Martin Krenn’s projects, photo works and videos focus on racism, politics of memory and remembrance as well as campaigns for the right to stay right, asylum and immigration politics. Another central aspect in his artistic work is his investigation of social as well as political phenomena in urban space. A comprehensive analysis of social space in the urban realm is carried out through his photographic research project „City Views“ which was realised in cooperation with city dwellers from migrant background in European cities. Locations that are associated with emancipation and also those which exclude the public presence of migrants were sought out and dealt with in photo-text series form. Collaborations with art institutes in the various cities foresaw providing support for both the preliminary research and the realisation of the project. The results were presented in exhibitions in established art institutes as well as off spaces in the several cities. In 2004 the book City Views: a photo project: migrant perspectives was published by Turia + Kant.
The pictures show ‘places of power‘ – for example the Viennese City Hall where ‘behind the curtains of one Viennese landmark, a naturalisation machine is trying to create a balance by using a meticulous selection procedure.’ These are places which have an important function for the individual and collective empirical knowledge of the participants of the project who all have ‘immigrant’ status that is linked to their social in- and exclusion. However, also places of resistance or ‘counter-places’ were captured photographically: squatted, emancipatory occupied places such as the ‘Universal Embassy’ in Brussels, which is self-governed and administered by Sans-Papiers. (Yun 2004)
Besides the photographic fieldwork about social phenomena in public space, Martin Krenn works in collaborative projects about questions of social engagement and which social relevance it can unfold.
Another example for Krenn’s political art interventions is the project European Corrections Corporation. It was carried out in Wels, Munich and Graz from 2003 to 2004 (in collaboration with Oliver Ressler – who got supported by PEEK 2012 for his project Dark Room; Critical Artist Curators).
The fictional corrections corporation that Krenn and Ressler devise to run the prison is EUCC (European Corrections Corporation) and it comes complete with a detourned website. Along with pointing to the EU as a newly spatialized economic (and therefore disciplinary) territory, the name projects the founding of pan-European private corrections companies as the industrial and economic strategy waffts over from America. Although, private prisons are, politically speaking, actually less important than the more general critique of the over-use of incarceration by western state more generally. The imagined plans for the retooled Graz-Karlau prison show a space doubled in size to incarcerate more prisoners, but also to include production space that will use the prisoners’ labor power to generate surplus capital for the fictional EUCC. (Christian Parenti & Jeff Derkse, 2004)
In 2010 Martin Krenn realised the collaborative as well as participatory project Statt Rassismus (Instead of Racism), which was realised in the public space in Innsbruck. Statt Rassismus was developed in cooperation with the Institute of Pedagogy of the University of Innsbruck (Dr. Claus Melter and Selda Sevgi) and the TKI open 10. The five-day project used an electoral campaign as a ‘Trojan Horse’ vehicle to thwart the logic of conventional election campaigns. The project team created different participatory settings for the city dwellers, for instance a video portal, a website, a speaking corner with a LED marquee on site. Inside the election campaign’s container, sheltered from the street noise, people were invited to discuss with the project team, e.g. about slogans of election campaigns, anti-racist demands and definitions of racism.
The project’s aim is not to campaign for a certain party, but to request the passers-by to actively adopt party for anti-racism and solitary politics. The concept of active participation in political processes is set against a passive understanding of politics.
The political art of Martin Krenn opposes the cynicism and populism of various politicians in dealing with human rights, the vulgarization and depreciation of democratic needs and the indifference resulting from it. In his projects about racism, anti-Semitism or totalitarianism Martin Krenn analyses and carries out alternative strategies for resistance against ruling power relations and thought patterns and locates „breaks“ and „gaps“ in the system of political art. Artistic practise develops in the projects realised by him to the trans-disciplinal catalyst of political demands and initiatives. (Ursula Maria Probst, 2011)
A Private Riot Going On?, Christian Parenti & Jeff Derkse, in: European Corrections Corporation, Berlin, Revolver -Archiv für aktuelle Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, 2004
Martin Krenn, Das Politische an politischer Kunst, Ursula Maria Probst, Galerie Zimmermann Kratochwill (GZK), Graz 2011
Rezension: City Views. Ein Fotoprojekt mit migrantischen Perspektiven, Vina Yun, bild.punkt, Ausgabe Oktober/November, Wien 2004