Sleeping HorseHeike Mutter, Ulrich Genth

Sleeping Horse

Not waking a sleeping horse

An unheroic monument on Vienna's Reumannplatz by Heike Mutter and Ulrich Genth

On a monumental pedestal at Reumannplatz a bronze horse is now sleeping. It is calm, unmoved and looks as if it is not thinking of waking up. Or is it? And what would happen then? In its elegance it is in no way inferior to the many monuments that are equipped with horses. However, the sleeping horse does not serve any master and it obviously does not intend to change this. And it is not lordly itself: unlike monuments that are viewed from a distance, details of the horse on Reumannplatz are naturalistic and appear intimate. Visitors are at eye level with the sleeping animal and can get very close to it. The monument is not ostentatious, does not honor, and is generally quite unheroic. But perhaps that is precisely why it raises questions. I would like to explore some of them here:

Is Reumannplatz a hero's or heroine's place? Many things take place here: Creepy election campaign events, for example, and clandestine ice cream rendezvous. Reumannplatz is a center in the tenth district of Vienna, a place of migrant life, bourgeois gentrification and right-wing extremist mobilization. Viennese workers' history is and was written here, a history of struggles and shopping experiences, a history of the demimonde, a history of everyday life and survival, of dying, of exploitation, a history of deportations and violence.

So what kind of monument does Reumannplatz need? While we think monuments often stand in important places and commemorate important people, we know from experience that this is not actually true. Surely they were built because they were supposed to honor someone or something. And monuments are also marketed in the scenography of a city. However, they are communicated and perceived very selectively. For on the one hand, monuments, when their themes and contexts seem explosive, are contested and disputed: especially today, activists in many places topple monuments, demand street renamings, intervene in historical narratives. And yet, on the other hand, there are many monuments in urban space that hardly anyone looks at.

Robert Musil already noticed this in the early 20th century and wrote: "There is nothing in the world that would be as invisible as monuments"[1] Funny, actually... Yet artists (it was almost only male artists) had decorated so many streets and squares to represent and honor the existing conditions. Mostly this happened with plastic representations of figures of white, powerful and certainly for the respective circumstances very important men, who stood resolutely and proudly on pedestals, with the hand on the heart or with a drawn sword, who sat very often on horses and were supposed to impress in stone or bronze, or also simply to be there, because, we know already from Robert Musil, nobody actually looked closely at the representations.

Unfortunately, invisible in this sense at Reumannplatz is probably also the "Memorial to the Victims of Fascism" (German: “Mahnmal für die Opfer des Faschismus”) from Favoriten. It was designed by Heinrich Sussmann and unveiled on October 24, 1981 on the initiative of the Association of Austrian Concentration Camp Organisations and Resistance Fighters (German: Arbeitsgemeinschaft der KZ-Verbände und Widerstandskämpfer Österreichs). It bears the inscription: "1934-1945/to the victims/of Fascism/for Austria's/freedom/and independence/To the dead in memory,/To the living as a reminder/Never forgotten"[2]. In addition, the places of death can be read here, the concentration camps and prisons in which residents of the 10th district died.[3] But who is admonished by a memorial that nobody sees? Somehow the monuments are like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. They impress and they mourn against windmills. And if we want to fight against fascism, if we never want to forget it, we have to do it ourselves.

Only our sleeping horse doesn't want to impress anyone. And we will never know if it has thrown off a rider or if it simply never had one. And who admires the horse at Reumannplatz? The beauty of the monument by Heike Mutter and Ulrich Genth is that it doesn't seem to care at all.

- Nora Sternfeld

[1] Transl. from German: „Es gibt nichts auf der Welt, was so unsichtbar wäre wie Denkmäler“, Robert Musil, Nachlaß zu Lebzeiten, Reinbek bei Hamburg, 24. Auflage 2004, S. 62.

[2] Transl. from German: „1934–1945/Den Opfern/des Faschismus/für Österreichs/Freiheit/und Unabhängigkeit/Den Toten zum Gedenken,/den Lebenden zur Mahnung./Niemals vergessen“

[3] Treblinka, Buchenwald, Dachau, Mauthausen, Ebensee, Regional Court Vienna, Bergen-Belsen, Sachsenhausen, Stein a. d. Donau, Strutthof, Morzinplatz, Theresienstadt, Ravensbrück, Auschwitz, Birkenau.


Kunstplatz Reumannplatz, 1100 Vienna

Further Information

Heike Mutter *1969 in Munich (DE), lives in Hamburg (DE)
Ulrich Genth *1971 in Tübingen (DE), lives in Hamburg (DE)


Sleeping HorseHeike Mutter, Ulrich Genth

Time Period

Since June 23, 2023

U1 Reumannplatz

Education - Events


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