Mission W

Based on their common interest in site-specific exhibition spaces outside the white cube, and in the fluid relations between people, objects and nature, the artists EVA ENGELBERT and KATRIN HORNEK have invited nine other artists to develop works for a forest site in the Vienna Woods:


The site chosen for the exhibition – on the edge of Vienna’s sixteenth district, close to the Jubiläumswarte viewing tower – is not only a popular local recreation area but also part of a global network. In 2005, the Vienna Woods were named a UNESCO Biosphere Park. This is defined as a model region for research – a testing ground for economically, ecologically and socially sustainable development. Particular emphasis is put on human activity as forming part of the biosphere.

Humans are also increasingly a determining factor in geology. Geology as a discipline defines the epochs of the Earth’s history in terms of the layers laid down in the planet’s crust. According to biologist Eugene F. Stoermer and atmospheric scientist Paul Crutzen – also a Nobel laureate in Chemistry – we have now entered the “Anthropocene,” a new epoch shaped by human activity. We have irreversibly changed the Earth’s ecosystem, becoming a geological factor in our own right. Humans and nature can thus be considered re-united, comprising a single entity.

The temporary exhibition MISSION W is conceived as an experimental apparatus capable of registering a series of mutual interactions: between what is grown and what is made, between the verifiable and the unknown, between geo-engineering and climate change. This is a mission into the forest, a mission to investigate complex political, social and historical interactions. It raises questions about our conceptual frameworks for nature and culture, and the boundary that lies between the two. Further questions address the interactions that appear in these systems when very different materials are brought together: the palms of the human hand, the tops of trees, a temporary clearance permit1, hemispheres of the brain and computer mice.

The artists’ approaches are partly formal and partly conceptual. Some works affect their location, some melt or are eaten by animals. Others make reference to objects or buildings at the site, including benches, information boards and the underground wartime command bunker locally known as the “Schirach Bunker.” As well as these historical references, there is also a role here for previous experiments in hermetically sealed, self-sustaining ecosystems, including the American “Biosphere 2” and the Soviet “BIOS-3”2.

KLAUS SCHAFLER makes reference to both of these previous experiments. He uses a construction site billboard to announce the building of a fictional research station, intended to use geo-engineering to test life in artificial environments.

RALO MAYER places a covered block of ice in the forest, composed of frozen Viennese mountain spring water. The iceblock is affected by changes in the weather conditions, thematizing two separate “Suess effects.”

With her three sculptural displays and a video available on the Internet, EKATERINA SHAPIRO­OBERMAIR invokes a topographically similar location far outside the Vienna Woods: Gorki Leninskiye near Moscow, the deathplace of Lenin.

In her audio piece, Position ReportJOHANNA TINZL brings the visitor along the traces of the “Schirach Bunker”, a structure invisible from the surface. The central motif of a cuckoo’s call links today’s nature reserve with what came before – the Nazi “Air Warning Center – Ostmark.”

Inspired by the Henry Moore sculpture in front of UNESCO’s headquarters – a piece created in collaboration with the Paris rain – KATRIN HORNEK’S Cloud (Nephele) observes the processes of morphological formation generated by the Vienna Woods Biosphere.

LUDWIG KITTINGER’S mobile pavilion is an open space within a space, the artist’s base within the forest. Here, during the construction phase, Kittinger used a grinding machine to reduce a dead tree to dust, dispersed by the wind in all directions.

EVA ENGELBERT’S work is an acoustic and sculptural artifact of her engagement with the National Socialist past. In an act between destruction, recycling and (theoretical) reactivation, the artist loudly sounds out the ruins of the “Schirach Bunker”.

SUSANNE SCHUDA developes a totem between modern self-construction and a mixture of mystified nature and psychologized biochemistry. Fictional diary entries lay the foundation for textual and visual chains of association.

BARBARA KAPUSTA and NOËLE ODY have created two objects that speak to each other and are made for each other – two materials that can tell the spectator stories of bodies, of movements, of presence and absence.

Based on her interest in phyllomancy – telling the future from the sound and movements of leaves and trees – EVA SEILER has created an oracle-object.

The exhibition MISSION W is accompanied by an extensive program of events, with contributions from artists MARLENE HAUSEGGER, SABINA HOLZER / JACK HAUSER and EMANUEL MAUTHE, scientists HERBERT HOI, ERWIN RIESS and ALEXANDRA WIESHAIDER and theorists HEATHER DAVIS / Claudia Slanar and RAIMAR STANGE.


1 — Rodung meint die Verwendung von Waldboden zu anderen Zwecken als solche der Waldkultur. Um das Waldstück für Mission W nutzen zu können, musste ein förmlicher Antrag auf eine vorübergehende Rodungsbewilligung für das Rahmen­gebiet von insgesamt 26306 m2 (KG 01405 Ottakring, Einlagezahl 1991) bei der MA 58 gestellt werden.

2 — In der sibirischen BIOS-3 (1972 – 1984) wurden insgesamt zehn Experimente auf 315 m3 Lebensraum durchgeführt. Beim längsten Experiment hielten es die drei Crewmitglieder 180 Tage aus. Bio­sphere 2 ist ein 1991 in Arizona erbauter, 1,3 Hektar großer Gebäudekomplex, der ebenfalls mit dem Ziel errichtet wurde, ein sich selbst erhaltendes Ökosystem beruhend auf den Erkenntnissen der Biosphäre 1 – der Erde – zu schaffen. Beim ersten Versuch lebten acht Teilnehmer/innen für zwei Jahre und 20 Minuten in dem Glasgebäude.