Synonymous with the art of travel since 1854, Louis Vuitton Editions continues to add titles to the “Fashion Eye” collection. Each book evokes a city, a region, or a country, seen through the eyes of a photographer. Stefanie Moshammer’s Vienna plays with the grandeur of the city, exhaustively exploring its name and clichés, and narrates the adventure of an edition across the pages.
The last time I visited Vienna, it was deadly boring. Despite that, I held the first fleeting memory of my little life. The reverse of a Proust moment, which embeds itself within until it becomes a melancholy lullaby. Vienna was, as far as possible, my very first memory, a frozen instant around a warm stove in a furniture-less apartment, with distant walls, vibrant and icy air. It was the hope of warmth from the height of my two and a half years, and then another fleeting moment, the white gardens of Schönbrunn Palace under snow.
Vienna was sixteen years later on a Sunday evening in passing, two friends infatuated with love affairs, and the luck of a cellar where only blond heads bobbed. They were beautiful memories, the kind that compels you, without really knowing why, to say, yes, Vienna is still something. Then, like all stagnant memories, pushed too far into fantasy, the personal myth inflated, inflated, inflated, and bursting.
It was a few years later, an unequivocal disappointment. Days of boredom until the end, the city weighed down by winter. Empty sidewalks without the excitement of a Saturday epiphany. Not a bar, no drunkenness, and the sad faces of bankers entangled chasing after their comfort. The debacle. My world shattered, the memories split in two. Childhood and adolescence in smoke.
Immediately comes the time when this disappointment anchored so bitterly that stereotypes are sought, amplified because they serve a small personal bad faith that plays the role of humor, if not a survival manual. We were bored. It was written. And to make the days pass faster, we had to laugh. Mock a little, superior like our country knows so well. We only saw the pusillanimous and surly waiters, the ill-tempered faces, the cold airport food in every café, and in hushed tones and then in bold phrases, we confidently launched our truths.
And then Vienna returned thru the eyes of Stefanie Moshammer. The Austrian photographer lived most of her life there. She has a sharper, more mocking gaze on the city than that of a spurned lover (tourist would work just as well). Her book forms a rather unique set in the “Fashion Eye” collection, a mixture of personal archives, screenshots, tourist shots, partial details, digital memories, which primarily present a lighthearted and intimate portrait of Vienna.
Her Vienna is above all an assembly. It’s even a stack of Vienna. Vienna everywhere! The word in capital letters. On tourist caps, in search engines. On coats of arms and pendants for strong arms. In the carnivorous flow of stories. The city imposes its mythology or exhausts it through the repetition of its name. We know it with Hollywood, with Paris, with Saint-Tropez emblazoned on sweatshirts, cities turned into brands that, with a magical word, refer to imaginations washed to the bone.
These very imaginations are also identified, frozen, and gently mocked by the photographer. Vienna shows itself as the image of majestic postcards, palaces, and museums of the grand empire. It’s still those big loaves with desperately white crumbs and those huge wiener schnitzels and chubby sausages that automatically fill the tables of Viennese cafes. Cafes that are also ridiculed by Stefanie Moshammer, in a comical quest for vitriolic comments about the most touristy establishments in the city—a comforting activity for humanity, I recommend it to you.
But gently mocking the stereotypes of her city does not make up the entire book. Stefanie Moshammer also distills a more intimate vision of her daily life. She sometimes firmly anchors modest characters at the corner of a street, in front of a metro entrance. She also freezes blurs, which punctuate this assembly with a more vibrant and sentimental color. She finally turns to small details, on suspended hands, on a hairy chest, which simply look at each other like moments in her life.
And this Vienna oscillates brilliantly between an amused look at this sum of representations and imaginaries that make it a tourist destination, and the artist’s own mental representation made up of fragile moments, untranslatable little preferences that make up her personal world. This sum of extraordinary nothings, which literature has sometimes called fleeting poetry or infraordinary.
In this oscillation between two movements, Vienna also tells how a book is made. It plays out there too. Another trick. The correspondence with Patrick Remy reappears in several screenshots, the latter repeatedly asking her for views of the city. And this request becomes a game, never really satisfied, highlighting the artist’s search, exchanges with the publisher, the need to break out of a mold, to play with the rules. Vienna indeed forms a world for Stefanie Moshammer. That of a contemporary thought that could be defined as follows: traversed by a multitude.
Stefanie Moshammer – Vienna
Louis Vuitton Editions, 2023
In the “Fashion Eye” Collection
23.5 x 30.5 cm, 116 pages
Director of Collection: Axelle Thomas
Edited by Patrick Remy
Available in good bookshops and online.