“At the age of eighteen, instead of the obligatory driver’s license, I bought my first analog camera. The exact one I still use today.”


Born in Gaschurn, Austria, in 1975, Marko Zink studied under Ingo Springenschmid and subsequently attended the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, specifically the masterclasses of Art and Photography, Expanded Pictorial Space, and Art in Public Space as well as Performance under Eva Schlegel, Josephine Pryde, Franz Graf, Judith Huemer, Mona Hahn, and Matthias Herrmann.

He completed his master’s degree at the School for Artistic Photography under Friedl Kubelka and another degree with distinction at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna under Carola Dertnig. Furthermore, he studied German, Journalism, and Art History at the University of Vienna with distinction.

Marko Zink only takes analog photographs with natural lighting. The carrier material – analog film – is multiply boiled before exposure and, for some series, deliberately chemically and mechanically manipulated. This technique, which he developed, is his unique signature with high recognition value. He describes the resulting disintegration of the negatives as a purposeful conceptual process, calling into question the main criteria of photography as a bearer of memory and record.

In his works, Zink reinterprets the subject of staged photography. On one hand, he gives the viewer the sense of having become an accidental witness to this “fleeting” moment. On the other, he restages the subjects as objects, and vice versa.

Zink tinkers with reality. He assembles the ostensibly unrelated; he amalgamates. Thus, humans are coupled with animals, and humans with machines, humans with furniture, humans with nature. In his work series Swimmers, the human being is completely negated as a carrier of meaning, floating as an empty shell under water, while at the same time illustrating the origin of species.

Many of his series are based on interdisciplinary concepts. He borrows his theories from literature – including explorations of Friedrich Dürrenmatt and Nobel laureate in literature Elfriede Jelinek. The latter plays an important role in Zink’s life. Work series that are influenced by the Austrian writer in different ways sneak into his work presentations via multiple media.

His photographs and installations have been shown in museums and galleries around the world. His works are included in numerous internationally renowned collections. Marko Zink lives and works in Vienna, Austria.

→ DIE PRESSE | JOHANNA HOFLEITNER | Interview with Marko Zink

Animal Lover | 16.02.2010

Pants that look like fish, owl masks that peek out from the forest: Marko Zink gets his inspiration from the animal kingdom.

Elegant high-heeled shoes sashaying over the ocean floor. A baseball hat floating through the water like a jellyfish. A blue dirndl served in an elegance that says, “I just slipped off Ophelia’s dead body.” Sports pants acting like a flying fish. And in the midst of it all, the artist seated in the surf several meters from the beach to capture these images with his “snipsnap camera” (a direct quote from the artist). Over the course of five summers, Marko Zink went to Santorini with a suitcase full clothes in tow. Along for the trip was his boyfriend who assisted him in the project by catapulting the fashion items from the beach into the water. “This series is about inanimate objects becoming subjects,” Marko Zink says, “For these Swimmers, I tried to take mass-manufactured articles whose labels you recognize—Adidas, H&M—so that the viewers immediately have a sense of familiarity when looking at the pictures.” He likes to stage the shots in the morning. “I work with natural light only,” he says. “The morning light is the most beautiful, and also the most fitting. The objects floating in the water take on an animalistic form, so that a pair of pants seems to move like a fish.”

Playing with object and subject, with lifeless matter giving the impression of being alive, with life shining through the obscured—these are the guiding principles in the work of the thirty-five-year-old artist from Vorarlberg, who came to photography via a detour through literary writing. For his graduation, he wanted an SLR camera instead of the obligatory driver’s license, and after several additional semesters of studying German and Journalism at the School for Artistic Photography enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts on Schillerplatz in Vienna.

Images for Curious Minds. We already find the artist’s early series of atmospheric Kornhäusl photographs imbued with the abovementioned ambivalence: At first glance, it seems to show nothing but chaotic living conditions and naked men’s legs. In 2004, two days before the classicist Kornhäusel villa in the Viennese district of Ottakring underwent radically renovations, Marko Zink managed to gain access and take photographs for a very short two hours. “Everything was destroyed, all the objects in the photos were found objects. The former owner may have been gay and may have died alone—there were men’s magazines from the Nazi era lying around everywhere, in which he had circled all the ads in which men sought men. Tragic! That’s why I photographed the muscular men’s legs in the vacant rooms—focusing on the heel as the most wonderful part of the body.”

Intruding abandoned buildings, reconstructing a life’s story from the rubble, interpreting clothes like aquatic creatures, posing for the camera with a mask—or extinguishing the identity of a face, as in the series thisisnotgsus (THIS IS NOT JESUS): When captured in art, actions like these also generate and transport uncanny narratives, as they oppose all certainty, defying the range of decoding tools that photography has to offer. Clearly, this is one of Marko Zink’s predilections. Many of his photographs pique the viewer’s desire to know more—for instance, how a picture got made, what the story behind it is, or what hides within. Is performance important to him? Marko Zink shrugs. He sees himself and his work—even though he works on the setting and the implied stories for a long time and sometimes inserts himself as a model—much more in the painterly tradition and its attention to color and composition. “Whether it’s me or others in the picture: The people are always marginal. I’m not narcissistic in that way.

“My work is not about the individual but about society,” he insists. And society is what he puts to the test in his latest series of large-format photographs entitled Tragedies, which will premiere in this year’s Month of Photography in tandem with a new text by Elfriede Jelinek. Each sports the pale backdrop of a sand pit situated in the middle of the Lower Austrian woods. Attentive viewers will discover a nude human figure wearing an animal mask among the trees—lounging on a branch in this photo, scurrying across the path in that, or hiding in one way or another.

Humans are vermiform appendices. The artist only had a few weeks of perfect lighting conditions and atmosphere to work with. On weekends, when there was no logging, Marko Zink and his assistant tilted the rules of society’s game on its head and turned the forest into a stage, making the animals its actors. “My forest pieces play with reduction. In them, humans are vermiform appendices of nature. The animal kingdom towers above us! I don’t even want to know how animals would respond if they were the true rulers.”

ASSISTANT & ART DIRECTOR | Gerd Franz Josef Winkler

MODELS | Gerd Franz Josef Winkler | Isabelle Anna Zink

LAYOUTS | Gerd Franz Josef Winkler | Maria Mahrl

TRANSLATIONS | EDITING | Matthias Goldmann | Georg Bauer | Wolfgang Astelbauer | Maria Magdalena Pressel | Verena Seiser | Ingrid Taylor | Jennifer Lang | Barbara Wrathall-Pohl