Lecture Series with Cornelia Offergeld: “Memory of the City”

The first event in the Lecture Series "Religion - Aesthetics - Public Space" took place on 23 June 2022. The lecturer was the curator and art scholar Cornelia Offergeld, who has been the curatorial director of the department "Art in Public Space Vienna" (KÖR) since 2021.

The background to the event was the question of remaining in processes of transformation to which public space is exposed today: What memory shapes the city and public space? Where is this itself in a process of erosion and how is it repeatedly restaged? What is the significance of art and artistic intervention in this process? And last but not least: What role do religions, with their sacred buildings and monuments, play in shaping public space to this day?

In the first part of the event, Cornelia Offergeld gave a lecture that introduced many current questions about the presence of art in public space, which has replaced classical "monument art":

Art in public space is an independent interdisciplinary art genre that is explicitly created for the public and reflects the changes in this public. It can never be thought of without society, because as "public art" it takes place at the intersection of art, society and politics. For artists, a social responsibility can be derived from this. They must ask themselves the fundamental questions of whether they want to place aesthetic signs in this space that lead back to themselves by expressing their individuality or whether they are interested in society. Do they want to aesthetically expand urban space, comment on it or help shape society?

With the demand for an autonomy of art, the 20th century called for a self-explanatory language that refuses hierarchical thinking or, according to Theodor W. Adorno, subversively questions domination. A generation after Adorno, Jacques Rancière stated that there was no contradiction between autonomous art and its "politicisation", since the synthesis of these two fields was already inscribed in the basic structure of aesthetics. The field of tension between individuality and collectivity meets the question of how communities can be activated, or what free spaces are available to communities in public space. The current increase in work by collectives dealing with social issues is a clear sign of the socio-political influence that art would like to exert today. (C. Offergeld)

Art in Public Space is about finding open spaces in the city and designing them. Cornelia Offergeld showed numerous pictures from Vienna as part of her lecture before we set off together on a walk through Vienna's city centre, which took us to Ballhausplatz (Memorial to the Persecutees of Nazi Military Justice, Olaf Nicolai), Judenplatz (Memorial to the Austrian Jewish Victims of the Shoah, Rachel Whiteread) and Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Platz (Lueger Monument, Josef Müllner), where we discussed in each case the question of how memory is dealt with artistically at these places.