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Martin Pail über

W. M. Pühringer

W. M. Pühringer is somewhat of an exorcist. Defying any attempt at classification, the drawings, sculptures and architecture that he has created since the mid-1980s expose and discard art whose existence depends on easy recognition. Pühringer's works are launched into their surroundings like guided missiles, opening up new ways of seeing and confronting their observers with an irritating openness of the artistic process.


Pühringer emphasizes the connection between art and the real world, values transformation and unity resulting from their interaction. In an era in which art seems content to remain passive and is limited to a Baudrillardean reproduction of reproduction, W.M. Pühringer's artistic exorcism can be perceived as terrorism. His works intended for exhibition in the public space break the boundaries existing between the separate realms of architecture and art, still defined by what is perceived as largely different needs of their users. In Pühringer's mixture of architecture and sculpture, users become part of the artistic process and are expected to invest an effort to understand how the work functions and how it can be perceived. His art obliterates divisions such as private - public or subject - object; it is closed to an understanding of the world expressed in terms of traditional thinking, to a worldview which cannot allow for contradiction. Masterful arrangements of points and lines fragmented in space demand from the viewer to think, to perceive, to form opinions. The result of such activity is a new perception of everyday objects: Pühringer's architectonic terrorism destroys the seeming harmony of political, social and aesthetic forces implicit in a work of art, showing that its consensual center in reality consists of several opposing tendencies. In spite of the great technical precision of their form, Pühringer's works in effect represent a battlefield of ideas, constantly generating contradiction.



While graphic drawings are meant to be seen as »drawn«, Pühringer's architectural drawings and designs appear to be already »built«. His architectonic terrorism denies or disregards structures existing in situ and, breaking the fundamental rules of architecture, opens up new possibilities of artistic expression. To construct what is architecturally unthinkable has become Pühringer's central preoccupation, the underlying tendency of his work. As part of this project, an architecture of space evolves into an architecture of space in the landscape: Pühringer's works increasingly require interpretation in relation to the place they are exhibited in. »Wind-Wedge« (1994) and »Rising Arc« (1995) connect the sky with the earth, good with bad. In these works, the sculptural element becomes both parasite and old friend. Pühringer's objects soar up from earth into space like rockets and projectiles, transcending the universe of material existence. What is important are not so much the dimensions of these works but their treatment of space, the way they capture and measure the speed of movement they both suggest.


W.M. Pühringer reshuffles the cards contemporary architects play with. He extends the two central tenets of deconstructivism - a new way of thinking about structure and an overall redefinition of architectural boundaries - by attempting to transcend, by means of thought and language, the limitations of the architectural medium itself. He consciously strips existing architecture of its surface, shreds its language, reduces its density and weight to rubble, and then dumps it.


Neither messianic nor apocalyptic, Pühringer's works express a cool logic of a deadly weapon. Under the ever-present threat of terrorism, they force an art which is approaching the edge and heading for a fall, coming to a halt only moments before plunging into the abyss. »Guardian Angel« (1994) blocks the path of a passer-by more than it points him or her in a given direction.


»MIG-Connection« (1993) and »Chainsaw Connection« (1993) also provoke a vague but undeniable feeling of uneasiness. These works can be said to confirm Adorno's view that art resides only in places where mimetic behavioral patterns have been preserved throughout the process of civilization. W.M. Pühringer articulates this view in what amounts to an actof prostitution - his guiding model is the technical precision of the firearm as a mass-produced tool - and simultaneously embarks on a kind of self-therapy.


Line by line, structure by structure, the juxtaposed texts and sculptural constructions outline Pühringer's aesthetic. There is nothing mysterious hidden in the texts that accompany the sketches - they are simply compensation for the unfulfilled promise of architecture in our lives and in our world. In contrast to »pure« architectural drawings, the sketch (Entwurf) appears here as an overlying concept of existential philosophical thought. The work process does not begin with the empty page. Instead an entirety is transferred to it line by line, subject to a reductional deconstruction. The lines, connections, details and elements form an architecture that cannot yet be conceived of, but which must be followed. Consequently the splinter in the project »The House with a Splinter in ltself« (1990) is a crack that ontologically divides humans and the world and differentiates them from one another. Visually this crack is reinforced by means of the rising and falling angles in the sculpture.


The word »connection« generally figures in the titles of Pühringers works. Constructions made of wood and steel and sometimes taken from existing mechanical appliances such as engines are put together to form sculptures. These archi-sculptures as well as Pühringer's works in Actionism (»Autoaktion« 1992, »Sweet Circle« 1994) are representative of the direction the artist's work has recently taken. »Shelter-Connection« (1 994) and »Heuber-ger-Connection ll« (1 992) exemplify an almost imperceptible transition between architecture and sculpture. In contrast, the project »Wind-Wedge« (1994) shows this transition openly and vividly. It makes use of the concept of place, treating it as a point specifically fixed on the earth's surface. What results from this is neither colossal architecture imitating nature nor a second-hand nature expressed through architecture, but a nature composed of architecture as sculpture - in other words, the complete opposite of nature.


The lines of development of the artist's work and of the architecture it creates are revealed as part of a work in progress. This work is based on a dialectic of static and dynamic which also characterizes architecture as an art form. Art in the future - intended for exhibition in the public space, outside the white box of the gallery - will have to assert itself as terroristic.


Martin Pail, Wien 1996


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