Victoria Coeln’s light intervention at the Heldentor and the Michaelertor created a new, topical place for commemoration and reflection. The two gates of the Hofburg Palace reflect an important element of our time: they can be open for people to pass through or be shut at any time.

DYSTOPIA EUTOPIA immediately reminded all people passing through them of the fragility of the present. The two main elements of the precisely shaped light were grid and barbed wire. The latter’s iconography holds mainly negative connotations. Given the current political situation, associations like fences, barriers, and exclusion sprang to mind. Originally invented as an instrument for fencing in pasturage, barbed wire came to symbolize the borders of inhuman regimes. Native Americans called the twisted wire with its sharp spines “devil’s rope.”

The grid, a motif appearing frequently in the arts, often also as an image in its own right, stands for regularity, order, and impersonality. It is an antihierarchical system, or, as Sigmar Polke defined it for himself, “a method, a structure” that “deconstructs, disperses, organizes something.” Grids, however, also offer the possibility of causing irritation or disturbance through deviations or breaks in the structure.

In Victoria Coeln’s DYSTOPIA EUTOPIA, the disruption of this system signified the breakup of a strict logic. Making the grid come alive or breaking it can indeed be read as a form of social criticism: How rigid, how open is our society? Where do we draw our own borders, where do we expand our space? Where are borders crossed and spaces transcended? Who defines those who are defined by others?

Victoria Coeln chose a central, highly contradictory site of Austrian history for her contribution to the current political discourse. DYSTOPIA EUTOPIA was not only an impressive, both stimulating and monumental visual experience but also challenged the viewer’s cognitive abilities and turned the “Imperial Forum” into a forum for discussion. It appealed to all members of our society and thus to every individual’s responsibility.

Text extract: Kerstin Jesse, full version of the text:


Äußeres Burgtor (Heldentor), 1010 Vienna

Further Information

Victoria Coeln
*1962 in Vienna, lives and works in Vienna.

Partners and sponsors
Federal Chancellery of the Republic of Austria, University of Applied Arts Vienna, Bildrecht Wien, Municipal Department Public Lighting



Time Period

May 3 to June 13, 2016

U2, U3 Volkstheater

daily from dusk to sunrise