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Ruth Schnell :
Installation in the Government District

St. Pölten (Landesakademie), 1997 – 2018


The two-stage competition provided the background to the artistic intervention in St. Pölten, for which seven artworks by Austrian artists were recommended for realisation. These projects are by Josef Danner, Bruno Gironcoli, Richard Hoeck, Hans Kupelwieser, Christoph Steffner, Thomas Stimm and Heimo Zobernig. Five commissions for interiors were awarded directly, to Gunter Damisch, Franz Graf, Brigitte Kowanz, Eva Schlegel and Walter Vopava. The winning project in a separate competition for the design of the chapel (1995) is by Arnulf Rainer. Additional existing artworks by Franz Xaver Ölzant, Oskar Putz and Ruth Schnell are also to be found in the Regierungsviertel. Works by Dara Birnbaum and Michelangelo Pistoletto, also selected by the first jury, are not realized.

Project no longer on view

Entering a strange building one first has to get one's bearings. Unsteadly one's gaze seeks points of orientation and in the best of circumstances it linches onto a person who is familiar with the location, for instance a doorman. If there is no such person, only signs remain for orientation. Yet what does it mean for instance if a red light suddenly begins flashing in the entrance area of the adademy? Usually one enters unfamiliar buildings with a mental and physical bearing in some ways resembling the protective charm of a ritual initiation. Ruth Schnell subverts such protective mechanism with her work "Virtual Terms". Here she confronts the visitor of the Landesakademie with signs that are too trite to be immediately recognized as art and too unspectacular to be regarded as merely signs of orientation. At eye level, three approximately 30 cm high red luminous display poles hang on the walls. One is located in the corner of the doormans's box, the two others light up at the same height on the opposing wall. All three radiate nonvisible words generated by a computer. However, when the viewer swings his/her gaze over the three poles, these words could suddenly appear in the room, as a sort of side effect, on his/her retina. Unexpectedly he/she learns something about the foreign surroundings through a chance movement of the head.
(Christian Zillner)