Elena Mildner: Live Drive

Tenya Mastoras
Jun 3, 2016 2:27PM
Labyrinth, 2013
Odon Wagner Contemporary

By Mag. Angelika Romauch
- translated from the German by Rafael Wagner

For Elena Mildner, art is the release of creative energy, figuratively put in motion in a spatial, temporal and cultural dimension. Art does not take place in the Salon where it is readily reduced to its aesthetic function. Revolutionary changes originate in artistic subcultures where new movements in art are radically expressed. It is in the street culture of rappers, graffiti artists and skateboarders where Mildner finds this original creative potential. In particular, the great speed, elegance and fearlessness of the skaterboaders impart a pure and decisive strength on Mildner. Art and action are life principles: Live Drives.

The concept of action is strongly anchored in Viennese art history. In the early 1960’s, the Viennese ‘Aktion’ artists declared traditional painting for dead. The human body per se became the artistic medium, and momentary action endured through photographic documentation. In the making of Mildner’s pictures, it is her own energy that the skaters translate, amplify and apply to the surface of the canvas. This method of performance replaces the act of painting. A final image is created and outlives the process of action. Similar artistic approaches can be observed in the work of the Japanese Gutai Group, as well as Herman Nitsch and others.

Mildner’s assistants, such as Daniel Maurer and Mischa Bartos, are the connection to the street. They drive pictures pursuant to Mildner’s compositional guidelines and thereby leave lines of their own choreography. The canvas replaces the function of paved road. Colours and rolls on the canvas trace the movements of the skateboard and are forever fixed in place.

Music is a critical force in the development process of Mildner’s Live Music / Live Drive pictures. Rap is the music of the street, pure in rhythm, a monologue of intensive power. Mildner studied jazz vocals. She mixes and varies the complex melodious structure of jazz with rap and achieves an ideal musical synthesis, translating the language of skating into a language of painting.

Culture defines itself through language and writing. The tracks of a skateboard leave a unique calligraphy of the body. More intense than the act of writing, the skateboard’s impressions on the canvas reveal the inner feelings and mood of the skater. Unwittingly, he lays bare his innermost being. It is a universally valid form of expression that destroys language barriers and permits no misunderstanding, but provides the freedom of individual interpretation.

Mildner grew-up on the Russian shores of the Bering Strait during the political and social tumultuous glasnost era. She spent her childhood by a bay on the sea, where the tides, Northern Lights and arctic hues made their early mark on her artistic expression. The tundra was her father’s working ground, a vast and sparsely populated land where he provided services as a medical doctor. He used an abandoned army tank to follow the trails of the nomads. For Mildner, colours and tracks have become synonymous with space and time.

Tenya Mastoras