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Claudia Gerhäusser and Markus Jeschaunig, Re-Light Eisenerz. Water-powered light installation at the Rostfest in Eisenerz, Austria, August 25-26, 2012.
© 2015 Agency in Biosphere. Photographs by Alex Koch.
Markus Jeschaunig and Thomas Kaltenbacher, Your Presence has Consequences. Piezo-electrically generated sensor installation at The Smallest Gallery Collaboration Space in Graz, April 8 – May 31, 2013.
© 2015 Agency in Biosphere. Photographs by Sabine Hoffmann.
Markus Jeschaunig, Barrel You! Raw oil installation at Defreggergasse 1 in Graz, Austria, as part of the Lendwirbel Festival in Graz in 2012. Also at ...
© 2015 Agency in Biosphere. Photograph by Nikola Milatovic.
… at Markus Jeschaunig’s Lithosphere’s Change exhibition at the Ogms Gallery in Sofia, Bulgaria, December 31, 2013 – February 24, 2014, at the Eikon Schaufenster in the Museumsquartier in …
© 2015 Agency in Biosphere. Photograph of the display at Defreggergasse 1 in Graz by Markus Jeschaunig.
… in Vienna, Austria, March 4 – May 23, 2014, and at the Kunsthaus Graz as part of the Landscape in Motion group exhibition, March 13 – October 26, 2015.
© 2015 Agency in Biosphere. Photograph of the display at Defreggergasse 1 in Graz by Nikola Milatovic.
Markus Jeschaunig, Line-Flight Graz-Maribor. AS-105-GD Hot-air-Airship, and RED One 4K, 50 mm lens video camera, October 6, 2012. Departure from Graz Pfauengarten.
© 2015 Agency in Biosphere. Photograph by Harald Wawrzyniak.
© 2015 Agency in Biosphere. Photograph by Sebastian Reiser.
The Line-Flight at display at the Kunsthaus in Graz, Austria, October 25 – November 4, 2012, and ...
© 2015 Agency in Biosphere. Photograph by Nikola Milatovic.
… and at the Vetrinjski dvor Public Institute in Maribor, Slovenia, October 20 – November 4, 2012.
© 2015 Agency in Biosphere. Photographs by Markus Jeschaunig.
Markus Jeschaunig, Urban Tomography. Video installation at the Künstlerhaus in Graz, August 21-29, 2010.
© 2015 Agency in Biosphere. Photograph by Sabine Hoffmann.
Markus Jeschaunig, Untitled (Perpetuum Mobile). Mechanical device. Installation object at the Measures of Saving the World – Part 2 group exhibition at ...
… at the < rotor > Centre for Contemporary Art in Graz, Austria, June 8 – September 7, 2013. Also at display at Ogms Gallery in Sofia, Bulgaria, December 31, 2013 – February 24, 2014.
© 2015 Agency in Biosphere. Photographs by Margit Steidl.


Posted 14 Jan 2014


Joost Meuwissen, ‘Through the hourglass. A Commentary on Markus Jeschaunig's Line-Flight Graz-Maribor’, Markus Jeschaunig Line Projects / Linienprojekte. Edited by Elisabeth Fiedler (Weitra: Bibliothek der Provinz, 2013), 44-57.

Through the Hourglass. A Commentary on Markus Jeschaunig´s Graz-Marburgh Line-Flight.

Joost Meuwissen

From a town-planning point of view, Markus Jeschaunig´s Graz-Marburgh Line-Flight adds greatly to the methodology of town planning, provided that the innovating potentials of the project are recognized: First, an end is put to the category of earth surface extension – or space, for that matter. No longer are maps a main tool of town planning, neither at surveying existing situations nor by the planning of new environments. This shift of method breaks away from the conception of the city as a surface, and of that very surface as continuity, in favour of an awareness of a nearby only. Distance is abolished to become vicinity. The change is from an extractive structure of neighbourhoods toward the sole inclusive eventuality of an actual neighbouring. From neighbourhoods to neighbouring, is something that in town planning is long awaited for.[1] And secondly, it does so by completely doing away with the idyllic, perspective renderings of the image of the city such as the ones that town-planning schemes are still bound to present. They are replaced by the perhaps terrifying spectacle of reality, both in method and result. Such is the relief that the line-flight from Graz to Marburgh may prompt in town planning, as soon as the project will be considered as a town planning.

