icon     muse au chocolat
Martin Kerchbaumer on the project “muse au chocolat” by Katarina Schmidl which was presented December 11, 2001 at the Café Leopold in Museumsquartier in Vienna. 

»Muse au Chocolat«

It begins with the beautiful, sweet body posed on the divan. But life in the limelight is soon reduced to a brownish lacquer. Café Leopold set the intentionally unceremonious scene for “Muse au chocolat”, a project by Katarina Schmidl.


The Audience

Friends, invited art-folk, important people, but also more importantly, the uninitiated visitors of the café, who would bear witness to this installation of a woman’s body. The life-sized figure made out of chocolate is embedded on a white chaise longue.

A classical scene: the muse posing seductively. Spotlights and recording devices are put into position. Vis-à-vis a monitor is set up. It shows the image of the muse in real time with the white castings, the molds from the production process as they trace the lines of an attractive body. But these forms begin to underline the immobility of the situation, revealing the rigidity of this sweet pose, turning it into an absurd posturing. It’s distressing, confining and every movement away from its gravitational pull eats at your strength. The figure is set apart from the crowd with light barriers. Finished.


Then the show begins.

Seven thousand watts floods the stage. The naked woman’s body shines in the spotlight. A young man sits next to the ensemble playing a cello. Delicious chocolate smells fill the café. Classic, unblemished beauty radiates from the chaise longue. The viewers surround the divan. The insiders already begin to await the beginning of the end. Where and when will it begin to make itself known.

Finally the forehead begins to shine with a peculiar pallor. The first drops can already be seen on the nose. They start to run down the side of the mouth as though the muse had been smacked in the middle of her face.


We’re already in the thick of things.

A sweet body that melts in the limelight. This is not some luxurious event but rather the spectacle of intended decay. Decadence in two respects: first the figure itself, then the event in its entirety as it plays out a sinister decomposition. Chocolate, this luxurious delicacy, an aphrodisiac, is reduced to its base materiality.

The viewer can make an assessment of the situation on the monitor. The spotlights are readjusted. The brightness changed. The plates and spoons are brought out and made ready on another table. It starts to dawn on the viewer what is going to happen next: An invitation is being made for a cannibalistic buffet.


You can’t get enough of the melting figure

The transformations are discussed and debated. The documentary material adds to the feeling that it is turning into a devotional, almost ritual event. The toes made out of chocolate are offered up for sale like religious relics.


Absolute Decadence

If only the children weren’t already there with their spoons in their hands waiting in front of the light barrier, putting the tragedy and decadence of the scenario into perspective. Unselfconscious, innocent, disinterested. The children’s attitude seems to be the best approximation of the artist’s own approach. It’s about the qualities of the material chocolate, its alterability … But the children have to wait a little bit longer. First when the form has more or less disappeared. The light barriers are turned down…and with them the buffet is opened!



Translation: David Quigley