Michael Kienzer’s work for the newly built U1 subway station Troststraße comprises two parts. It combines a two-dimensional linear and a three-dimensional approach to an overall installation in the basement of the access area to the station on Klausenburger Straße. Lines and Double is the first sculptural intervention in Vienna’s subway network that finds a way to break free from the walls and aims at an immediate engagement with issues of space, surface, and architecture in spite of all context-dependent restrictions and regulations. The artist’s response to the building elements of the station is a sculpturally conceived antithesis, yet the deliberately ambiguous title already suggests an opening: Lines initially hint at Kienzer’s additional delicate straight cuts in the wall panels along the escalators, which start below and almost come up to the entrance. The central sculptural element Double may be provisionally related to a third, newly constructed, not accessible shaft in the basement directly next to the double-deck elevator there. The two words of the title are also involved in an exchange with each other, however: The wall drawing takes up the joints, doubling them, and the lines are constitutive for the structure of the third, blind shaft. Compared with the near double-deck elevator, the Double, now seen as a lookalike, nevertheless establishes an independent aesthetic system.
It is the exposed interaction of formal opposites that holds Kienzer’s conceptual stubbornness. Sculpture is not conceived as a formidable block or decoratively designed workpiece. If one understands traditional sculpture as an endogenous system of references solidly grounded in itself as opposed to an installation, which is variably, yet consistently fitted into a surrounding exogenous system of references, Kienzer’s concept of sculpture clearly transcends this pair of opposites. His constellations of forms and materials as sculpture neglect neither the context nor the relationship to the site. When considered from this point of view, sculpture brings forth a momentary, interest-led and, therefore, quasi-subjective state of physical forces in material, thing, object, and form. Kienzer’s art always also opposes simple didactics or the impact of pathos and grandeur creating concrete, yet ambiguous, humorous, contradictory situations.
In the basement of the station, Michael Kienzer responds to the given spatial situation with a constellatory sculpture that incorporates given elements into its structure. He has built a third shaft distorted in itself on an asymmetrical ground plan next to the existing double-deck steel-and-glass elevator from structurally similar materials. The artist interprets the given construction as a sculptural element, which he translates into a more radical form. To this end, he examines the elevator construction and analyzes it, breaking it down into its components; its parts are shifted, blocked, and transferred into a distorted cubage. Visibly related to the spatial dimensions of the existing escalator shaft and its materials, several steel profiles in seemingly chaotic diagonal struts open up a new hollow space. The glass surfaces, built the same way as the elevator shaft, are an integral part of the artist’s work. They come up to the ceiling of the hall, but they end there unlike the elevators that run through the ceiling to daylight. The vertical third shaft remains enclosed behind glass, is lit from above, and cannot be accessed.
Kienzer’s spatial analysis differentiates between sense and meaning on the one hand and functionality on the other by means of dysfunction. His deconstruction of an architectural fabric inscribes a counter image of temporality into the traffic structure—not representing the course of a process, as might be expected in the vicinity of a transport system like the subway, but a moment of movement at standstill through sculpture.
For the other part of Lines and Double, the lines, the wall panels in the staircase and along the escalators were diagonally cut in two and reassembled to fit perfectly. The subsequently created “artificial” joints were filled with the sealant previously used. The cuts are slightly narrower than the vertical joints and somewhat broader than the horizontal ones. They extend from the foot of the escalator toward the exit, accompanying pedestrians on their escalator ride along the sparse lines covering the staircase walls like independent Euclidian vectors. The movement at standstill mentioned above materializes in the radiating drawing of the wall paneling. The new delicate geometry of lines extends the architecture’s pragmatic grid of joints without infringing on it.
As he does in all of his works in public space, Kienzer falls back on extant inventory, on materials and structures of the site, and uses them for his own project, relying on methods of concentration, concatenation, balance, and displacement. The artist’s shaft contrasts with the functional order and converts it into a sculptural form. The viewer intuitively sees and feels that this juxtaposition implies no evaluation but testifies to a constellatory treatment of material and architecture. A constellation signifies a temporary encounter of solids to form a picture. In conjunction with the surrounding functional elements, with elevator, escalator, staircase, underground train tunnel, and track, Kienzer’s intervention in the standardized architectural structure drafts an image of movement at standstill. Constantly revisited day in, day out, this notion trickles into the pedestrians’ perception, whether they are aware of it or not, and accompanies them on their way through the station. Hurrying to the platform or back to the surface, people cross a spatial image without usually taking notice of it. As soon as one becomes alert, however, the artistic perspective becomes contagious and discloses a new dimension to the passersby: imagination in motion. For attentive viewers passing upstairs or downstairs, who, when taking a closer look, may almost begin to feel dizzy, Kienzer’s sculptural architectonic spatial fabric dissolves into dynamic changes of lines and directions for tiny moments within the everyday routine of events.
An aesthetic field of mutual tension questioning the relevance of art in public space with sculptural means emerges between function and dysfunction of the adjacent and comparable constructive forms of the three-dimensional shaft as well as on the lineament of the surface. Lines and Double deconstructs architecture through the configuration of different spatial elements to form an image of thought on temporality contrary to the site and thus extends the possibilities of art in public space in order to go beyond the well-trodden paths of decoration, communication, representation, and irritation.
Excerpt: Dirck Möllmann
U1 subway station Troststraße (train platform direction Oberlaa), 1100 Vienna
*1962 in Steyr (AT), lives and works in Vienna.
This project was selected as a winner's project in the course of an artistic competition. For more information please follow this link: