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THE PERFORMATIVE POWER OF A PROBLEMATIC PUBLIC WORK: ARTINTERVENTIONS AT ALFRED HRDLICKA’S MEMORIAL AGAINST WAR AND FASCISM IN VIENNA ( Public Art Dialogue, 2018 Vol. 8, No. 2, 231–257 )

Capter: THE BLIND SPOT DEMANDS REACTION AND ACTION: GOLD ATTACK AND BARBED-WIRE PROTECTION

One and half years after Hrdlickas memorial was inaugurated (but not yet completed), sculptor Johannes Angerbauer-Goldhoff covered The Street-Washing Jew in gold bronze, fabricated by the artist himself.

   
 
 
   
 
   
   
   
   
     

This gold attack, subversively conducted on May 25, 1990, was the starting-point for the artists life-long examination of the material gold, generally understood to be pure and sacral, but in Angerbauer-Goldhoffs view a material highly contaminated by greed and misuse of power, leading to suppression, exploitation and the destruction of men and nature. I will concentrate on his very first intervention, Zahn-Gold-Zeit-Gold.

     

Angerbauer-Goldhoffs intervention made fitting allusions to the enrichment that resulted from the expropriation and murder of European Jews, including the gold teeth robbed by the Nazis from concentration camp victims. However, the topic of Nazi gold only began to receive international attention during the 1990s. This might be one explanation why his action did not receive greater media coverage, as few grasped its implications. Another reason might be that the gilding of the Jew in itself was not unproblematic as it evoked common antisemitic perceptions of Jews as wealthy and greedy profiteers. Preoccupied by an overarching interest in exposing the contamination of the material gold, Angerbauer-Goldhoff rejects this criticism. To him, the gilding of The Street-Washing Jew was an attempt to enhance the status of the humiliated.

       

Interestingly, Angerbauer-Goldhoff completed his gold attack unhindered. Over the decades, even the Viennese authorities had become accustomed to provocative Aktionskunst. In Austria, there exists a high degree of tolerance when it comes to public art. Moreover, the police might have been blinded by the shiny material, leading to the assumption that the artist had been commissioned. Symptomatic for Austrian cultural memory at the time was that the police, as Angerbauer-Goldhoff recalled, did not care about the figure of the Jew. They only intervened when they thought the pavement would be besmirched. The action was perceived as damage to property, and the artist was put into temporary custody, and summoned to a public health officer. .

 

Angerbauer-Goldhoffs intervention made Hrdlicka finally meet the city pleas to alter his memorial. Three days after the gold attack, the sculpture was removed.This prevented Angerbauer-Goldhoff from completing the planned second part of the performance, namely the careful cleaning of the aureated Jew, to be carried out by the artist on his bare knees. Many, especially from the Jewish community, had hoped that the bronze would not return. It was, however, restored and reinstalled two months later, now with what appeared to be barbed wire added to the figures back to stop people sitting on it.

     

This form of protection, created by Hrdlicka himself, called forth other difficult images counteracting the artists original intentions. References to Christian iconography were close at hand, as the metal spikes resembled the crown of thorns worn by Jesus, thereby alluding to the classic antisemitic portrayal of Jews as the murderers of Christ. Far from solving the problem, the barbed wire on the old Jew was as unbearable an image as the ice cream-eating tourists. Hrdlickas monument remained a reminder of Jewish humiliation, for many too painful to look at. Consequently, some Viennese Jews avoid(ed) Albertinaplatz altogether. Nonetheless, the Memorial against War and Fascism remained in place, and continued to be a stumbling-block, challenged by further artistic interventions.

       
     

Profil von Dr Tanja Schult auf der Königl. Universität Stockholm: https://www.su.se/english/profiles/tschu-1.223182

     

Tandfonline - Public Art Dialogue Public Art Dialogue, 2018 Vol. 8, No. 2, 231–257

     

"Zahn Gold - Zeit Gold"  Zahn Gold - Zeit Gold Aktionsdokumentation

       
 

Der Ursprung des Kunstwerk - reclam