The View from Above
The exhibition Significant Other began with a reduced-scale model of Vienna’s House of Korean Culture. In 2014, Imre Nagy and Isabella Kohlhuber had invited several other artists to conceive an exhibition of sculptures in miniature for this model together with them. This exhibition draft was the seed for the art-in-public-space project realized in November 2015.
The works developed by the artists took up various aspects of the Donaupark and its artificial historical design. As the invitation card already suggested, the artists were not concerned with great gestures, autonomous statements, or monumental individual works but with occupying and surrounding the site, which is ambiguous per se, with a concerted polyphonic project. Some works, which presented themselves like flotsam washed ashore or remainders of materials left on a construction site, also harked back to the prehistory of the area as a garbage dump. They simultaneously rounded off the existing architectural structures with new places to stay or virtual projections.
The artist Belén’s video Unidiverso, for example, which was projected onto the stone surface outside, showed small colored plastic parts the artist had found on the beach. Accompanied by sounds of “Das Synthie-Modul,” these parts floated in a water basin. The video was to be seen in the place where a hitherto unbuilt water-lily pond has been planned.
Sunah Choi’s steel grating sculpture Landschaft Haus (Landscape House), whose form corresponded to a model of the northeastern part of the House of Korean Culture to a scale of 1:10, comprised five stone and metal objects. They represented abstracted formal elements like the sun, the moon, and mountains and referenced traditional motifs of Korean Il-Wol-Do painting (일월도, Landscape with Sun and Moon).
Christoph Meier’s vinyl tarpaulin was loosely draped over the free-standing reinforced concrete supports in front of the Iris Lake like on a clothesline. Resembling a material abandoned on a building site, the tarpaulin, irregularly printed with blue, hid part of the view of the lake. Meier thus joined the architects’ gesture of framing the lake, yet clearly revealed its unwieldy constructedness.
Steffi Alte gave a commentary on the eclectic overloading of the Donaupark area with her Portrait einer Architektur (Portrait of an Architecture). Her minimalist intervention drew on the emphatic concave forms of the Vienna International Centre built between 1973 and 1979, which provide a further example of the rhetoric of masterplans not far from the project area. It forged a bridge between them and the concrete framework architecture of the House of Korean Culture.
Andreas Perkmann Berger complemented the confrontation of natural landscape and artificial landscape with the idea of a virtual, imagined landscape. His large-format digital prints displayed photorealistic landscape pictures that remained deliberately artificial and odd. Integrated into the concrete architecture extending the pavilion, the prints presented themselves as a continuation of the “real” landscape and tied in with its phantasmal and bizarre artificiality.
Roland Kollnitz’s two protruding white-coated poles resting obliquely on the front section of the House of Korean Culture commented on the mostly vertically oriented surroundings of the site. The freestanding reinforced concrete wall was virtually transformed into a pedestal for the poles, which emphasized its horizontal orientation. The numerous high-rises on the so-called Donauplatte fitted into this play of vertical and horizontal elements as did the small fountain in the Iris Lake and the stele-like Donauturm erected as a futurist fake television tower in 1964.
Isabella Kohlhuber and Imre Nagy, the curators of the project, had already become aware of the unusually artificial atmosphere of the Donaupark during their preliminary research. Particularly the former lake pavilion with its minimalist forms and extensive window surfaces in the International Style reminded them of museum buildings such as the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin or the Moderna Museet in Stockholm.
Imre Nagy’s sculptural intervention titled Sitzbank-Lampe (Bench Lamp) defined a new place to stay right next to the main entrance to the pavilion. His furniture sculptures, which draw on a modernist vocabulary of forms, are often characterized by a humorously exaggerated functionality which is simultaneously subverted by the choice of materials and other parameters.
Isabella Kohlhuber, who explores meta-linguistic and spatial structures in her work, had the highway maintenance department mark a “no-go area” on the platform of the café terrace. The minimalist white markings created a peculiarly charged “blank space” deprived of its usual everyday function in traffic. It recalled the former use of the terrain in a very down-to-earth and poignant manner.
Another everyday object served as the starting point for Benjamin Hirte’s keyring sculpture. Monumentally enlarged to a diameter of 120 cm, the work oscillated between autonomous sculpture and surreal object. As forlorn as it presented itself on the site, it evoked the concept of “drop sculptures,” a form of art in public space that seems to have fallen from the skies and shows no leaning to relate to its surroundings and its social context.
Axel Koschier’s work highlighted the special window construction chosen for the House of Korean Culture. The view into the landscape outside, which is celebrated in numerous modern museum buildings today, was realized here quite early on. Koschier inverted this nowadays already traditional situation by mounting so-called indoor art outside. He transferred photographs depicting mixing areas of a watercolor paint box to parachute silk, grouted the pictures with silicone between glass panes like slides, and framed them. Made waterproof to be shown outside and mounted in elegant steel structures, the painterly, chimera-like pictorial objects put the highly charged visual situation of the place in a nutshell.
Text (abridged): Cosima Rainer
House of Korean Culture, Arbeiterstrandbadgasse 122, Pavilion on the Iris Lake, Donaupark, 1220 Vienna
Steffi Alte, Belén, Sunah Choi, Benjamin Hirte, Isabella Kohlhuber, Roland Kollnitz, Axel Koschier, Christoph Meier, Imre Nagy, Andreas Perkmann Berger
DJ / Performance
Sujin Bea, Nicolas Jasmin, Thomas Hesse, Bernhard Rasinger/BR-Laser, Nikolais Ruchnewitz
Concept and project management
Isabella Kohlhuber, Imre Nagy
Coordination House of Korean Culture
Partners and sponsors
Korea-Kulturhaus Österreich, Austrian House of Korean Culture, Federal Chancellery of the Republic of Austria