Nordbahn-ZehLeopold Kessler


In the middle of Rudolf-Bednar-Park stands the sculptural representation of a monumental toe. For the duration of one year, it will be left to itself, or rather to the public. At first glance, it appears to be a static object, but in fact the toenail "grows" continuously. Leopold Kessler, whose artistic work examines urban life, human behaviour and the organisation of public community space, challenges the residents to decide how to deal with this growth.

"By cutting finger- and toe nails, one creates a seemingly timeless condition that can momentarily hide the transience of one's own body. Nails always grow, no matter how unsuccessful or successful one's life is at the moment, no matter how productive or unproductive. This stoic idiosyncrasy counteracts the notion of growth - e.g. economic growth - as progress. The monumentality of the Nordbahn Toe mentally transfers this context into the public sphere: The nail grows unimpressed by world events, by the luck and misfortune, success or failure of the community. The growth reflects the sheer passing of time in its merciless linearity.

An information board on the object indicates that anyone can work on the nail plate with an ordinary household saw and/or rasp. A motive for working on the nail on one's own authority can be the feeling of self-efficacy, to inscribe oneself in one's environment or to remedy a grievance. The desire to destroy is also an affirmation of self-efficacy: the nail plate can be damaged relatively easily, especially if it has not been cut for a while. However, while vandalism can destroy other projects in public space, here damage grows out of itself.

Rudolf-Bednar-Park is located in the middle of the Nordbahnviertel, a residential area in Vienna's second district that is still partly under construction. A tension arises between the seemingly eternal growth of the nail, the permanent production of a status quo and the provisional lack of history of the quarter. The object accompanies the residents for a year, so the impression of permanent growth can become imprinted and a routine of care, disturbance and growth can emerge." (Leopold Kessler, 2022)


Regularly, a mediation meeting takes place on site. After an introduction to the project, the condition and growth of the nail as well as possible interactions of the residents are put in relation to developments in the surrounding urban space. Questions about the relationship between the individual and the community and the role of art in public space are discussed with an interested audience.


Rudolf Bednar Park, 1020 Vienna

Further Information

Leopold Kessler *1976, lives in Vienna. He studied sculpture in Munich and Vienna. His works have been shown in national and international solo exhibitions - among others at the Malmö Konsthall, the Bunkier Sztuki in Krakow or the Secession in Vienna - as well as in group exhibitions such as the Broad Art Museum of Michigan State University, the Palais de Tokyo or the de Appel, Amsterdam. He was a participant in the Singapore Biennale (2011), the 10th Lyon Biennale (2009) and Manifesta 5 in San Sebastian (2004).


Nordbahn-ZehLeopold Kessler

Time Period

September 14, 2022 to September 9, 2023

U2 Vorgartenstraße, Tram O Bruno Marek Allee

Education - Events


Go to documents