Lisl Ponger — welcome

Opening, February 6, 2024, 6 pm
Exhibition, February 7 – March 29, 2024

“Viewing habits are deeply anchored in us historically, and certain objects and images trigger certain stereotypes,” says Lisl Ponger, who has been dealing for decades with (re)presentations of the foreign and the familiar in her films, photographs, and exhibitions. Her artistic practice is centered around the construction of cultural identity at the interface between art, everyday culture, and ethnology. In the 1990s, which were dominated in Austria by the xenophobic rhetoric of the national Freedom Party (FPÖ), she created imagery of migrants and their communities in Vienna in her large-scale photographic projects to counter the prevailing stereotypical reporting of the mass media.

A decade later, Lisl Ponger critically reflected on her own practice in the film Phantom Foreign Vienna (2004). Although she was a guest at more than 70 communities, the film does not deal with “the others” or grant “the others their say in a gesture often predetermined by hierarchies (giving someone a voice or a space, for example, is already a gesture that entails a hierarchy).” Rather, as Dietmar Schwärzler puts it, the film “reveals Ponger’s own working methods, ordering principles, montage, and viewing patterns.”*

Ponger’s preoccupation with ethnographic museums, which were founded to classify objects of colonial collection frenzies and to spatialize notions of “the others,” led her to realize the Museum of Foreign and Familiar Cultures (MuKul) in 2014. This museum applies the ethnological perspective to the milieu she and probably large parts of her audience belong to: the so-called “middle class,” whose future is anything but certain. The artist turns the museum into a mirror of sorts in which power relations can be scrutinized. At Kunstraum Lakeside, Lisl Ponger will present a new project about Austria’s “welcome culture.”

* Dietmar Schwärzler, “Geschichten einer Suchenden,” Ray Filmmagazin 2 (2014),
Translated for this publication.

Lisl Ponger (b. 1947), lives and works in Vienna.


Lisl Ponger, Welcome, 2023
Lisl Ponger, Welcome, 2023