Vienna (AT)

Lisl Ponger

*1947 in Nuremberg, Germany, lives and works in Vienna, Austria

Lisl Ponger works as a filmmaker, photographer and media artist. Her work is inspired by themes such as foreignness and homeland, remembering and forgetting. In her elaborately staged photographs and installations dealing with the power of images to define, with traces of colonial times, and the depiction of what is foreign, Ponger engages with the problem of cultural identity in migration societies.

After being trained at the Graphische Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt in Vienna and spending several years in Mexico and the United States, she began producing her own films in 1979. Ponger also worked as a photographer and media artist, for example, photographically documenting actions of Viennese Actionism.

Her most important exhibitions include the participation in the documenta 11 in 2002 and in the film program of the documenta 12 in 2007. In 2008/09 the Kunsthaus Dresden dedicated a solo show to Ponger, and in 2011 she exhibited at the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium. She has received numerous prizes including the Golden Gate New Vision Award of the 48th San Francisco International Film Festival in 2005 and the Prize of the City of Vienna for Fine Art.



Western Still Life is a subgenre of 19th-century American painting that used depictions of cowboy boots, Navajo blankets and similar objects to convey a picture of life in the American West, into which forms of expression and rests of the conquered indigenous cultures were integrated as trophies. US-American museums most likely house the largest collections of body parts of indigenous people. During the so-called Indian Wars, body parts and even brains were gathered from battlefields and graves and can today be found, for example, in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The United States was the first country to pass a restitution law, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGRPA), to cope with the history of human remains.

Lisl Ponger arranges objects—skulls, masks, textiles, a sniper uniform of the U.S. Army—to a period picture in the style of opulent Dutch still lifes, thus addressing the themes of exploitation appropriation.

The sniper uniform is a response to the first ethnological feature film, “In the Land of the War Canoes” (1914) by Edward Curtis, and it is still used today by the U.S. Army in missions abroad.