Bezirksamt L-Stadt Revisited

Intervention in public space, temporary installation (2011)

The work was created as part of the exhibition Widersprüche. Critical Agency and the Difference Within, at Open Space Gallery Vienna, curated by Nora Sternfeld. It consisted of kidnapping an anti-Semitic information plaque from a district administration office, substituting it with the reproduction of a survivor’s art work called “Jewish Bravery” and installing it in the gallery. It only remained there for a couple of minutes though; the police confiscated it and brought it back to the administration office.

The show’s concept was to invite artists and theoreticians to hold a lecture at the exhibition opening. The subject of the lectures would relate to the exhibition’s title. The supposed title of my talk was “Talking Back! Among us and beyond us: Recognizing Anti-Semitism, disrupting Anti-Semites.”

I live in Vienna’s 2nd district, the Jewish quarter of the city. Tens of thousands Jews had been expelled from there during the Nazi era. The Open Space Gallery is located there as well. A few days before the opening, when I prepared for the lecture, I went to the 2nd district’s Magistratisches Bezirksamt (district administration office) to renew my passport. In one of the hallways I came across an information plaque displaying the district history. Remarkably the plaque concealed the crimes committed against the district’s Jewish population in the pogroms of 1670/71 and between 1938 and 1945.

Being accustomed to the insufficient way Austria’s society handles its Nazi past, the plaque was no surprise to me. However, I decided to change my plans for the opening lecture. I renamed it “Worüber ich heute sprechen wollte und was ich morgen tun werde” (What I Planned To Talk About Today And What I Will Do Tomorrow), and told the audience about the plaque and that I planned to kidnap it and install it in the gallery. So the following day I went to the administration office, took the plaque off the wall and substituted it with a reproduction of an artwork by the Israeli artist Menachem Lemberger, entitled “Jewish Bravery”. I brought the plaque to the gallery and marked it with the following text: “Until the 4th of May 2011, Nazi crimes had been denied and anti-Semitic history-writing had been practiced in the Bezirksamt of Vienna’s L-Stadt.” After a couple of minutes the police showed up, confiscated the plaque and returned it to the district administration office, where the authorities put it back in its place. The police took me to the station for an interrogation.

After an open letter was sent and a newspaper article published the authorities substituted the old plaque with a revised one and abandoned the lawsuit against me.

reviews

Wiederkehrende Rollenprobleme

(Gin/i Müller und Lisbeth Kovačič: kulturrisse 2/2011) Wir kennen das eine und das andere: einer guten künstlerisch-politischen Intervention beizuwohnen und die Teilnahme an direkten politischen Aktionen.
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Dass etwas geschehen kann … Postrepräsentatives Kuratieren

(Nora Sternfeld: Bildpunkt Frühling 2012) „Treffpunkt ist morgen um 14 Uhr am Karmeliterplatz“. Der Künstler Eduard Freudmann kündigt am 3. Mai 2011 im Wiener Open Space eine Aktion an, die am Tag nach der Eröffnung der von mir dort kuratierten Ausstellung Widersprüche. Critical Agency and the Difference within stattfinden sollte.
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