The granary buildings of the inland Albern Port are widely visible landmarks on the southern Danubian river bank in Eastern Vienna, built between 1939 and 1942 by forced laborers under the Nazi regime. As part of the logistics of a future geopolitical order, the inland port was designated to serve for transshipment of grain coming in from annexed regions in Southern and Eastern Europe to the heartlands of the German Reich.
Like the flak tower in Vienna’s Esterházypark redesigned by Lawrence Weiner in 1991, this manifest “brutality in stone”1 was given its own artistic reflection calling for the overdue historical and social commemoration of ist construction history and the unknown fates of those who built it.
To the silence of architecture, of people, and of discourses the artist responded in his characteristic visual vocabulary with a human figure sketched out in flat white with vigorous black outlines. With the clothing and physique of the torso only suggested by a pattern of equilateral crosses in light-gray semi-transparent glaze, the figure’s oversized head was in the center of the composition: the blinded eyes pierced by a padlock shackle, the mouth covered by the golden-yellow lock body and mute. Reaching upward toward the face, the figure’s left hand held a key between thumb and forefinger. Whether it was about to unlock, and get rid of, the padlock or had applied and locked it itself remained open.
These metaphors of closing up or unlocking the organs of speech and sight may be taken as referring to the specific contextual absence, or more generally, to conditions for the possibility of subjective and social perception and reconsideration of historically charged sites and spaces.
1. Brutalität in Stein (Brutality in Stone), short, BRD 1960. Script, produced and directed by Alexander Kluge, Peter Schamoni.
Text: Roman Tschiedl
Granary Alberner Hafen, 1110 Vienna
* Senegallia (IT), lives in Bologna (IT).
A project realized as part of the Black River Festival 2010