Thursday, July 22, 2010

Vienna Street Art (1 of 2)

During my recent trip to Germany and Austria I enjoyed the opportunity to take long walks around the cities of Munich, Salzburg, and Vienna. Each of these cities engrossed me with their distinct characters and experiences, and I have a feeling I'll be writing about this trip for a long time. Indeed, I plan to post a comprehensive trip report in the coming week. In the meantime I am working through some smaller projects that have arisen from my visit. Initially I'll focus on one specific aspect of Vienna: its thriving street art scene [click on images for larger view].

Four days in Austria's capital offers me no expertise on Vienna's mutating collection of hastily scrawled tags, spray-painted icons, druggy dreamscapes, political shrieks, and dense works of creativity and confusion that could easily be mounted in a museum somewhere. Moreover, my searches for hand-painted and stenciled works were limited to the banks of the Donaukanal and the semi-funky Fünfhaus district. Nonetheless, I delighted in each discovery. I was not alone, either. Especially along the canal's pedestrian promenade, where tattered folks sometimes fish in the murky green waters, a number of photographers stopped to shoot pieces whose ephemerality perfectly illustrates the phrase, "Here today, gone tomorrow."

Finding street art takes patience, of course, but also a willingness to take multiple passes through a singular area. Many times I found myself missing a piece, only to catch a glimpse from another angle or a different side of the street. Changes in lighting or even differences in how my eye would flow across the landscape showed me repeatedly that one stroll would never reveal everything. Any flâneur searching for urban narratives should do more than just "take a turtle for a walk." Wandering the modern labyrinth demands multiple turns and returns just to catch it all, recognizing that each view is a single frame in an endlessly changing show.

Again, I didn't catch more than a tiny sliver of what Viennese street artists are producing. But I got a sense that this place offers a dynamic canvas for legal and not-so-legal expression. In places where local officials have authorized folks to share their works, one discerns a nearly respectful distance between pieces. Few taggers desecrate the much more creative stuff on display. Yet one finds more rushed, more caustic stuff pretty much anywhere in the city. Of that latter type, I was particularly drawn to stencil works whose abrasive non-sequiturs appeal to my own tolerance for irrational conceptualism [See what I mean].

Today I'm sharing a few of my favorite pieces from the Donaukanal. Some of these works are undeniably clever; some are pretty disturbing (and some are a little too raunchy for my blog). But the collective experience makes me grateful for the opportunity to see a side of Vienna that rarely appears in the guidebooks. Oh, and check back tomorrow for more examples of Vienna street art.

(Photographs by Andrew Wood)


Jenny Wood said...

Very cool stuff. Can't wait to see more! And don't forget to post some of the beautiful scenic pics, too!

highway163 said...

Yep, the gritty stuff isn't likely to be your favorite. Good news, there are many, many gorgeous pix coming.