The artist L'Atlas was invited in 2017 to create two proposals for the design of a 170 x 7 meter retaining wall of the Wiener Linien. The winning design selected by the KÖR jury was realised in August 2020: Over a period of two weeks, the artist and his team of six assistants painted the inclined surface located on a bypass with heavy traffic. L'Atlas wrote the sentence "Underground systems will never die!” on the wall, flanked by his stylised signature on both sides. A play on words, his use of the term “underground” celebrates not only the Vienna subway, but also the underground art movements that will always continue to exist outside of the mainstream.
In contrast to the chaotic colours of the city streets, L’Atlas’ letters based on vertical and horizontal lines will appear in attention-grabbing black and white. The aim is to become visible in the public space in an unorthodox and optical manner to ensure people stop to take the time to read and contemplate his writing. Believing that colour is anecdotal and narrative, while radical black and white speaks of purity and the essence of the idea, embodying the notion of reflection, he hopes to encourage viewers to linger and meditate on his message and the world around us before disappearing into the streets again.
“What I like about outdoor public commissions is the idea of becoming eternal and participating in the history of the city,” L’Atlas concludes. “It’s good to sell pieces that are going to be in collections, but there is something stronger in the street because you don’t need to pay to see it: it’s free. They’re totally different energies. In the studio, it’s more like meditation. When you’re in the street, it’s like an extreme sport such as rock climbing, or a war zone: there are a lot of people speaking to you, there’s traffic, the vertical platform lift is really dangerous to use. You wonder why you’re doing it, but sometimes you need this energy to come back to the studio. It’s a performance, something extraordinary that suddenly gives life meaning, something heroic almost because you risk your life. This idea of risking your life to be eternal is a myth that I really like.”
Y-Jean Mun-Delsalle, August 2020
Wall east of Hadikgasse 312 (subway station)
L’Atlas (Jules Dedet), *1978 in Toulouse (F), living and working in Paris