf RÖ (the musician Rödler)

Rödler works not only as a visual artist but also as a musician. He gathered important experiences as a guest student at the departmentof electro-acoustic musicat the Vienna University of Music and Performing Arts, as well as through participating for four years in the event “electro-acoustic night” (ELAK Gala). The main emphases of his performances as a vocalist under the pseudonym“Azlf Rö” are on Noise, Electroacoustic music and experimental improvisation. In his sonorous and polyphonic pieces, he uses his voice, which is alienated through spectrally modifying and distorting effects units, in order to create a detailed intonation that is casually presented.

The exhibition

“THEY – WHO ACCEPT ALL THAT IS OFFERED” is shown from Thursday, 31st July to Thursday, 21st August 2014 in the lounge, level 1 of the Leopold Museum. Opening hours July/August: Mo-Wed and Fri-Sun, 10 am – 6 pm, Thurs, 10 am – 9 pm

The exhibition project is supported by: Leopold Museum, Cafe Leopold,, Papertown


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