8 (2005), Nr.1/March



Touchy Matters or What Kind of Space Is This? On Vienna Karlsplatz and the public aesthetics of drug addicts. 75511 characters.





the drug scene

under pressure

a square - not public, yet homeless

rather than resistance:




aesthetics, ltd.






The problem and chance: The center of Vienna Karlsplatz square is defined by drug addicts. The solution: aesthetic perception, not legal and urban design.


Er geht auf der Stroßn

sagt ned wohin


Falco 1982




A failure of the arts in the widest sense, not only because of misplanning the area from the outset, with effects for centuries. Already architect Johann Fischer von Erlach contributed to this in paradoxically building a monumental church with a fragmentary, contradictory facade (Venturi 1977, 32, 84f.) - today Karlplatz 10 - originally situated in a poor and rural neighbourhood outside the town wall and strangely oriented exactly to the imperial center of early 18th century metropolis Vienna. The place was not mastered since and especially so after the rise of urban planning in general and the demolition of the town wall of Vienna in mid-nineteenth century. To be sure, the planning of the luxury street ensemble Ringstraße surrounding the old city on the former walking meadows around the wall allowed for erecting comfortable bourgeois apartment buildings, beautifully designed parks and administrative, educational and artistic institutions that a liberal bourgeoisie could well afford in late 19th century.


However some „minor“ interzones remained. Was it because of topographic or traffic circumstances? One spot of the Ringstrasse area was not „domesticated“. The connection of river Wienfluß with its accompanying streets to Karlsplatz was marked ineffectively by the first white cube Vienna Secession (1898) and 1920ies’ Österreichisches Verkehrsbüro both of them belonging to Friedrichstraße today. Also the way of the river covered soon deflected a straightforward design of the area now called square. Accordingly, a city railway line was constructed along the river entering the square and subterraneously leaving it. Two little, but effectively situated Venetian (Denise Scott Brown) art nouveau „pavillions“ for the stop were designed by Otto Wagner to form a subtle answer to the two side chapels of Karlskirche undermining the primary principle of squares: no buildings on it.


The difficulties of managing the crossing of streets on Karlsplatz increased with the growth of 20th century traffic. The Akademie der bildenden Künste, although bordering to Karlsplatz only with its backside, today is seperated completely from Karlsplatz by a street. So is the Künstlerhaus - Karlsplatz 5 - , an exhibition space today that also houses a movie theater and a theater for contemporary plays. From here subterranean Künstlerhauspassage arcade (including an atrium) is connected to Resselpark. Also some earlier mistakes appear to be obstacles for improving the quality of the square. As seen today the Technische Universität - Karlsplatz 13 - was pulled a bit too far into what could have become a square by surface design. Like the high school Handelsakademie of would-be Karlsplatz 5 opposite to Technische Universität the would-be Karlsplatz 6 Musikverein was neither oriented to Ringstraße nor to Karlsplatz. And the comparatively small Wien Museum - would-be Karlsplatz 8 - built after 1945 does not meet the quality of the good historicist buildings here that defines a good „square“. Go to map of Vienna with and see also among the various pictures available in the internet


To this difficult urban situation adds a landscape/gardening design as if the area had not been defined as a square in the first place. Landscape is suggested by slightly different niveaus in altitude as indicated by the pavillions on „top“ of the area. Gardening tasks are further suggested by the simple fact of the size of the area probably too big for designing a square. In fact, what we have in mind with calling Karlsplatz today for the better part consists of and really is Resselpark. This is a garden containing a cafeteria, playing grounds, rare plants and trees, a beautiful large oval basin containing an organic modernist sculpture and monuments of two inventors and one composer. Superficially spoken, Karlsplatz consists of three fifths of the area covered with Resselpark, one fifth taken by streets and another fifth for the rest including a second cafeteria, smaller monuments and street peninsulas.


In addition to the „exterior“ design resulting from surrounding architecture the light-weight Karlsplatz square since the 1970es contains aspects of an „interior“ design. With the construction of three subway lines crossing or running into the square more urban design failure was in the making. Besides the labyrinthic passenger system connecting subway lines there is a most notable subterranean arcade/passage. For it is an extension of one of few passages that underpass the Ringstraße boulevard since 1955. It now runs into a subterranean shop arcade - including, on the same level, a tiny plaza - leading people from the National Opera in first district to fourth district crossing the longish Karlsplatz square on the short side. The solution chosen also provides little entrances equipped with escalators for Ringstraße and Karlsplatz as well as a more generous and more carefully resolved pedestrian entrance on the lower level in the mid of Karlsplatz that runs into Resselpark and opens toward fourth district.


