The art installation Counterpoles/Widerstäbe by Peter Kozek, which was the winner of an invitational call to design a memorial for the victims of the Nazi regime in Baden, was officially opened to the public at the end of April 2017.
Located in one of the most heavily frequented places in the town of Baden – on the Josefsplatz, between the Arnulf Rainer Museum and the final stop of the local train Badner Bahn – Peter Kozek’s work Counterpoles/Widerstäbe is about 1,300 square meters in size. The installation consists of 36 metal poles protruding out of the ground at different angles. While the arrangement of the poles may appear accidental and unsystematic at first, the composition is based on a precise structuring principle. Kozek imagined a Star of David in the sky above the square that was pointing toward Baden’s synagogue. Because the poles fixed in the ground are pointing in different angles toward this imaginary Star of David, they draw lines in the air that connect to the corners of the twelve triangles that make up the imaginary star. The poles are also painted black and white, which increases the spatial effect of the installation and lends it a unique dynamic.
Peter Kozek’s idea of creating a constant mental image of the star in the sky – with associations of its symbolic destruction and fragmentation in the past – creates a palpable experience for passers-by in the public square. When viewers walk through the installation, the image constantly shifts with their change in perspective. This initiates a kind of cycle of remembrance and refusal to forget – a hope for a future, in which people treat each other with respect. Instead of prescribing fixed ideas or directions, the installation is designed to provide visitors with inspiration, and ultimately create a space for active debate. Before 1938, the City of Baden had been home to the third-largest Jewish community in Austria. After the Anschluss (Annexation) of Austria by the German Reich in 1938, as Jewish citizens were being persecuted and driven from the country, political opponents and other individuals considered not part of the Volksgemeinschaft (national community) were also persecuted systematically.
For this reason, the City of Baden wanted to remember all of the victims of the Nazi regime. Peter Kozek’s solution of making the Star of David, the symbol of Judaism, the starting point of his installation in an abstract form makes it possible to read the memorial from a more universal perspective. Prior the competition, a dedicated group of representatives of victims’ associations, religious communities, political parties, and civil society conducted thorough research, and together with the city’s Jewish community, they lay the groundwork for the competition. In 2015, Peter Kozek’s design won the limited competition organized by the City of Baden and Public Art Lower Austria.