Jannik Franzen

Casting Bodies (2018)

Jannik Franzen’s film presents a striking example of how the tools and ideals of art might serve racist agendas, drawing profit from the tragedies of war. It tells the story of how the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna—famous for its holdings of nearly 4,000 plaster casts of Greco-Roman and Renaissance sculpture—became a site for uncanny anthropological studies performed on WWI prisoners of war by Rudolf Pöch, the first ever professor for anthropology at the University of Vienna. Pöch took casts of prisoners’ heads that were later reproduced, artistically reworked, and used as educational exhibits and in propaganda displays.

Franzen reveals contemporary film footage in which ominously hooded anthropologists demonstrate the procedure—all to yield an “ideal” racial type of the Eastern European other, to be demonized and exploited. The artist analyzes this chilling archival material, juxtaposing its blatant violence to the quietly threatening sculpture gallery and its perfect bodies, supposedly expressing dusty ideals of noble simplicity and quiet grandeur.

Jannik Franzen has been living in Vienna since 2014. They studied psychology at the Free University of Berlin and completed the master’s program Critical Studies at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. In video works and installations, they critically engage with medical and anthropological knowledge and image production. In 2020, Franzen’s work was awarded the prestigious Birgit Jürgenssen Prize.

HD video, sound, 9′30″

German with English subtitles

Courtesy of the artist