[Art in public spaces]
In Graz, art is not just found in museums. There is plenty to discover outside – some pieces more hidden than others. In the Joanneum Quarter in the centre of town, an escalator takes you down to the entrance below ground level. But before you step onto the moving staircase, walk to the other side of the square, in the direction of the Sparkasse bank. There you’ll find a circular cage, surrounding what was, when it was constructed, just bare earth. Now, it’s a small wilderness, with plants clambering upwards. Created by Lois Weinberger, the piece focuses on the connection between civilisation and nature. The plants growing in the cage weren’t sown – they simply appeared, the seeds brought by birds flying overhead or carried by the wind. The cage protects the work, keeping people out and leaving nature to do its thing. The piece reminds you of the speed at which nature is able to recapture its territories, of how quickly it could overrun us given half a chance.
When you’ve finished taking in this wilderness, walk towards the entrance. But before you turn to ride down the cocktail-glass facade, look right – and up. You’ll see a small metal pyramid mounted onto the traditional facade, a carbon fibre pole attached, with a small grey sphere at the end. This is one of those pieces where you definitely need to read the accompanying notice. Because this somewhat unassuming work by Thomas Baumann is interactive. There is a phone number to call – let it ring twice and the lights turn on in the sphere and the pole begins to move, drawing the symbol for infinity in the air.
Turning towards the escalator, look up and to the right again. Here you’ll discover a piece by Michael Schuster based on the concept of colour and light. Taking up two sides of a balcony, triangular elements rotate to show two of the three primary colours – as well as the colour that results when you combine them. Paint, and the mixing of colours, has always been a central aspect of art. Here, this topic steps into the spotlight, drawing attention to two of an artist’s most important tools.
The most well known example of art in public spaces in Graz is only a few minutes walk away, on the other side of the river: the BIX facade of the Kunsthaus gallery. It is made up of 930 fluorescent rings acting as pixels that can be programmed by a central computer and transformed into words and images. Every few months there is a new display or message being sent out into the city. In my opinion, this is a perfect example of art in public spaces – accessible and visible to all. You can look into the concept behind the displays – but you can also simply enjoy the spectacle for what it is.
And these are just a few of the art works displayed in the city – some temporary, some permanent, some analogue, some digital. Graz is a place to keep your eyes peeled – you can find art in the most surprising places.