Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Schloss Buchberg - A magical visit to a castle full of site specific art

Captions will follow, once I have my catalogue back and I can refer to all the (mainly Austrian) artists by name.


On Friday Stephanie organised a special visit to a private collection not far from Krems. Her interest in the collection was piqued by a scale model of a Dan Graham site-specific work exhibited recently at MUMOK in Vienna. A newspaper article about the collection steeled her resolve, and Alice and I were lucky enough to join the adventure.

We disembarked from the one-carriage train at a tiny platform. Stephanie said, ‘We are in the middle of nowhere’.  Of course, everything is relative; there were houses and stone walls, and then a welcoming figure, standing at the gates of a long tree lined driveway.

The Bogner Collection (Kunstraum Buchberg) came about when, in 1965, Mrs Gertraud Bogner’s father-in-law bought the adjoining woods, and in doing so, was forced to purchase the castle as well. The aristocratic family, forced to sell for financial reasons, auctioned the contents of the castle separately. The remaining shell eventually became a blank canvas (or in fact, a richly inscribed and complex space, both historically and architecturally) in which the Bogner’s facilitated numerous site-specific works. Rather than renovating the whole building (which is enormous) the Bogner’s were able to address rooms and spaces one at a time, depending on the ideas and intentions of each artist. This project was begun in the 1980’s and continues today.

The spaces defy classification, the wooden floors reminiscent of the 8th Biennale of Sydney’s [1]location on the docks on one hand, and then on the other, the remnants of ornate plasterwork and Austrian kitsch returning me quickly to the present location, its history palpable. As we know, Australia’s history is tens of thousands of years old, but our daily experience of concrete, architectural permanent structures spans less the 300 years. Inevitably, the architecture in Europe, pushes and pulls me between my experience now, and the wonder of what went before. This happens in Australia too, but in a different way.

This castle, part Renaissance, part Baroque, built on a curve of a river, emerging (not quite seamlessly) from a rocky outcrop, attends to history and place; the contemporary art within, on and spilling from its walls are the fruits of over 30 years of collaboration and conversation between the Bogner’s and their artist friends.

Cracks in walls, the artists’ practice, the dreamy location in Lower Austria, and of course the people involved, all influence each other. The experience of walking through this building is dreamy and magical. An idea turned into form, surprisingly free of ego or front, considering the labour and time involved in such a long term venture.

The collection is not open to the public, but anyone can contact the Bogner’s to arrange a visit. Mrs Bogner first showed us around the space, particularly discussing several of the outdoor works. Then she left us to explore the castle alone. There were some works, including a room with documentation and maquettes that were not strictly ‘site-specific’. However, most works were created for a particular room, stairwell or closet. Some works took over 5 years to be realised (if at all).
Dan Graham’s outdoor ‘glass house’ continues to fascinate and preoccupy me. Mrs Bogner described the walled garden where the work now sits, as being filled with trees and overgrown when Graham visited the castle. However, he was sure this was the location for the work.
It is made of 25% reflective glass. The wet morning filled the outdoor room with condensation, the reflections and views through the glass merged softly, dreamily confusing perception and reality. The glass structure is an equilateral triangle; it sits atop another identically shaped pond, its points crossing the sides of the triangle. A perfect Star of David. I wondered to myself—this could not be a coincidence—and sure enough Mrs Bogner explained that when Dan Graham visited Austria he was struck by the absence of Jewish symbolism on a continent still so recently coming to terms with the Holocaust. Yet at every turn he saw Catholic buildings and imagery.

I didn’t research the Bogner Collection prior to visiting Schloss Buchberg. Often this can be a bad idea, a little research can enrich and inform an experience. On this occasion I am glad I went without preconception. It is rare to find a place where one is filled with such wonder and joy. I kept thinking that my daughter Romy would love this place so much—nooks and crannies, old structures, art interventions, colour, playfulness—truly a place where the imagination can soar.





[1] The Readymade Boomerang, 1990


Dan Graham, Star of David, 1996

Dan Graham, Star of David, 1996

Dan Graham, Star of David, 1996

Dan Graham, Star of David, 1996

Laubengang fuer Gertraud und Dieter Bogner 2001 durch Heimo Zobernig wiederhergestellt

Laubengang fuer Gertraud und Dieter Bogner 2001 durch Heimo Zobernig wiederhergestellt

A shed snake skin on the wall above the pergola.


Entering the Schloss courtyard



Views along the River Kamp

A merry go round, one of the few pieces left in the Schloss by the previous owners. 
Atelier for artist friends to use


Correspondence, plans, maquettes

Often maquettes are made of each room prior to creating the work.

model

actual room


tiny window looking out to sound work in the courtyard

The private chapel



Dora Maurer, Quasi Bild, 1983

Dora Maurer, Quasi Bild, 1983 and Stephanie

Dora Maurer, Quasi Bild, 1983

Robert Schad, 1986



Francois Marillet

Francois Marillet














Dan Graham, Star of David, 1996

Dan Graham, Star of David, 1996

Dan Graham, Star of David, 1996

Dan Graham, Star of David, 1996

Dan Graham, Star of David, 1996


Stephanie, Dan Graham and archway
Auf wiedersehen!

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