So today there are a series of predominantly beautiful buildings in historicist and with few exceptions modern style, a lot of streets and, topographically, a garden area that is connected to the Ringstraße with sidewalks and passages underneath. In terms of the square logics and aesthetics this adds to nothing exciting and a bundle of contradictions that have caused some pressure with the progress of urban aesthetization and re-ordering city life (Welsch 1997). Also, how should that place be used for watching - which is the point of departure for any public activities - when nobody looks down from the windows to the square and nobody responds.


For reasons hardly recognized it is the occupation of the center of the place by drug addicts who - subterraneously - signify and embody the essence of Karlsplatz. Today comes true, in the positive or negative, what the square that many pedestrians and drivers pass as quickly as possible is labeled: a „Gegend“, German for para-site landscape as Otto Wagner called it (see also Serres 1987) or a „Unort“ (non-site) as I would prefer to say. In any case it does not give the vedute or the „Stadtbild“ that most of the Vienna citizens and administrators would like to see here.


„Johnny’s in the basement

Mixing up the medicine


Zimmermann 1965


the drug scene


Here as elsewhere the city picture industry feeds a tourism directed at the premodernist topics offered by the town and marketed by the City. However contrary to the sacred views on the city and contrary to the city image (Stadtbild) suggesting one picture some people seem to be intruders to the public sphere pictured. Oh yeah? Where? They appear to be so in the subterranean shop arcade with the plaza mentioned. Who? „Lawless“ people: drug addicts, aggressive people, peace breakers, business trouble makers, unemployed.


True or not, one of the reproaches to these addicts is: they mistake the city for their Wohnzimmer, living room. They make private non-aesthetic use of the Stadtbild, city picture, city venue. The word of course does not mean „living room“ making most of us think of family conversations, invitations of relatives or friends or relaxation with TV. Moreover Wohnzimmer for these people does not mean relaxation at all because many of them are jobless and endangered by a homelessness that drives them out of their Wohnzimmers. Meant here are „living room“ actions necessary for meeting friends who to meet at home would be too dangerous. Furthermore it means organizing life, acting out problems of exactly those „family affairs“ that could not be lived in the real „living rooms“ because of a lack of families in the first place.


The reproach is also questionable because there is a right to some extent for the use of public space for private reasons, something that already seems to be a matter of the past for some (Sommer 2005). As there cannot be indifference on part of actors and spectators most of the actions are more or less consciously presented to other people. Of course this happens more or less voluntarily because of a lack of money, appropriate space and especially because of apt places for dealing drugs. That the use of hard drugs is tolerated by the execution of law is shown by the fact of social workers’ support with for instance of exchanging of 3000 clean needles for approximately 350 users per day, an action taken because of the dangers of the drug scene if dispersed (Sommer 2005).


The subterranean Karlsplatz passage mentioned is a hard-edged space from the hard stone glassy floor up to the low ceiling. It is a brightly neon-lighted naked space surrounded by tiny stores with up-front window glass, oil smells of a hamburger take out and a large Vienna Public Transit Authority (VPTA) monitoring and public service space behind dark brown glass. What about the observation duties by the VPTA? It becomes obvious that the booth additionally to the monitoring task plays the role of a barely invisible spectator - see section (media) below. Over the years the addicts „performing“ there must have somehow felt these „observing eyes“ and responded to them. A first look at the space described discloses aesthetic similarities to stations. In fact this is a station with lines, trains, ticket booths, time plans with some of the corresponding feel including the digit clock that marked the plaza until it was removed some years ago. Today most of it is part of the security zone to be addressed later.


The Karlsplatz passage is the opposite of the overground „Karlsplatz“ materially, functionally and aesthetically. Yet it represents the Un-ort or para-site in a reverse and perfect way. Here is the miracle. What is difficult to realize overground is materialized and created in the underground quite unexpectedly: a scene.


Being to some extent essential to squares the scene here („die Szene“ short for „Drogenszene“, „drug scene“) comprises what is the stage (ancient Greek skené) and the people performing at once. Also, the difference to street theater is that this scene does not go for money, nor uses stage properties or expresses aesthetic ideas (see below „aesthetics, ltd.“). Besides this stage is not marked, visibly or invisibly, and so does not approach the passing pedestrians or keep the natural watching distance between „audience“ and „actors“. This scene within that space as architecturally defined moves and spreads among the „audience“ and does so of course in front of the large, dark glass of the booth of the VPTA.


