Ottmar Hörl

Galerie Vorsetzen

Traditions modulate but the adaptations and attendant transformations that characterize cultural evolution take time. The earliest industrial buildings employed the grand style of patrician architecture until new forms were invented and the old garb was discarded. A purely industrial architecture became possible only in the 20th century; previously, the factories were characterized by architectural elements left over from earlier functions.

At first glance, Ottmar Hörl’s sculptures look like attempts at transforming industrial architecture back into public architecture. This is accurate, however, only to the extent that Hörl’s architectural models are made up of purely industrial products; actually, these models stand in space but have no clear-cut function. Called simply “Buildings” (the artist uses the English word), they lend themselves to a broad spectrum of uses. Hörl eschews the elements of industrial architecture, resorting, instead, to products manufactured in that context. He prefers objects normally used for mobile or immobile storage: containers, garbage cans, tool kits, glasses, etc. This changes the overall picture. Industrial architecture is transformed only indirectly by way of its productive realm—by way of commodities.

Two of the exhibited “Buildings,” presented in steel-plate containers, called Kristallpalast (Crystal palace) and Twin Tower, 1990, refer to familiar structures. Kristallpalast contains five thousand glasses distributed over several floors, while Twin Tower is made up of tool kits mounted on a bicycle stand. Like that of the Kristallpalast, the latter structure executes a balancing act between tradition and transformation. What Hörl’s piece shares with the famous building that Paxton designed for the 1851 London World’s Fair is the idea of mobility. Paxton designed a Crystal Palace as a mobile structure that could be disassembled, reconstructed, and put to diverse uses. Though Hörl seems to plug into this idea, following a simple building-block principle, where he defines each of the 5,000 glasses as both a spatial and a bearing element, Paxton visualized a classical hall with a continuous system of pillars and girders.

Hod’s new sculptures undoubtedly reflect his experiences with the group of architects known as Formalhaut. The pieces exhibited here constitute mobile structures as well as assembly-line production parts that may be used in various ways. Consistent with Formalhaut’s resolve to produce architecture that is determined by process, and hence is changeable, these pieces function like tents or exhibition buildings, which can be dismantled or changed to serve various purposes.

Treating the buildings as architectural models would reduce them to designs or blueprints. Hörl, on the contrary, presented them as sculptures, and it is in this context that they take their meaning. Photos shot by a camera in flight were arranged in overlapping sequences that presented a time-space continuum created by this aleatory process. Here the artwork and the artist are relatively remote from each other; the sculptural principle is dictated not by the artist but by gravity and the lighting sequence. In this respect, Hörl’s sculptures are diametrically opposed to his other spatial works. The space they claim is in every way the space created by him. Thus, with his sculpture, he passes from collective responsibility to individual responsibility.

Wolf Jahn

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.