1996 Graham
1996 Graham



Star of David, opening

Star of David

Glass pavilion

Stainless steel, 25% mirrored glass, concrete, water, grating

Length: 420 cm, height: 240 cm

Planning and execution: Fritsch-Stiassny-Glastechnik, Stahlbau August Filzhammer

Design 1988, execution 1995/96

Site: former ornamental garden

DAN GRAHAM’s pavilion project Star of David was the first artwork to be conceived for the exterior of Buchberg Castle and is also the first work that visitors notice when they approach the castle via the bridge that leads to the entrance. For its location, GRAHAM chose a lawn fenced off by walls and rock faces below and to the side of the bridge, the former site of an ornamental garden and before that the castle moat. Without knowing the site’s history, he positioned the pavilion exactly where the initials of a previous owner of the castle had been written in flowers until the 1960s. The Star of David itself is comprised of two equilateral triangles laid on top of one another, one of which is a tank of water sunk in the ground and the other is a 2.4 metre taller, covered pavilion made of 25 per cent-mirrored glass. […] An almost invisible door in one of the corners of the triangle leads into the interior of the pavilion: the central hexagonal area under which the water tank stands is covered with steel grating and can be accessed by visitors; likewise, the ‘corners’ can also be accessed, which are not filled with water but covered with a stone floor. The first design sketch for the pavilion dates from 1988. The following year, an architectural model was made at a scale of 1:6, which three-dimensionally visualizes GRAHAM’s ideas and was on display at Buchberg Castle until the final realization of the project in 1996. […]

DAN GRAHAM’s first pavilion projects – described by the artist himself as ‘provisional exterior spaces in the Arcadian tradition’ – emerged in the late 1970s/early 1980s and combine analyses of psychological and sociological aspects of perception – previously undertaken in performances, films and videos – with issues from architectural history. References can be found on the one hand in baroque horticultural art, in which the pavilion assumed a key role as a mediating element between inside and outside, between architecture and nature. On the other hand, the concept of the ‘primitive hut’ postulated by the architectural theorist Marc-Antoine Laugier in the mid-18th century as well as the greenhouse structures of the 19th century offer possible reference points. However, in his choice of material and design vocabulary, GRAHAM builds a bridge to the urbanistic developments of the 20th century, in whose beginnings glass architecture was laden with almost utopian significance on account of its promise of functionalism and transparency. Yet the increasing use of one-way plate glass in the 1980s, which makes it possible to look out while preventing anyone from looking in on the one hand but whose mirror effect makes entire buildings ‘disappear’ into their surroundings on the other, undermined the idea of openness: glass office buildings became a symbol of the opaqueness of global commercial enterprises and the increasingly hazy boundaries between private and public.

When DAN GRAHAM uses the rhetoric of urban and modern office architecture, it undergoes a revaluation due to his recourse to the tradition of the garden pavilion.

The dimensioning of his works and their – undefined – usability speak of a human-architecture ratio that differs fundamentally from that of urban settings. With proportions clearly based on the human body, the pavilions potentially serve as shelters, meeting places, playgrounds, the subject of photos, etc., depending on the weather conditions and individuals’ wishes. Unlike traditional buildings, which have a specific purpose, the pavilions accordingly function as a kind of catalyst: their role largely entails making relationships between their surroundings and the people who use them. […] The significance of the reception process, the simple geometric design vocabulary and the use of industrially produced materials recall works of minimal art. However, GRAHAM’s focus is not limited to the relationship between viewer and object but comprises the complex interplay of perception and social interaction within a specific context. This is expressed particularly clearly in the way in which the pavilions reference the specific place where they are situated by picking up on, reflecting and commenting on characteristic elements.

In the case of the Star of David, this is on the one hand the element of water, which is integrated in the interplay of reflecting surfaces. Not only is the pavilion situated in the former moat, but the landscape around Buchberg Castle is structured by a river – the Kamp – whose course frames the castle grounds in a semicircle and which feeds a nearby, environmentally efficient, small power station. Furthermore, the Star of David features a symbolism that has both historical and political implications and takes into account its Austrian setting. When viewing the pavilion from an elevated position, for example from the bridge that leads to the castle, it becomes immediately clear that the arrangement of the two equilateral triangles refers to the iconography of the Jewish Star of David. On this, DAN GRAHAM said the following in June 1996: ‘Eight years ago, when I conceived the piece, being Jewish, I didn’t want to have an exhibition or do a large piece in Austria, thinking of Kurt Waldheim; and I was also thinking of all the Arnulf Rainer paintings of crosses. So I thought from a serious, and also from a humorous point of view, a Jewish star would be very good.’ DAN GRAHAM’s exploration of the symbolic content of geometric shapes and the decidedly humorous reference to the then smouldering Waldheim Affair assume a special position in the context of the spatial concepts developed for Buchberg Castle. Thus, the Star of David pavilion designed in 1988 continues the discussion around the theoretical dimensions of constructivist and conceptual art nascent in the early 1980s, as represented for example by the works of PETER WEIBEL and JOHN HILLIARD in the Bogner collection.

(Excerpt from the text by Manuela Ammer, in: Leidenschaftlich exakt. Sammlung Dieter und Gertraud Bogner im mumok, Vienna/Cologne 2012)

Opened in 1996 by CHRIS DERCON. An initial inspection of the future installation site takes place as early as 1989 in the context of the Buchberger Sommer [Buchberg Summer], in which DAN GRAHAM, who was then a visiting professor at the Städelschule in Frankfurt, participated. In the Dieter and Gertraud Bogner collection at the mumok, there is a 1:6 scale model made by GARY WOODLEY and a design drawing by a student of DAN GRAHAM, both from 1989.


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