Making the invisible visible

Lorena Moreno Vera and Ala Glasner outline the concepts and principles that guide the curator’s work on Tangente’s Fine Arts programme.
Art is a language that tells alternative stories about our time. A language that transfers matters-of-fact to new contexts, that interrupts and upends.
Joanna Warsza, Curator Fine Arts

Anyone who meets her even for just five minutes or takes a cursory glance at her resumé will quickly understand why Joanna Warsza is the perfect person for the job: the curator, who grew up in Poland, has been in charge of the Fine Arts programme at Tangente St. Pölten since October 2022.


With her educational background as a theatre scholar, her expertise in gender studies and performance, she often takes a dramaturgical approach to making exhibitions. Her curatorial practice focuses on how art can have a political and social impact. At the same time, she finds that art also has the capacity to convey painful and dark experiences in a poetic way. As a curator, her responsibility is to carefully formulate a narrative thread and delicately interweave the different layers and the people involved in it. This might pave the way for a memory culture that approaches its themes, content, and protagonists with integrity, kindness, and sensitivity.

  • Joanna Warsza © Jürgen Völkl

Curator – for Joanna Warsza, that means being a guest and host at the same time. In her role as a welcoming host in a new city, she is keen to open the doors to everyone and to anchor new artistic projects in St. Pölten. Warsza invites everyone to stop by, say “hello,” and to get in touch with her and her team – that is assistant curator Lorena Moreno Vera and production manager Ala Glasner, the author of these lines. Together, they bring a wealth of different experiences to the table, from Warsaw, Berlin, Mexico City, São Paulo, and Vienna, and look forward to being present in St. Pölten as temporary residents, to have an effect and be affected.


Such a variety of departure points has already proven to be fruitful in the preparations for the Art Parcours. There are so many ways to experience a city and be swept away by its colourful facets! The results of this exploratory process will be translated into tangible projects over the course of 2024. Commissioned and loaned works will take centre stage and be embedded in a curatorial framework that creates tangents with the city of St. Pölten. Step by step, the hints and traces obtained from artists, but also from all members of the Tangente St. Pölten team, will be evaluated. The “New Friendships” format has been set up and elaborated collectively, already gathering stories that often reveal fascinating subtleties between the lines. All of this work is rooted in an intensive process of traversing, researching, and perceiving the city. The intention is to delve deeper into the city and the stories its inhabitants have to tell – in order to find the best way to present it to visitors.

  • © Jürgen Völkl
  • © Jürgen Völkl

With a sophisticated choreography of architectural spaces, buildings, and public places, artworks of various kinds – from film and sculpture to performance and cross-genre collaborations – will provoke reflection and discussion. Warsza aims to create an environment and atmosphere in which the most complex ideas of our time can unfold in a context-sensitive and interdisciplinary fashion.


Naturally, fine arts represent but one part of the greater project. Theatre, music, and literature play other leading roles at Tangente. After all, that’s what this festival is all about: a melange of different artistic disciplines that flow into each other while also leaving room for one another. And for the public, too. On different weekends, visitors can enjoy visual artworks out in the city and in the evening attend a premiere of one of the Tangente productions. No matter where you come from, an abundance of inspiration awaits.


For Joanna Warsza, an exhibition can be many things, even a walk. The Tangente Art Parcours – whether you explore it by bike, on foot, or perhaps even in a kayak – has lots in store for you. As environmental artist Agnes Denes puts it, the aim is to make the invisible visible, to communicate the unspoken, and not to accept beforehand what society takes for granted.

Der Kunstparcours wird dem Fluss folgen.
Joanna Warsza

Most cities were built along rivers. Rivers are the spine, lungs, legs, and head of many urban settlements. They cut through invisible and visible walls and fences. The Art Parcours will follow the Traisen and its many canals from south to north in a manner that reveals the most diverse – heterogeneous and contradictory – faces of St. Pölten. Johanna Warsza: “We are in the research phase, playing hide-and-seek, searching for the obvious and the unexpected. Artists are our fellow travellers in this process. They come from near and far, some interested in hydrofeminism, some in the depletion of the planet’s resources, others in non-human forms of memory.”


For Joanna Warsza, the fact that many works in the Art Parcours will be created or adapted specifically for the respective location is both important and only logical. Warsza, who was born in Poland and now lives in Berlin, says with a smile: “Every place, whether it is inhabited by 100,000 people or 100 people, is its own planet. It’s essential to learn how it spins, what the temperature’s like, its atmosphere and distinguishing features. How does it glow?”


And what does memory smell like, actually? What is the sound of infrastructure? For the Art Parcours in St. Pölten, Warsza is developing a large-scale project that, like the overall Tangente festival, revolves around three main themes: ecology, democracy, and memory and their multifaceted tangents with the Traisen river and the city. The international and Austrian artists participating in the Art Parcours constitute a diversity of voices that will not only attune themselves to the context of the site but also “borrow and border each other’s stories,” as political scientist Achille Mbembe sums it up perfectly: “stand for each other, and be neighbors.”

Following her most recent achievements as co-curator of the Polish Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022, Joanna Warsza is currently busy preparing for the fourth edition of the Autostrada Biennale in Kosovo in early summer 2023 parallel to her work in St. Pölten. She gets around a lot. Her curatorial concept is inspired by the numerous conversations she has had with artists in the past years. The questions that kept arising in these conversations seem to capture a topical moment in history. New technologies, the intensification of social conflicts, the outbreak of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, not to mention climate change remind us every day: we are neither invulnerable nor self-sufficient. We need to face the challenges of alternative experimental modes of coexistence.


However, Joanna Warsza is not ready to reveal which artists have already been invited to contribute to the Art Parcours just yet. But this much can be said: Tangente will touch us all!

    fine arts exhibition

    With Edgar Calel, Cecylia Malik, Lisa Tan, Filip van Dingenen and Hélène Meyer in conversation with the curators Joanna Warsza and Lorena Moreno Vera

    Wien Kunstraum Niederösterreich