Definitely Not Art

An Act of Vandalism Robs Vienna of a Mark of Innocence; “At a Certain Point, We Begin to Take Beauty For Granted”

On The Town | Michelle Falkenbach | July / August 2008

Graffiti-marred angels in front of Vienna’s Burgtheater (Photo: M. Falkenbach)

It is a fabulously sunny afternoon as a friend, and I have been sharing some laughs and stories over fresh juices at the Palmenhaus in the Burggarten of Viennas 1st District. It’s a perfect hiatus, seducing people gathered on the grass doing everything from reading, to tanning, to throwing around a football.

But as the day slides to early evening, we decide to pay up and begin walking towards the gate. As we stroll along, my friend stops abruptly. Mouth open completely in shock she points to a sculpture at the front of the Burgtheater,

My eyes widen as I see the innocent angel, normally naked, with a whitish grey color, one with black outlines of a bra with a marking indicating a cup size of 80, and the other wearing thongs, written on its back is: "the fan, durch den monsun, kotz" ("the fan, through the monsoon, puke") The  monsoon part is from a popular German teen band named Tokio Hotel. The rest, well…

What’s the point of this? Why the Burgtheater? This building is one of the masterpieces of the Ringstrasse that replaced the old city wall in the 1880s as part of Kaiser Franz Josephs vision for the Imperial City. Designed by Gottfried Semper and Karl Freiherr von Hasenauer it was largely destroyed in a bombing raid on Mar. 12, 1945 less than two months before the end of World War II. It caught fire again a month later, causing further damage, and was finally restored between 1953-1955.

We looked back at the vandalism. What irony to choose the angel – the symbol of innocence and love, to create a vulgar, playboy-like persona. We felt violated and couldn’t quite figure what to do with the feelings.

I came back to the Burgarten almost a week later, to see if the vandalism had been removed, it hadn’t. What does this say?  Do people not care?  Do they even notice?  Maybe the city was just waiting for the tournament madness to be over.  I wondered how many had walked by, not even stopping to admire the building, accepting this violation as part of the scenary.  At a certain point we begin to take things, people, buildings, everything for granted.

Outraged the two of us walked on deep in discussion about the ethics of this and how one could possibly remove it.

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