Building upon the first presentation of Western Recording at the Museum of Modern Art Foundation Ludwig Vienna (MUMOK), and working in close collaboration with the artist, Witte de With sought to expand the first installation by including works in other media, providing visitors with a unique and concentrated insight into Poledna’s practice. In addition to the exhibition itself, whose spatial framework was conceived by Poledna as a number of concise architectural interventions, a film program and this very publication⎼with its specific focus on Western Recording — supplement the installation at Witte de With and represent an essential dimension of this project.

Mathias Poledna has long been interested in “signs that emblematically express societal change” and in the historicity of cultural phenomena. His work deals with the conditions for perceiving historical coding, representational conventions and authentication mechanisms, including the social and media apparatus that generates them.

As part of this critical approach to institutions and representation, the film installation Western Recording takes the actual recording process as its starting point and shows a song being recorded at the legendary “Western Recorders” studio in Los Angeles. Mathias Poledna uses the multiplicity of referential levels that are evoked by and in this setting, as well as its intrinsic tension between present-day function and historical meaning, to create a complex historical blend that includes not only a new interpretation of a 1969 song, but also its singer’s presence, posture and performance. He uses repetition and change, duplication and asynchronicity to create the tension that is a key element of historical configuration and insert it into a specific spatial setting, thereby contrasting the filmic economy of the historical experience of signs with a phenomenological model of temporal perception whose art-historical references date back to the late 1960s, the period in which the singer in the film also appears to be situated.

In earlier works, Mathias Poledna had already taken a critical stance towards developments in post-minimalism, conceptualism and institutional critique. His manner of projection in Western Recording appears to be in line with his earlier preoccupation with their relationship to modernity and historicity.