20 Fleck

Vienna Strip. The Sequential View. On the Large Scale Picture by Walter Obholzer

Walter Obholzer's "20 Fleckenbild" is the first of four large-format pictures planned for the facade of the Kunsthalle from 1994 – 1996. The elements combine into hieroglyphic writing with horizontals and verticals interweaving and the individual layers remaining mobile in their light/dark shading.

The pictures are based upon small foetal pictures which Walter Obholzer painted last year. On the adaptation: The picture is explicitly not a blow up of a preconceived original but rather a thoroughgoing continuation and transformation of an image from the intimacy of the small format to the large-scale picture open to public view. First Obholzer enters the picture design into the computer. The binary mixing of the colours, the changed dimensions and the material which was to carry the picture was programmed and considered just as much as the contextual surroundings of the planned location.

The size of the picture (54 metres long, 10 metres high), with its "monumental impermanence", evokes the large-scale and panoramic pictures commemorating the Russian Revolution such as the cinematographic frieze, "The Procession of Mourners", produced by architect Lev Rudenv for the first anniversary of the Russian Revolution in 1918. It has a static design which is dynamised by the passing processions. Or Natan Altman's designs for the decorations of the Petrograd General Staff Headquarters and the Winter Palace by means of tableaux hung temporarily on the facades: Art for All.

In the opposite direction a useful comparison can be made with Raoul Dufy's wall picture "La Fée Électricité" (60 times 10 metres, created in 1937 and since 1964 in the Museé d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris). The illuminated facade of the pavilion built by Mallet-Stevens for the 1937 World Exhibition was transformed at night into a kind of huge screen. The fresco by Raoul Dufy inside the pavilion laid claim to being a universal panorama portraying the history of electricity from ancient mythology up to the present.

The public space created by the Viennese large-scale picture is more complex and ambivalent than the generalising or propagandistic pretensions of the commemoration of the revolution or Dufy's continual celebration of a Unio Mystica of nature and technology. As a public picture it is surrounded by a flood of frantically changing words and pictures (mostly advertising).

"A monument is first and foremost a signal, a sign, an appeal. A monument does not necessarily therefore refer to the past, an historic or some other event. It is first of all a moment of pause in the routine of everyday life. Its most important function is to make us stop, whereas urban daily life is a life of mobility, mobilisation, forgetting, habit, repetitions, rituals etc. The monument interrupts the repetition. It should wake us up and provoke us. A monument can be architectural, like all great monuments, it can be really gigantic but also really tiny". (Paul Virillo)

Hybrid mixed forms associate to become legible text and pictures, "a great area of half-text, of unfinished writing grasped while in formation, an ensemble of signals" (Michel Butor)

A succession of picture fragments forms the visual mind of the pedestrian in which the perception of scraps and shapes is combined with the urgency to make connections between fragments. The French film critic Serge Daney has described this sequence of anti-masterpiece perception very well: "Because I don't particularly like virtuoso works I always need the transition from one thing into another. And I'm satisfied to be in this condition, above my body and above my experience of walking, the passer-by. From one futile plan to the next. Fellini's greatness lay in the fact that he never filmed a virtuoso piece without showing the previous and following plot. He conceives his films with the logic of a pedestrian."

Walter Obholzer's large picture does not only remain detail and fragment from close-up (the street in front of the Kunsthalle). The swivelling view of the whole picture from the street sees only fragments of an ornament coming into being which "runs over" the edges of the picture. Obholzer has intertwined the 20 individual elements into a kind of visual writing without beginning or end. There are many entrances and exits and the movement of the elements (on top of and underneath each other, into each other, with and against each other) is the movement of bodies in space. And so the circle is closed: at the beginning of the process we have the dissolution of the body in data processing and as the end-product the assembled and composed "physical" presence of the large-format picture.

"For Lautremont to move is never to go from one place to the next, but always to execute some figure, to assume a certain body rhythm. He is running away.he is running away" or "the mad woman who passes by, dancing.the final meaning of any sequence on the relation space/event/movement" (Bernhard Tschumi). Or, referring to the city: "The process has gone full circle: it started by deconstructing the city, today it explores new codes of assemblage" (Bernhard Tschumi).

(September 1994)