WHAT IF – the making of a character 2020


WHAT IF is an identity remake experiment, playing with the movement from reality, as we know it, to fiction, as we would have liked it. 

This is the first major show devoted to the drawing and painting work of the unknown painter Ariella Shteinberg (1948 – 2010). The show charts work from her enigmatic career attempting to clear the mystery around the big void in her mid-career oeuvre, as researchers are not decided, who she really was..” 

Arielle Shteinberg 1978

Shteinberg’s story, her work and character are re-visited in WHAT IF first and foremost in order to give Shteinberg and her work visibility and respect. But the true story must be therefore twisted and stretched in order to fit a typical ideal success story. While doing so several relevant topics inevitably surface up; what does it take to be a successful artist? Is it enough to create or must the artist be also acknowledged as such? Who decides which artists receive acknowledgment and attention? What’s the art consumer’s role in the game, what prejudgments manipulate the art consumer’s viewing experiences?

Photograph from video (Camera: Lisbeth Kovačič)

But the performance WHAT IF has a very precarious and murky family layer to it as well. As the painter Shteinberg is the mother of the performer Stainberg .. the performance becomes an epigenetic experiment on leftover memory files, i.e. how far ‘fake news’ change reality..?..

Concept & performance: Anat Stainberg // Text development: Yosi Wanunu // Camera: Lisbeth Kovačič // Editing: Michael Strohmann // Music: Martin Siewert // Make up: Marietta Dang // Costume: Yasmina Haddad // Acting coach: Markus Zett

WHAT IF premiered on October 2020 at the Medienwerkstatt Wien as a part ofthe exhibition Family Affairs;an ‘experimental arrangement’ on the subject of artistic heritage.