Courtesy Christine Pichler
Renate Bertlmann’s work flows from a single point of genesis: amo ergo sum (I love, therefore I am). Born in Vienna in 1943, Renate’s work was part of the 1970’s feminist avant garde that explored topics such as patriarchal violence and a feminine visual language in tandem to second wave feminist thought. Departing from the typical feminst avant garde response, Renate’s work deconstructs the patriarchy and the “phallocracy” using humour: “I thought it was more directional and also more subversive to look ironically and in a cartoonish manner – akin to a guided laser – at the phallus in order to disarm it”, she shared in a 2015 Tate interview.
Renate ‘s ironic laser also pierces the topic of the gender binary, which Bertlmann explores through the use of fetishistic textures and sexual paraphernalia. In Gentle Touches (1974), she photographs inflated condoms, evoking intimacy, sexuality, and tenderness, a particular focus of her work.
Renate has received many accolades for her boundary-pushing take on the feminist avant garde, including the Theodor Körner award (1978), the Z-Promotional Award (1980) and the Promotional Award of the City of Vienna (1989). In 2017, she was awarded the Grand Austrian State Prize, and most recently exhibited her work Discordo Ergo Sum at the 2019 Venice Biennale.
by Sophie Coldicott