Already in the art galleries, in line with Markus Jeschaunig´s previous performances, it is the real that is shown, not realism. The primitive and straight techniques that make up the installations both work quietly by themselves and provoke some awe at the same time. The awe is twofold. The actual appearance appeals by being obvious but also because the message is already known. Between the familiar and the obvious a friction is made. The installation called ‘Re-Light Eisenerz’ at the Rostfest in the city of Eisenerz in 2012, which translates hydropower into temporary light as usual and according to seemingly traditional methods, is shaped to look as primitive as possible. The action is conceived of and organized as a primordium. Sort of ‘Rite of Spring.’ That way, the artist as an “agency in biosphere”[2] always may deny any bent for aesthetics whatsoever. At the same time, the primordium serves as a primordiality on purpose – which is a contradiction in terms but those are the terms of the works.
The primordium is not an abstraction but a presence that is rudimentary for reasons of communication solely. In architectural theory, such conception derives from Cesare Cattaneo´s Giovanni e Giuseppe, which says that in a detail, no imagination be at work. It should be non-intermediated. No building interferes between a door-handle and its understanding. Not even its own appearance would intermediate. It may not look like a door-handle at all. It would handle the door but it only should look as if it works, completely independent of its handling the doors, and visually as directly intelligible as Leonardo´s weaving-looms, being executed from his sketches, or Alessandro Volta´s battery. Understanding the battery does without an understanding of electricity as a physical phenomenon. Like Markus Jeschaunig´s plant at Eisenerz, it need not be explained through physical science, such as an understanding of Leonardo´s weaving machines can do without a theory of histogenesis.
There is some difference, however, between Leonardo´s and Volta´s machineries that were instantly perceptible because in regard of the ideas they realized, their construction was primitive without constraint, and although their appearance did communicate their working, they were not explicitly meant to visually explain their working on the one hand, and on the other hand Cesare Cattaneo´s and Markus Jeschaunig´s devices, which are deliberately and unnecessarily primordial in order to eventually communicate independently of their functioning, and the appearance of which is normative. At the sensor-directed installation called ‘Your Presence has Consequences,’ at the Smallest Gallery Collaboration Space on Graz Gries Quay in 2013, you need not know how a sensor works in order to know that it works. Both installation and detail are a story, of which the electricity, the sensors or the handling of doors are the enduring basic metaphors that do not change in the least while the story is told.[3] In fact, the same apparatus might produce quite other things, and still be comprehensible. Visually, they go without saying. In architecture, this Neo-Platonic conception is derived from Paul Valéry´s Eupalinos, who states that at building there are no details whatsoever.[4]
Consequently, the detail stays as raw as a town planning must be at its fulfilling, on its several levels of implementation. It is a primordium but also a normative. It is a story but that story tells you that something should happen. The question would be, what kind of lasting rationale it presents. On that point Jeschaunig´s and Cattaneo´s machines differ from Leonardo´s and Volta´s. At the machines of the latter the appearance need not be part of the machines themselves, and its logic may be found outside the very appearance of the very machines. It may be found in their context, where it may be caused either by force, constraint, coincidence or fun evenly. To Cesare Cattaneo, however, it seems almost impossible to reconcile the detail and the whole of the building in that contextual way, not because of the detail but since the whole of the building is to appear and be conceived of in terms of proportion and harmony. There is no urge for disharmony in a building, whereas at the detail there is always the danger and the tendency of a disharmony by its simple and adequate functioning. If a detail is made visible, it underlies the aesthetics of harmony and proportion but if it is not explicitly made visible or understandable, there is no urge in the detail to submit to an aesthetic, and thus the building might be hindered by it as well.[5]
Reality stumbles. Independent from the appearance of a work as a whole, its details may tell a quite different story. They may be more archaic. After a building is finished, rather than to see harmony and proportion everywhere we may believe that we are confronted with a piled-up multitude of details only. That story could be the more important one, since it might be told only once, such as does the Eisenerz electricity plant or the Gries Quay sensor glass. Their appearance is on the edge of being born, and on the verge of vanishing. Yet it is not an artwork. It is like an artwork as at the same time it tells about what to do. In favour of action instead of contemplation, time is not suspended but escaped from.
At the ‘Barrel You’ crude oil installation at the Lendwirbel festival in Graz in 2012, however, it cannot be denied that the installation itself is highly aesthetical. Moreover, it is transformed into an aureate altar in order to appear and deliver the message. It looks like a monstrance. It should be stared at and prayed at. Instead of the Lord the real petroleum is displayed as a limited amount of matter flowing through an hourglass. It directly and openly elaborates upon the danger of crude oil, if that oil is to appear in its primordial state. The appearance of the installation interferes with it. The artwork conveys two different messages at the same time. Within the context of the installation, the amount of oil flowing through the “big hourglass” is meant to be as restricted as are the world petroleum supplies on the planet. Now in general, and architecturally spoken, you might say that the bigger a thing, the more limited it accordingly becomes. It seems that the hourglass is that big after the planet is big, and both of them would show up to somehow be equally finite. Oil is finite, since the earth is limited, as are the hourglass and the biosphere. Such is the official message that we are already familiar with for more than forty years, ever since the first report of the Club of Rome in 1972, and if you are old enough even before that. World War II was about gas. But at the same time, by its finiteness the oil becomes a detail, i.e. a dated thing without interest and with no role in the new economy.
The second message is the primary one, then. It is the handling of oil as a detail, including the handling of it as a detail within the installation. It is the rather technical data that the poison itself is dangerous for many reasons at first and second sight. The one message is used as a means to prove the historical truth of the other, which otherwise would not have been demonstrated. The display case has the shape of an hourglass or rather takes it as a starting point, because any other shape, which in regard to the contents would not convey a heavy meaning of the utmost importance such as the hourglass does, would make the danger of crude oil into an unbearable experience. The display case need have a meaning. What is shown in the art gallery, that way, is the reassuring rhetoric of a frightening image. Outside the art galleries the awe would become a fear that is fully justified, as in South Nigeria.
At the ‘Barrel You’ installation, the appearance of the installation interferes with the installation itself. By that, it differs from Markus Jeschaunig´s other installations. It comes up as if on stage. The stage is made from the same primitive wood as the Eisenerz installation is, whereas the figure itself is made from the more precious materials. Moreover, the limitedness of the bigness of the hourglass is thematized. All this means that the size of the hourglass is a topic. Compared to the hourglass that your mother is using in the kitchen, the bigness of the Barrel-You hourglass allows for its differentiation very easily. It intrinsically even asks for it. In either case, however, whether the hourglass would be big or small, it has no program of its own for such a differentiation. Its actual appearance has to be accidental, as a means to visualize a detail.
Just as the airship on its line-flight from Graz to Marburgh at first sight seems to be free to fly around, the hourglass poses as a free differential, the distinction being that the airship is an accessory to the presentation of a documentary artwork as a series of events, whereas the hourglass is the artwork that is the event. By its condensed form, the hourglass may help to understand what the Graz-Marburg Line-Flight means to town planning.
