The New York Optimist
February 2009
The Gamma of Improbabilities and the work of Michael Kienzer.
In the climate of big ideas, how to camouflage the lack of skill with a manifest of cynicism in
place of wit and multi million dollar projects that lobby on the platform of social and
ecological awareness and sensitivity only to pad the pockets of those issuing the permits
necessary to sell “Water to a Bridge”, I still can’t believe someone tried to push running water
in Manhattan as “Art” with a $30 Million overhead. Which is about 60 percent of the amount
allotted to the arts in the “Stimulus Plan” that just squeaked by from the worlds’ new
“stylit” 2005, (fig 1.). For all its unassuming qualities, this work which consists of a water
spicket made from cast iron and galvanized steel, running 7 meters high atop a spherical base
is bedrock to the “aesthetics of instabilities” the work Michael Kienzer erects.
There’s an expectation or “silent” accord that spectators or passers by impose on sculpture
that they come upon whether in an exterior or interior context, which is one of stability. “It
has to be safe and structurally sound otherwise they would not take my 12 Euro entrance fee
only to put my person in harms way, would they?” Students are trained to read form defined
by its inherent connections to other forms and the relationship the object has to its immediate
surroundings. And to thoroughly absorb the physics and alchemic properties associated with
the materials employed in route to determining its structural integrity.
It’s the almost disjoining of form(s), (figs 5 and 6), and the insistence of the impractical
solution that provokes a state of alertness in the pedestrian and viewer alike. Michael Kienzer
implements a drawing curriculum that exposes a transparency in the way materials are forced
to comply with each other in restraint of classical alchemic impulses and the resistance to the
force of gravity. The work expresses an intensity of will, (figs 7, 8, and 9), and displays its
consequential deed of impractical but no less substantial equations of raw, found and
fabricated materials with uncompromised verve . There’s no attempt to conceal the element
neither of doubt nor of its possible, (implied), collapse, (figs. 10 and 11), under the scrutiny of
a critical eye but there in lay the trap. No doom befalls the visitor only the stillness of the
improbable and its resilience to instill a formula of detached-attachments that rattle our
comfort zone. In Kienzer’s work we encounter objects comprised of otherwise ordinary
industrial building materials that would normally be assigned to modern architecture for
public domain but are instead confiscated and consigned to ensnare our collective conscience.
“raum auf stuehlen” 2007. (fig.12). If you gather enough people and seat them tightly
together in a circle, highly motivated and concentrated on the same vision; somebody’s bound
to be “bending spoons” or seemingly witnessed elevating from the floor. There’s no attempt
to suspend disbelief here. In fact, in this case one immediately discerns how it’s done. You
instinctively decipher the image comprised of an array of chairs with individual
characteristics used as stilts to support a sterile white room, dwarfing the size of its individual
weight bearers whose sum anchor the volume of this modular oracle. But an ephemeral
impact is made none the less. Through the humility of the economics in its elements and their
effectiveness to adequately engineer the desired act, the work pulls off an immense depiction
of meditation dispatched with quintessential efficiency.
“marie christine”, 2002 (fig.6), displays a sinister scenario of chance and opportunity.
Prosthetic legs with rubber feet are tethered precariously to a cushioned wooden chair by a
single strand of ribbon. In this face off both endure the same explicit fate of evaluation
through association and their close proximity with a mundane ordinance. The amputees’
apparatus remains vulnerable to contact and threatens the role of the chair to offer a respite
from the laborious task of mobility should it tumble to the floor.
Staying on message, this dynamic of encounters is typified by the installation, Tabubruck
2007, where a linear rectangle of brushed aluminum (fig. 15) whose structure is precariously
stabilized by an aluminum cast Urn, (an iconoclastic symbol of classicism), inserted as its
keystone in the right-hand corner. The sculpture tenaciously occupies a cramped dwelling in
the show “Through the Night Softly”, with grudgingly just enough room to walk around
daring confrontation, ensuing its own de construction. As if there wasn’t enough “jail bait” in
this town.
And if you’re already running short on time don’t enter this room! “zeitvertreib” 2003 (fig.
17), was re entered in the show “zeitraumzeit” at the Kunsthaus here in Wien.. Positioned on
the floor of a small room were two sets of aluminium slats on top of electric clock motors.
Only after you enter this room it is apparent that you’ve stepped into the path of the
encroachment of time. Should you stall in wondering how to navigate out of this ambush
these hands of time could cut you off at the knees?
Which swings back around to the article, “We Are Not Afraid”, I wrote for this E-zine high
lighting the work of another artist from this same show. In it I mention the veracity of
contemporary art to challenge the notions of personal space where one’s comfort zone is not a
right of passage but negotiated regularly with in the city limits of post 20th Century Art. An
entrapment is played out continuously of ones own presumptions based on their immediate
perceptions and is exploited by Michael Kienzer. A metaphysical discourse ensues that keeps
the viewer from loitering and triggers an evolutionary process of discovering “what is really
going on and what’s keeping this together?”
Where at first you felt confident and safe, one comes to realize only after being cajoled into
close proximity, that the installations or sculptures’ only stabilizing agents are small rubber
erasers, (fig. 10), adhesive tape, (fig. 14), or a single nail, (fig. 18), but by then it’s too late.
You ventured more than half the distance into unfamiliar terrain and you only have enough
“fuel” to continue the rest of the way and couldn’t withdraw to more familiar grounds even if
you wanted to.
Perhaps the end-game here is that the viewer is the agent of menace. And finds them selves
somewhere between the gamma state of improbabilities and the impulse to retreat to a more
stable point of reference.
In the essay entitled, “The Boom Is Over. Long Live Art” in the New York Times insert,
(Monday, February 23, 2009), from Der Standard, Holland Cotter closes with, …”carving out
a place in a larger culture where abnormality can be sustained, where imagining the unknown
and the unknowable-impossible to buy and sell-is the primary enterprise”.
Alexander Viscio

The artist can be contacted at
Doppler, Vol 12, glass, silicon, paper, 2007
Stylit, cast iron , galvanized steel, 2005, Sammlung MAK, Wien
Marie Cristine, Rohrprothesen, Sessel, Nahgummui, 2002
Verschlag, aluminium cast, Aluminium, wood, Installation, Galerie Hohenlohe, Wien, 2007
Ohne Titel, Aluminium, adhesive tape, 2008
Doubel Bind Vol. 2, Aluminium, rubber, 2008
The Winter Fun Never Stops
1. Stylit, cast iron,
galvanized steel,
2005, Sammlung
MAK, Wien
Permanent temporär, 2000, Klebebänder; Installation, Rupertinum,
Cars, adhesive tape, Glenfiddich Art Foundation, Dufftown,Schottland, 2002
Skizze Vol. 7, Aluminium, different materials, 2007
Platz nehmen Vol. 1. Chairs, Aluminum, 2005
Progression, Aluminium, Installation, Sotheby‘s, Wien, 2006
Raum auf Stühlen, Installation, Lentos Kunstmuseum, Linz,
Konstrukt, Latex, adhesive tape, Helium, Installation, MAK, Wien, 2005
Tabubruck 2007, Aluminum, cast aluminum, Nestroyhof, Wien.
Parasites, Aluminium, LandArt, Gleinstätten, 2004–05
zeitvertreib, Aluminium clock hands with electric motors, installation,
ohne title, Aluminium, 2008