In Conversation with Places

An exhibition by Sculpture and Space

Curated by Fanny Hauser

With works by:
Luisa Berghammer, Jonathan Dellago, Anouk Ecker, Daniel Fonatti, Kurt Fritsche, Joshua Gottmanns, Tristan Griessler, Fiona Haderer, Georg Holzmann, Manuel Horak, Anna Hostek, Gabriel Huth, Gea Kalkhoff, Simon Lindenthaler, Nicholas Loibl, Leena Lübbe, Luīze Nežberte, Sarah Pleier, Raphael Pohl, Vanessa Preger-McGillivray, Carolina Rotter, Lisa Sifkovits, Martin Sommer, Philipp Steinkellner, Magdalena Stückler, Nanna Erika Troldborg, Susanna van Grinsven, Bartholomaeus Wächter
“Artists talk a lot about ‘space’ and what they want to do with it: activate it, respond to it, make it, occupy it, fill it, work with it, use it, choreograph it, read it, explore it. [...] I don’t like the term ‘space’ because it implies something empty, neutral, and ahistoric — I don’t think such a thing exists. I prefer the word ‘place.’ ‘Place’ comes with an address, a neighborhood, furniture, the cost of rent, rules, previous owners, street noise, cracks in the wall, ghosts. I also don’t like the term ‘site-specific’ because it implies that there are moments when something is not that. I like ‘site-responsive’: that a site is there doing its thing, and one can respond to it. It implies conversation. The responses pile up, are different from each other, cling, and haunt. ‘Respond’ comes from the Latin respondere: re meaning ‘back’ and spondere meaning ‘to pledge.’ Like the site has pledged something to you, which you are now promising to return.”
Johanna Hedva, Minerva the Miscarriage of the Brain, 2020

The exhibition In Conversation with Places brings together new and existing work by students from the Sculpture and Space Department of the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. At the outset, the participants were invited to consider the notion of “place” as initial conceptual framework formulated by the author, artist, activist, and musician Johanna Hedva, and to conceive or select works in direct response to the exhibition venue.

The notions of “space” and “place” have been contested and the subject of analyses by a number of critical thinkers, artists, and scholars. For the feminist geographer and social scientist Doreen Massey, the spatial is defined by and constructed of a multiplicity of social relations across time and space. Rather than viewing space as a given, flat and motionless surface, for Massey, the spatial is inherently dynamic and formed of interrelations on several levels. It holds no absolute independent dimension, nor it is connected to the idea of stasis. It carries simultaneity and, therefore, is continuously built and rebuilt in an ever-evolving configuration of social relations. An articulation of those relations constitutes what Massey refers to as place — an instance “constituted of the coming together […] in a precise point in space and time of a multiplicity of individual human and nonhuman trajectories that will disperse again at their own rhythm.” [1]

By analogy, the process of working on the exhibition In Conversation with Places might constitute one such instance in time and space. Following a number of site visits and conversations that took place over the course of the academic semester, the participants were invited to engage in a conversation with the exhibition venue Oststation am Kempelenpark and its history. Inaugurated in 1901 as a subsidiary company of the wire-rope factory Felten & Guilleaume, which was originally founded in Germany in 1826, the building bears witness to the rapid industrialization of 18th- and 19th-century Europe which marked a transition from manufacturing to mechanized production. The company soon became one of the main producers of wire-ropes and electric cables, exporting their wares across the globe. Today, the premises of the former factory have been taken over by a real estate developer with the intention of transforming the larger area into a new urban quarter comprising apartment buildings, an elementary school, a kindergarten, as well as a large public park at the center. Expected to be demolished in fall 2021, Oststation has regularly been used for events, exhibitions, and other projects including cultural initiatives since 2014. Traces of the location’s rich history, as both a factory and site of cultural production, can be found in the building’s decaying structures that have been partly reclaimed by nature throughout the years.

The ways in which the participants of the exhibition responded to the site are multifaceted. While some of the works engage with the space by adapting to, and expanding on, their immediate surroundings other make use of, or even appear to be, material found on the premises, raising questions concerning property ownership and public sphere. Drawing from the participants’ respective practices and experience, the works unfold as a multiplicity of stories, observations, materials, and meanings, conjuring up the bygone days of factory labor and various modes of production. For this exhibition, the premises of Oststation have been revived as a site for social interaction and learning—with the activities of the class of the Sculpture and Space department having moved from its permanent location at Paulusplatz in Vienna’s 3rd district to Oststation over the course of the past weeks. Rather than being solely used as a site of production, the grounds of Oststation have served as a place from which to work as well as exchange experience and be together. After all, it is not the location that constitutes a group or an academic class, but the social interactions among its members, as well as their commonality and dissent. Through this exhibition, those interactions may bring about the power to transform the surroundings—in conversation with the place.

Text: Fanny Hauser

May 21–23, May 28–30, June 4–5
2–8 pm
Oststation am Kempelenpark
Quellenstraße 2A, 1100 Wien

Bertrand Sergot and Anne-Laure Saives, Unplugged - Relating place to organization: A situated tribute to Doreen Massey, in: M@n@gement 2016, 4, Vol. 19, 335–352.


Duration I
21. May 2021 - 23. May 2021
Quellenstraße 2A, 1100 Wien
Duration II
28. May 2021 - 30. May 2021
Quellenstraße 2A, 1100 Wien
Duration III
04. June 2021 - 05. June 2021
Quellenstraße 2A, 1100 Wien