Statement #22 | Elke Auer & Daniel Hafner – Modern People

Performance, June 20, 2023, 7 pm

One can describe Elke Auer and Daniel Hafner’s performance Modern People as algorithmic improvisation: a form of improvisation in which body movements, glances and gestures, and the interaction with the material setting are performed in real time but, at the same time, governed by an algorithm—a system of rules and instructions—conceived by the artists. “The constant evaluation of the process during the process is both an intrinsic part and the driving force thereof,” writes philosopher Alessandro Bertinetto on the quirk of improvising when dealing with unforeseen situations and with reference to the field of artistic research: “Improvisers are at once actors and witnesses to their own acts.”* The departure point for Modern People is a pursuit of the discarded, disposed, and lost, as well as the encounter with objects that bear traits of these moments of “waste.” In this case, the witnesses are not only the two improvisers themselves but also the audience who can engage in a sensual-playful process.

Be it garbage intentionally or unintentionally left on the roadside, construction debris, bones of dead animals, odd-shaped stones, branches, or seeds: everyday fragments, things that speak of human, animal, or plant existence, serve Auer and Hafner as objects for improvisation. As the performance evolves at Kunstraum Lakeside, found objects accumulate; they are further processed and evaluated live on site, utilized by the artists to reflect on the current state of our world through the characteristics and potentials of its available resources. The modes of interaction with the objects range from elementary activities and everyday routines to experimental learning, the development of social structures, language, or dance movements. “The intention of the project is not to propose certain utopian models,” states the artist duo about Modern People, “rather, it is an attempt to devise a setup that encompasses plural realms of life and questions about the future but does not derive its answers from conventional explanatory techniques.” The actions performed by Auer and Hafner before the audience alternate at irregular intervals. Even if they do not follow any comprehensible logic, they seem systematic. The cycle of action and reaction aims to access a space, a space of thought, in which learned values, behavioral patterns, and the associated norms can be called into question.

* Alessandro Bertinetto, “Improvisieren,” in Künstlerische Forschung. Ein Handbuch, eds. Jens Badura et al. (Zürich and Berlin: Diaphanes, 2015), 147–150, here: 148. Translated for this publication.

Elke Auer (b. 1980 in Austria) lives and works in Vienna.
Daniel Hafner (b. 1979 in Austria) lives and works in Vienna.


Elke Auer & Daniel Hafner, Modern People, 2014/2023