Weinheber ausgehoben – Unearthing a Nazi Poet

Intervention in public space (2013) and reconfiguration of a monument (2019) by Plattform Geschichtspolitik

The project deals with a memorial to Austrian poet and Nazi Josef Weinheber (1892-1945) which stands at the Schillerpark in Vienna’s city centre. A temporary intervention, carried out in 2013, aimed at exposing the monument’s conflicted history. Public debate and years of negotiations with the authorities led to the permanent artistic reconfiguration and contextualization of the monument in 2019.

Weinheber ausgehoben – Unearthing a Nazi Poet

Intervention in public space (2013) and reconfiguration of a monument (2019) by Plattform Geschichtspolitik

The project deals with a memorial to Austrian poet and Nazi Josef Weinheber (1892-1945) which stands at the Schillerpark in Vienna’s city centre. A temporary intervention, carried out in 2013, aimed at exposing the monument’s conflicted history. Public debate and years of negotiations with the authorities led to the permanent artistic reconfiguration and contextualization of the monument in 2019.

Poeta laureatus! (2017)

Background
The monument was a focus of historical and political disputes since it’s installment in 1975, as it dismisses Weinheber’s background as a renowned Nazi functionary and propaganda poet. Monuments to other poets, among them Friedrich Schiller, and Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts, are situated on the same square.

In 2009 Plattform Geschichtspolitik, an initiative of students and teachers from the Academy were drawn to the Weinheber monument, and since 2010 they have initiated actions to raise awareness of the monument, its multi-layered history, the Academy’s entanglement with Nazism, antisemitism and Josef Weinheber.

First intervention (2010)
The group created stickers renaming the square: Platz der auf Betreiben der Akademie 1938/39 vom Platz vertriebenen Jüd_innen (Square of the Jews who got expelled from the square on the initiative of the Academy in 1938/39), and made posters which were pasted on the monument with information about the history of the monument and the square, including the inscription: “A monument that pays tribute to a Nazi, trivializes Nazism and the Shoah.”

First application (2011)
The group submitted a detailed proposal for a permanent reconfiguration of the monument to the City authorities, which intended to unearth its underground foundation by creating a little pit around it. After a series of negotiations the proposal was ultimately rejected.

Second Intervention (2013)
Despite the city authorities’ refusal, the group had decided to reconfigure the monument without an official permission or a project budget. In this process they excavated the monument’s foundation, which remained exposed for three days until municipal gardeners re-covered it. The intervention was reviewed by the media and gave rise to an unexpected reaction by Vienna’s City Secretary for Culture, who approved the intervention. He stated that he would have left it untouched if Parks and Gardens officials would not have intervened, and encouraged the group to submit another application to reconfigure the monument.

Second application (2014)
The group submitted their project once again and was approved with proceeding with the monument’s reconfiguration as long as they were to get all administrative permissions and found additional sponsors. The group then refused to this offer, stating that it is within Vienna’s City Council’s responsibility to provide the funds.

Permanent reconfiguration (2019)
In 2017 there was a new attempt to make the project happen, this time on the initiative of the Academy of Fine Arts. The negotiations with the city authorities and other administration offices were successful and the monument got permanently reconfigured and contextualized in June 2019. The larger part of the funds, however, was not provided by the City Council but by the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.

Chris Gangl, Gabu Heindl, Tatiana Kai-Browne, Katharina Morawek, Philipp Sonderegger, and Eduard Freudmann, in various constellations, have worked on the reconfiguration of the monument. The text of the contextualization plaque was written by Florian Wenninger.


Intervention (2013)

(Photos: Sheri Avraham and Tal Adler)

Reconfiguration (2019)

(Photos: Lisa Rastl and Lorenz Seidler)