The line-flight may be considered as a way of dressing up the landscape, the airship as its gown or its decoration. Its line may be seen as the length of the waist of that same landscape, and the duration or the speed of the flight as exclusively depending on the desired width of the image, its ‘waist,’ given a certain resolution. The flight height, and therefore the camera standpoint, might be seen as comparable to the width of the waist of the hourglass that might be seen as a vertical eye too. The Zeppelin might be considered as an hourglass without the tailoring of its waist or rather, its construction might be the better corset. Since airships had to reckon with both inside and outside pressure evenly, which marks its distinction from the hourglass, in the rather short history of their rise and decline a heated dispute was developed over the question whether a more rigid structure or a more yielding one were to prefer.[6] It did not prevent from the disasters but as a result, security became the main item on the agenda.
In their shapes, the roundness of the edges, both hourglass and airship recall the Yellow Submarine. If viewed from the art standpoint or from the sociological one, initially, in the ‘Urban Tomography’ installation at the Künstlerhaus in Graz in 2010, Markus Jeschaunig´s town planning still showed the individuality of the images of the city as collateral victims based on the inevitable deviations of its lines of fire à la Vauban or on parcelling as a mere lining up of properties by accident. Most amazing in the resulting images of the Graz-Marburgh Line-Flight by 2012, however, is that the properties themselves rather than their parcellings are made visible, and that it is properties which are next to each other and not parcels; that the parcels are only a condition of private property, and that you, as a town planner, therefore should parcel in order to provide for a good division of private properties or former oil fields, for that matter. From the town-planning point of view, as a method, the Graz-Marburgh Line-Flight may have more of a section than of a plan or even a map. It is one appearance after another but it is a draining away of them, and there is neither overview nor survey anymore. The shown document, the artwork that results from the project, does not overflow its technicality. It seemingly directly sticks in the way it is produced. Its image will not be optimized. It should stay as dumb as it is when it comes into existence. It communicates by its prime dumbness rather than by its smartness later on.
The Line-Flight artwork, after being conceived of, and subsidized, and organized, is made, and claims reality or rather, proclaims its claim on a certain reality only through its having been made. Thus, a shadow of phenomenology still hovers over it. It is like an experienced skyline without its representation, one that is drawn in such a way that you just see it from above, as a line with a certain thickness – French: épaisseur – and therefore, and for that reason only, with a certain materiality. The Graz-Marburgh Line-Flight is a sculpture not a painting. This does not mean that the map is made beforehand. It means that no map is needed for the event nor made by it. Comparable to the two representations at the ‘Barrel You’ plant, there are two navigations, one of keeping up the straight line between the squares of the two neighboring cities, and the actual oscillating of the resulting image by the air in-between. Yet, the line-flight is not a line at all. It is a compiling of the vicinities or neighbouring of parcels and non-parcels. The airship, in its coincidental and rather oscillating course, does not actually list, catalogue or even measure them, it neither makes a map nor is it following its course to make a cartography of another kind. It does not even use the cartography it flies over. It does not look for parcels but it does always look at the middle of the properties as a target it might attack. That way, just technically, not only by its shape but also by its way of controlled movement, the Zeppelin recalls the cruise missile, which also went on an oscillating course, in order to culminate at a precise allocation, after it reached the same distance of fifty kilometres from its target as Markus Jeschaunig´s Zeppelin covers between Graz and Marburgh.[7] As a cruise missile is not a weapon but a security measure, which de-humanizes warfare, its successor, the invisible drone, does exactly what the Graz-Marburgh Line-Flight does. It observes people to kill them or not and intrudes into their private biosphere without their consent or permission or even their awareness. It is the bad town planning but in the art gallery the same scheme offers a view of the privacy of private properties, to which a town planning may contribute by methods of metonymical neighbouring. The technique, as with the hourglass, is of the general rhetoric-political kind: New forms of breaking in into the private atmosphere.
In all those cases the inner technology of the installation, which makes the installation instantly perceivable, still has no connection with what the installation wants to tell us other than by reassuringly not avoiding telling us. It is also a kind of apology for the lack of security in the industrial age or rather, that security should be put high on the agenda after you are involved. The bigger step in that direction was taken by Markus Jeschaunig in his ‘Perpetuum mobile’ installation at the Rotor art centre in Graz in 2013. The motion is only there after a human being as an agent in biosphere enters the gallery by just opening the door. By that from a distance a weight at the installation in the other room is lifted that starts the moving which for the visitor is therefore always there. It is through the door-handle that the movement starts but at the same time the door-handle is banned from the appearance of the moving artwork itself. Between the two of them is the whole of the building, as a presence of the distance from door to artwork. In the artwork the building is represented by a sheer weight. It keeps the movement going on for exactly the time you spend at the artwork. The movement continues after its source is not visual; it is outside the appearance of the work of art, which the actual act of opening a door in common architecture always was. The door-handle is more than just handling the door. It is people´s perpetually on-going movement. That way, the work of art does more than just creating some awareness. It is constructing a way of thinking, according to which Cesare Cattaneo´s and Markus Jeschaunig´s details may take over the whole of the building.
Think of the building as a movement, and its heavy weight may be exploited for the first time, and taken up into the already existing cycle of energy, for instance by a distribution of quartz crystals – anonymous sensors – all over the building.[8]
It is the use of the movement of the building that enables the ‘Perpetuum mobile’ to appear as clean as the new energy cycle is, and to make its aesthetics for the first time in Markus Jeschaunig´s work explicit. Its contribution to the historic development of art would be that it also gives the objects of everyday life, the Cubist guitars and mustard jars, as well as Marcel Duchamp´s bicycle wheels[9] and urinals the meaning of origins instead of the incidental everyday-life circumstances and interests they were held for by art history as necessary drips into high art. Again, the technology is archaic, and not new but the message is new: the weight of buildings can be used.
Not only could the door-handle do without its visualization, the installation it feeds has become itself redundant, i.e. physiocratic. For to the physiocrats, any artifice was redundant or, as François Quesnay put it, “sterile.”[10] It links the complex repetition of handling doors, windows, floors and buildings to the idea of energy as a cycle and not as a limited source. Piezoelectricity may be mocked at for its much too low capacity but exactly at this point the economics of physiocratism – the wealth of nature – may be a welcome addition to the new economy of Anthony Giddens´s biosphere, since according to the physiocrats any cycle that might seem be too tiny and too much of a detail may become a huge one by mere use. In physiocratism, it is use, not labour, which is the source of capital and economic growth. It is about cycle, not recycle or, in the words of Markus Jeschaunig: “The chain-growth-waste model of consume society needs to be transferred into a system, where materials flow in circles and waste equals food.”[11] As the Graz-Marburgh Line-Flight showed, the town planning method accordingly should be that the real use and not an abstract function should be recognized, and that a town planning should first of all recognize real use by formalizing it through always parcelling from the very start.[12]


