woid xxi-45. exiguous monumentum

Aspangbahnhof Memorial, Leon-Zelman Park, Vienna 3

After all

It’s not as if there weren’t any monuments in Vienna to what is delicately called Nazi-Time; as if there weren’t monuments to the extermination of Jews, put up mostly through private initiative.

Except for the old Aspangbahnhof area, the empty field where a railway station once stood from which Jews were shipped to their death. The spot has become a public space through sheer endurance, to those for whom a few monuments here and there are not enough. Every year on November 9th, the anniversary of the beginning of Kristallnacht, there is a commemoration demanding Austria make the day a national holiday.

But the Austrian State, like all states, hates all spaces it can’t define. Most of all it hates anything that legitimizes demands against the State and those who run it. The real point of official monuments everywhere is to co-opt the space they occupy.

The monument's designers, Brigitte Prinzgau and Wolfgang Podgorschek, have settled on a monument that sidesteps  official dictates. The Aspangbahnhof Memorial follows the overall conception of Pingusson’s design for the Monument aux déportés in Paris (placed below ground so as to not interfere with the view of Notre Dame), yet it makes of that a message of its own:

“We decided to make the installation as simple and reserved as possible.” [schlicht und zurückhaltend, more accurately translated as “modest and holding back.”]


“The installation fits well into the modern cityscape in terms of form and material, yet it is bothersome [irritierend] enough to allow residents and passers-by to stay and to allow moments of reflection.” The word “irritierend” isn’t Good German, it’s one of those commonplace low-class loan-words. Good.

Like Pingusson’s own, the monument makes good use of simple masses and spatial distortions, with two converging tracks along a bed of gravel forming false orthogonals reminiscent of views of the train tracks disappearing toward Auschwitz, disappearing here into a concrete blockhouse. The difference is, that where Pingusson’s vision is chthonic, closed down into the earth and water, this one is open to the sky.

This is no jar in Tennessee, constricting the space around it; it's the surrounding space that defines it. Parallel to the imaginary traintracks here and then at regular intervals commuter trains scream by.

The wild grasses rustle...
Here all things scream

I can imagine some local dog-owner taking his dog to shit in the scruffy area by the monument, meaning: to shit on the monument itself, as dogs are occasionally let run to do on the Stolpersteine, the plaques inserted into the sidewalks in Vienna to commemorate the deported. That, too, shall be part of the meaning of the Aspangbahnhof Monument today, an open wound, tomorrow's black milk.

We are digging a grave in the sky where there's room to lie down:


tales from the Vienna 'hood

October 5, 2017.