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The Just Past by Karen Cunningham

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at Sculpture Garden Strombad Kritzendorf, www.sculptured.org.
June 23rd – September 29th 2012
by Veronika Hauer

The Just Past by Scottish artist Karen Cunningham was only one of the 22 sculptural and performative works that together composed Sculpture Garden, an outdoor exhibition within the public area of the lido ‘Strombad Kritzendorf’ near Vienna. Initiated by artist Magda Tothova and myself, Sculpture Garden envisioned confronting the historical and highly interesting site of the ‘Strombad’, founded in 1903, with a variety of contemporary sculptural and performative practices. Between four to six new works were added to the exhibition each month, launched by opening events which saw the ephemeral Sculpture Garden emerge in slow paste across lawns, in trees, public buildings, the restaurant and the lido’s surrounding residential area. Between the initial opening on June 23rd and its closing event on a rainy Autumn night in late September, sculptures and installations, light boxes and leaflets, fashion photographs and performance props by artists from Berlin, Graz, Glasgow, Gothenburg and Vienna could be visited day and night at the lido. Exposed to summer heat, the rain, storms and a more or less art loving crowd of permanent residents and day time visitors Sculpture Garden was never meant to last longer than one summer, but some works disappeared more quickly than we had anticipated. The Just Past was installed on August 3rd and was destroyed on September 2nd. When we informed Karen about the vandalism her piece had undergone, she decided to not install another version of The Just Past and instead she wrote a thoughtful essay in response to the vandalism by an anonymous spectator. “Essay for an artwork, destroyed”, which Nowiswere takes the opportunity to publish, was first read to an audience by Magda and myself on the closing night of Sculpture Garden.

In 1903 the city of Klosterneuburg built ‘Strombad Kritzendorf’ as a public lido. The bath’s name derives from its location along the river Danube (Strom translates as stream). In the 1920s and 30s the bath experienced high times with ten thousands of visitors seeking to find relaxation in (sun)bathing, hiking and breaking away from (hectic) city life. Situated only a 20-minute train ride northwest of Vienna, the small village Kritzendorf and the ‘Strombad’ became the weekend destination of mainly Jewish middle and upper class families, artists, architects, musicians and writers. The former ‘small colony’ developed into a ‘summer city’ as Lisa Fischer states in her precise and explicitly researched book on ‘Strombad Kritzendorf’, ‘Die Riviera an der Donau’. Due to its popularity as a summer residency a large number of modernist villas and weekend houses were erected during the 1920s and 30s by various architects such as Heinz Rollig, Adolf Loos, Anton Potyka, Erich Boltenstern, Karl Schömer and Fritz Epstein to name but a view. The coming into power of the Nazis and their support by the Austrian population accumulated in a ruthless and complete expropriation of all Jewish residents of ‘Strombad Kritzendorf’ in 1938. With the outbreak of WWII and the presecution, emigration, deportation and murder of most of the Austrian Jewish population, the atmosphere and popularity of Kritzendorf as a weekend destination changed drastically. Still, the bath retained its flair and beauty over the years and underwent rediscovery during the last decade.

Fischer, Lisa, Die Riviera an der Donau. 100 Jahre Strombad Kritzendorf, Wien/Köln/Weimar 2004. ISBN 3-205-77114-1

For more impressions on art works, performances and the site that made up Sculpture Garden visit
www.sculptured.org.

Essay for an artwork, destroyed by Karen Cunningham