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Cathrin Pichler Archiv
für Kunst und Wissenschaften

Cathrin Pichler (1946-2012)

Photo: Cora Pongracz, Cathrin Pichler © Photo Collection OstLicht

As a curator, writer and visionary, and not exclusively as a public person, Cathrin Pichler has made her mark over decades in dialogs, seminars, conferences, and conversations. They exhibit a diversity of speech, the essence of which—spoken or unspoken—was to find out what it means to take a stand. The surprising thing about Cathrin Pichler was that, despite having been designated the Grande Dame of the art world fairly early on and despite the standards she set herself to be a critical intellectual, her work and her character never lost their sensibility. She always elevated emotional complexity to the highest level and lived it wholeheartedly. If one were to equate emotion with movement or animation and lack of emotion with motionlessness, one thing becomes clear: Cathrin Pichler was never motionless. Her life consisted of reading, traveling, watching, thinking, and, first and foremost, acting. Virtually nothing escaped her intellectual alertness. Her attention was limitless, both in terms of listening and devotion. Her greatest asset was the humanity with which she celebrated art. And it was art—fragile, questionable, inquisitive in character—to which she was completely devoted. Always interested in risk-takers and border-crossers, partly because she was one of them, she writes about the potential of the threshold: “The threshold is something imprecise and ambiguous.” Something like a transition, a moment of change, a kind of gap in a movement, an intake of breath between two conditions. Cathrin Pichler ascribes the impossibility of her oppositional essence to inscribe itself entirely in a regime of reason to the arts and to the modern soul: “Art has a strange relationship to the soul, not only through the imagination, which is arguably an attribute of both, but, fundamentally and more prominently, through a peculiar exterritoriality that is characteristic of both. Neither art nor its patron, the soul, can be conclusively defined […], the soul has no determined location, it is a no man’s land, an intermediate realm that can only be perceived when it appears at a different location.” For Cathrin Pichler, therefore, the figure of the angel serves as a necessary foil for transgressing and breaking out of the constrictions of reality, and she concludes that “angels—fallen from heaven— appear as connotations of a poetry of transgression; as a second sight. They announce the contingency of modern humans and accompany their odysseys through life.” Cathrin Pichler uses angels to describe the Other, the foreign and ominous within humans themselves: “Even in its diminutive form, little angel, the figure of the angel signals the transgression; the angel is the alienated, nonconformist, ostracized, rebellious, anarchistic Other […], he is possibility, he even inspires a sense of what is possible, the flights of fancy, the imagination, and he feeds the desire for knowledge.”

Cathrin Pichler was an indefatigable representative and performer of this “modern angel,” a “crystallization of the humanly possible beyond the dictates of rationality,” creator, performer, and representative, tireless translator of aesthetic, philosophical, and political possibilities