Three works related to Vienna—two of them site-specific—made up this solo exhibition of Rotterdam-based Spanish artist Lara Almarcegui. At the entrance, visitors were handed a fold-out flier titled Wastelands at Nordbahnhof, Vienna, which recounts the history of a 185-acre tract of land in the middle of the city, where the Habsburg monarchy’s most important train station stood until it was badly damaged during WWII and then razed in the 1960s. Filled with photographs of the site’s present vegetation, the flier soberly describes the city’s plans for housing and industrial developments there, which will spell the end of the micro-ecosystems that have developed over the decades. Without over-romanticizing or propagandizing an environmentalist point of view, the artist makes us aware of a unique and little-known part of the city, and its imminent demise.
In the main gallery was Construction Rubble of Secession’s Main Hall, an installation of nine large mounds of pulverized construction materials—concrete, wood, terrazzo, brick, mortar, glass, plaster, polystyrene and steel—in quantities that corresponded to their composition of the room, with some piles reaching almost to the 16-foot-high ceiling. This landscape of recycled materials calls to mind everything from Robert Smithson’s non-sites to Gordon Matta-Clark’s architectural interventions and Urs Fischer’s excavation of the cement floor at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in New York. Though similar to her 2003 installation at the FRAC Bourgogne, Dijon, Construction materials of the exhibition room, in which tidy stacks of materials—drywall, I beams, bags of cement, buckets of paint, etc.—were tightly grouped as if just offloaded at a job site, this show was more inviting. Viewers could walk among the piles, where a close look revealed that little weeds had begun to sprout on some of the “hills,” making a visual connection to the photographs of the wastelands mentioned in the flier, which have already been taken over by nature.
Removal of the Wooden Floor, Grafisches Kabinett Secession, located in a room on the first floor, consisted of a video projection showing workers removing, cleaning, sanding down and then replacing the intricate herringbone floor upon which the viewer stood while watching the video. The relic of a past action, the video is a document without which the modification of the floor would have gone unnoticed. In all her works, Almarcegui draws attention to our overlooked surroundings, and provides a hint of what went into their making.
Photo: View of Lara Almarcegui’s Construction Rubble of Secession’s Main Hall, 2010, mixed mediums; at Vienna Secession.