Klasse Florian Pumhösl  |  Raum A.EG.21, Altbau

Lea Vajda

Believe me, but not too much


There is much to suggest that in recent periods of societal transformation and upheaval, a renewed interest in other forms of knowledge and ways of organizing life has emerged: many in Western societies turn to practices of magic and occultism in moments when the world seems out of joint, as they offer a sense of agency to a public gripped by existential disillusionment. The occult embraces the opposition to rationality, neither aiming to deny nor escape from it, but rather to extract, and perhaps even surrender to, what else might be there that appears not to make perfect sense. Lea Vajda’s presentation, Believe me, but not too much, engages with this affinity for the hidden and the obscure, while also revealing their double-edged nature.


A nine-meter-long wall is placed in the posterior third of the room. Left blank on one side, it stretches almost the entire length of the space and serves as an intended obscuration of that which lies behind it. The wall acts as both an installative element as well as a carrier: a series of thirteen lithographs on polystyrene sheets is mounted in a grid of two rows on the back side facing the windows. The prints take their subjects from packs of powder that may be used to achieve certain goals in life with the help of belief. Here, this is turned into a commodifiable product that is fixed on purpose and result: the sachets come with instructions and are adorned with illustrations and slogans that allude to their designated function. Tinged with a certain longing for ancestry, the product operates between historic rituals and contemporary economics around the self. It is not directly attributable to any specific practice, but blends a wide set of religious symbols and cultural signifiers, playing on the appropriation of indigenous traditions and neo-esotericism.


To create the works, the templates have first been digitally separated into their color layers in order to determine the print areas. Before the extracted layers were produced as lithographs, specific features have been removed, leaving only isolated key terms on some. Each print slightly varies in size in accordance with the proportions of the original powder bags that serve as the source material. The method of printing itself is difficult to administer, resulting in the individual panels containing irregularities and varying color intensities. The works are each held in place by a pair of wall mounts into which they were tucked, recalling card racks and thus evoking an almost comical, souvenir-like character of the prints as oversized postcards to take home.

The language, both visual and concrete, that is employed here balances knowledge and subjective associations, leaving us to fill in the gaps ourselves. The works also tap into the yearning for origin and its offer of hypothetical redemption, which is catered to by the source material. Much like narratives of origin, the contemporary reemergence of the occult rarely holds historical accuracy. In this context, the work of Sylvia Wynter comes to mind, who aptly points out that the Westernized world is characterized by colonial relations that move along the binaries of progress and tradition, fabrication and imagination, identification and alienation. Believe me, but not too much walks a fine and wavering line between these binaries, deconstructing them as it slips in and out of meaning itself. It makes us toggle between the aberrant and the rational, whereby what remains are fragments of a cultural phenomenon that have entered a new context of reassigned signification and possible consumption.


— Gloria Hasnay 


Fotos: Luciano Pecoits