[1]  Ever since Alison and Peter Smithson, Urban Structuring. Studies of Alison & Peter Smithson. Edited by John Lewis (London: Studio Vista, and New York: Reinhold Publishing Corporation, 1967), 15, 22. The same urge was still put forward in much the same way by Joshua Hart, Driven to excess. Impacts of motor vehicle traffic on residential quality of life in Bristol, UK (Bristol: University of the West of England master thesis, 2008), 46, 50, as quoted by Yvonne Bormes, Auf der Straße. Eine Betrachtung der Straßenraumnutzung in Guadalajara, Mexiko ([Graz:] Graz University of Technology master thesis, 2013), 36-37. The Smithsons supposed that a neighbouring also could be created as an artifice, after a natural neighbouring had been almost annulled by the car. At the same time – and in the same book – the car was welcomed as a new way of life and as a way of seeing the city such as it was made popular by Kevin Lynch, The Image of the City (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1960). To design neighbouring as an artifice, however, got stuck at small-scale solutions, which, however beautiful and promising they were, did not get the attention they deserved. Especially the marvellous Fold House scheme for West Burton, Yorkshire, by 1955, elaborating upon inserting neighbouring into an existing residential “pattern,” was a very systematic and conceptual approach in that direction (Smithson, 34-35) but remained almost unnoticed in that sense.

