Alma Mater


In her five-channel-video installation Alma Mater, Kaucyila Brooke focuses on the Arkadenhof (central courtyard) of the Vienna University. With its 154 busts of prominent and exclusively male scientists of the last 300 years, it is a striking example of male dominated bourgeois representational architecture. The work is based on footage from 2006, when the Arkadenhof was undergoing renovation. The videos trace and negotiate representational politics from different perspectives, questioning the relationships of knowledge and authority that are put in relief with each other in this ensemble. Two channels show women artists and scholars, appropriating these hallowed halls for their gatherings. The continual and restless movement of the camera documents the architecture and every single head, exposing and visually exploring a text of mastery and authority. A paired video reminds of the pedagogical forms of the ancient Greek philosophical school of Peripatos (which literally means ‘walking about’), showing the women protagonists while walking the colonnades and openly discussing the changing status of women in the structures of education. Another video employs the imagery of the building's reconstruction to sift through the material constituents of the institution’s historically developed identity. Workers pile up stones and load a moving belt that removes rubble from the inside courtyard to the outside street. Pedestrians walk by the street facade of the University building littered with signs of its dismemberment. The installation of video projections and monitors is combined with hand drawn chalk inscriptions on floor and walls, in which Brooke diagrams, labels and comments on the architecture's pedagogical structures.