the lure of modernism

The installation the lure of modernism creates an experimental setting in which the visitor can experience and research the narrow border between fear and ecstasy, adrenaline and endorphins, toxicity and intoxication.

In this, it tries to find a metaphor for our global ecological situation, which can be described like this: although we live in the constant fear that our machine-dependent lifestyles will be - in the long run - deadly for most of us (humanity as we know it), we still seem to be stuck with it. We know of its danger, but we are mesmerized by it. We are hooked on what will eventually kill us.

In the setting of the installation, the potentially lethal gas is Carbon Monoxide (CO), emitted from a combustion engine producing electricity for the other necessary machines: a leafs blower and an LED-board.

The level of CO inside the installation ranges from 150 to 500 ppm. Given that the legal limit for an 8 hours working day in Austria and Germany is 35 ppm, the level is 5 to 15 times higher than the permitted maximum. If the visitor would stay inside for 2 to 3 hours, s/he would get a headache and nausea. However, nobody is allowed to stay in longer than for an absolute maximum of 10 minutes.

Before entering (maximum 3 people at a time) the visitor(s) are told, that inside the room they will encounter a very messy entanglement of nature (as leafs) and culture (as plastic garbage). As machine-optimistic environmentalists (as we all are) our task is to separate the two neatly. For this purpose, machines have been provided. The visitor is asked to blow the plastic garbage out of the window (this is how we deal with ecological problems: we get them out of sight) using the leafs blower. However s/he is also warned, that the more use of the machines are made, the more toxic the room will get.

Most visitors stay in for the maximum of the time, resulting in the need to ask them out. They enjoy the task of "cleaning up nature" with the loud and smelly machinery and fall prey to the lure of modernism. It is not by accident that the leafs blower is a very phallic machine. In entering, most people's bodies go into some "danger mode", their blood's adrenaline level rises and they are increasingly alert. However, when they take up the phallus, they become subjects, degrading the environment to a passive assemblage of objects. Out of this results a certain feeling of power and ecstasy. The toxic gases and the loud noise becomes an anthem and further stimuli to their agency as powerful humans, dominating nature. In this feeling, which the installation allures us into, we become unaware of our ecological situation and fall in love with the highly dangerous status quo of the environment.

The installation was the diploma work of my MA in Arts&Science at the University of Applied Arts Vienna and has been awarded with the recognition price of the city of Vienna. It has been on display from 15th to 22nd of June 2017 at Expositur Hohenstaufengasse in Vienna. Further exhibits are planed (if you are interested, do not hesitate to contact me).

For further reading see my written component of the master thesis and the texts "Be part of the problem, not the solution" and "Ecological Art and the Resilience of Modernism".