[2]  Markus Jeschaunig, Line-Flight Graz-Maribor. A land art project with an Airship between the closest European capitals of culture Graz and Maribor (Graz: Institut für Kunst im öffentlichen Raum Steiermark[, 2012]).

[3]  See Frank[lin] R[udolf] Ankersmit, Narrative logic. A semantic analysis of the historian's language (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1983).

[4]  Paul Valéry, Eupalinos, L'âme et la danse, Dialogue de l'arbre (Paris: Gallimard, 1944), 19: “Dans l´exécution, il n´y a point de détails.”

[5]  Cesare Cattaneo, ‘Leonardo. Modern Technology and the Artists.’ Translated from the Italian by Tamira Tummers, Cesare Cattaneo (1912-1943). First Monograph. Wiederhall 6/8. Edited by Joost Meuwissen and Ornella Selvafolta (Amsterdam: Stichting Wiederhall, 1987), 51-54.

[6]  Peter Meyer, Das grosse Luftschiffbuch (Mönchengladbach: Elsbeth Rütten Verlag & Co KG, 1976), 6, 161. See also Peter Meyer, Luftschiffe. Die Geschichte der deutschen Zeppeline (Coblenz-Bonn: Verlag Wehr & Wissen, 1980).

[7]  See Kenneth P. Werrell, The Evolution of the Cruise Missile (Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Air University Press, 1985).

[8]  Gunter Pauli, The Blue Economy. 10 years. 100 innovations. 100 million jobs. Report to the Club of Rome (Taos, New Mexico: Paradigm Publishers, 2010), 168.

[9] See Markus Jeschaunig's website 'agency in biosphere'.

[10]  See François Quesnay, The Economical Table (Honolulu, Hawaii: University Press of the Pacific, 2004).

[11]  See Markus Jeschaunig's website 'agency in biosphere'.

[12]  As was argued by Hernando de Soto, ‘Egypt's Economic Apartheid. More than 90% of Egyptians hold their property without legal title. No wonder they can't build wealth and have lost hope,’ The Wall Street Journal, February 3, 2011.






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