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 — CEOs   a video portrait series by Gerald Nestler / Toni Kleinlercher

Portrait subjects / participants (to date)

Hannes Androsch, AT & S Holding, Austria
Steen Bjerre, Dyrup AS, Denmark
Ulrich H. Bode, vorm. Glaxo Wellcome, Austria
Peter Kotauczek, BEKO AG, Austria
Peter Lassen, Montana, Denmark
Anne Birgitte Lundholt, Danske Slagterier, Denmark
Martina Pecher, Inzersdorfer, Austria
Ejvind Sendal, Denmark
Jochen Werz, vorm. Lenzing AG, Austria
Norbert Zimmermann, Berndorf AG, Austria


CEOs is a series of video portraits that look at an increasingly relevant and at the same time controversial power group: the executives and chairmen of companies, corporations, global players and economic interest groups. By infiltrating self-representation into the act of representation, the actual person becomes transparent behind the veiling techniques of communication.

In his book "The Transnational Class", Leslie Sklair(1) describes a new capitalist class that excercises an enormous influence on society. Far reaching decisions and developments not only concerning global economy but also social issues as well as individual lifes are today shaped by the leading representatives of corporations. Although they are increasingly taking on functions previously reserved to the political field we are still more familiar with the political representatives than their counterparts in companies, economic interest groups and lobbying agencies.

By adapting the accepted or rather customised communication tool of the (corporate) interview, the artists insert a specific setting of portraiture that allows them to expand beyond a mediated and controlled form of publicity. The interview as a means of advertising and shaping public opinion is turned into a window through which gestures, statements and expressions become ephemeral in the sense of corporate policies. At the same time, though, the portaits concentrate our attention on individual human beings that are assigned and granted powerful and influential positions outside the democratic system of election.

Fernand Braudel(2) writes that "every 'dense' society can be divided into different "units": the area of the economical, of the political, the cultural and the hierarchic-societal ... the economical can only be understood in the correlation with the other 'units, into which it disperses itself and to which at the same time it opens its gates." The approach to portray economic leaders realised in CEOs parallels Braudel's idea but is performed on an individual level.

Deconstructing and sheding light on the much discussed but nonetheless rather unfamiliar 'social territory' of the central decision makers in a global world formed by economic interests and influence, CEOs also visualise the artists' hypothesis that executives (and their armada of specialists) today are trained in different arts (such as the art of acting, the art of rhetorics, the arts of composition, colouring, rhythm, and form to name but a few). These artful crafts implemented to achieve specific profit-oriented goals are put to a test.

therefore constitutes a prototyp for a social assessment of economic leaders.

CEOs are filmed at the headquarters. 2 cameras are used for close-up and total view. The executives perform for approx. 30 minutes. The footage is used in its entirety. Thus, the participants create their own portraits including their conscious and unconscious actions and reactions, their statements and gestures. Adapting a phrase by the neuroscientist Gerhard Roth(3), the portraits do not depict but construct—namely the (dys)functional organisation as well as the (dys)function producing behaviors in which the portayed create the environment of the setting as well as their specific 'self-environment'.

(1) Leslie Sklair, The Transnational Class, Blackwell Publishers, 2001
(2) Fernand Braudel, Die Dynamik des Kapitalismus, Klett-Cotta, 1997
(3) “My case is that fundamentally brains can not reproduce the world; they have to be constructive, namely both regarding their functional organisation as well as regarding their function, indeed to produce a behaviour that allows the organism to survive in its environment”, in: Gerhard Roth, Das Gehirn und seine Wirklichkeit, Kognitive Neurobiologie und ihre philosphischen Konsequenzen, Frankfurt am Main, 1996, p. 23

The individuals portrayed in the piece perform in a specific video-framework and setting:
"gestures:" Facial expressions (close-up footage) and body gestures (total view) as verbal as well as physical expressions are of equal importance.
No artificial lights are used. Natural light with its changing qualities is used as an artistic method to counter the usual highlighting of the person. Sounds from the outside enter. The seemingly artificial and unsatisfying quality of the environment invades the image. Dress code: 'informal attire'.

The video-setting is subdivided into three different subject areas. The executives perform each part without breaks or cuts. The flow of images and speech is not interrupted.
The first part deals with the social backround, the socialisation of the participants. Our interest focuses more on childhood and youth rather than career.
The second part starts with an artistic performance of their choice by the participants. Following their performance they talk about artworks (from any artistic field) that have had a lasting impression on them.
In the third and final part, the executives expand on their views regarding economy, politics, and aesthetics by answering 7 of 13 questions at choice.