What a complex situation in terms of performance! What does this scene present or represent? What do we see? Do we see the „timeless“ existences we might admire with looking at Greek islands’s fishermen after their work in the morning? No. What we see are almost permanently alert people even when asleep in perfectly transparent phone boots or public restrooms (now closed). We see them theatrically acting „family“-like group or friendship affairs obviously not hidden from spectators - people that have become the target of TV reality show formats or documentaries. We recognize a kind of participatory theater that sets in motion a second kind of observation by performers, an inquiry, a kind of finding something out about somebody/-thing, here about the response of the pedestrians.


What I think are the multiple tasks of a scene sort of overachieving, doing what is usually divided to the different groups or persons involved in theater. It could be elucidated by explaining the various senses of the German term „Besetzung“. There are at least five kinds of theatrical Besetzung, of theatrically relating to space: the occupation of space (room, house, country, non-intentional) - the stage incidentally taken with rigour - , the filling of room - the apparent use of space provided for all of us - , the cast of a play to be impersonated and the instrumentation of an ensemble performing music or of a piece of music to be performed - family, dealing, and friendship matters in the genres of microcomedies and microtragedies with suspended catharsis - , and the cathexis of „neutral“ persons with affection - more or less neutralized, repressed and projected. With occupation rather than filling is signified not only a military but also political fighting for „real“ space: How far can liberal societies go with allowing cases of exception for transgressing the line a priori invisibly drawn in puplic and legal space for the sake of mutual respect between anonymous urbans? What are the implications for the „outside“ public that sooner or later enter the picture? Also, the „cast“ theatrically/musically may fluctuate and would find it hard to embody what it is aware of to some degree. The thing gets all the more difficult because the theatrical structure is only rudimentary, kept in state in nuce, not developed.


The scene apparently makes use of subterranean Karlsplatz for as long as certainly nobody would stand it there, at that inhospitable place. The scene makes appropriate use of Karlsplatz with respect to the aim of a square. It has become a symbol for Karlsplatz. For the square has been and will further be an area taken over by cars and, for the rest of the „sqare“ (Resselpark), by leisure pedestrians living nearby or visiting, by skaters, bikers and children using the few playing grounds. It is once more surprising that the square is „occupied“ by the people to a very low degree that live and work at the numerous institutions directly located at Karlsplatz.


In other words, because of the small dimensions of the square underneath big overground Karlsplatz those people mark out what should actually be a bigger space by design. Notwithstanding some deficiencies these people simply do not have enough of the space needed as compared with the „outer space“ square of the Karlsplatz’s „real“ size: in terms of capacity for subway passengers, for square crossing pedestrians and for the users of the arcade stores. Besides, for the architectural part of solving the problem: Why not give them access to some of the space of for instance the Künstlerhauspassage in order to use it for own events or meetings? As for the past clashes of all kinds were, are and will be quite natural. For matters worse police, street workers and politicians do not attempt to tackle the problem of Karlsplatz addicts. With increasing aggression and decreasing tolerance specific to contemporary societies and with helpless, enervated or ignorant people living and working in the Karlsplatz neighbourhood a different handling of the problem seems impossible.


In my opinion, real action appropriate to the square in terms of communication can only take place on the small square underneath. For it makes visible the big „square“ problem. The inscription „Karlsplatz U1 U2 U4“ describes what readers have to expect: a little, hard, ugly surface on which nobody is tolerated except as being part of the functioning flows of thousands of single passengers appearing and disappearing day by day.





illustration from : awadalla 2004



im U4 geign die Goidfisch

der Bruno legt an Fisch an Land, der Hannes a


Falco 1982


under pressure


One building of Karlsplatz is still to be referred to: the Evangelische (Protestant) Schule. This primary and secondary school for students of ages 6 to 10 and 10 to 14, located at Karlsplatz 14 between the two Karlsplatz buildings of the Technological University at Vienna is burdened with heavy traffic on one of its four sides and is unhappily unable of making proper (sports etc.) use of the sqare and the park. The just-for-fun-web-cam mounted on the roof of the building and aimed at the sensible zone that links Resselpark with subterranean Karlsplatzpassage ( seems to correspond with the huge owl-like big size „caryatide“ watching from the corner of the Technische Universität library building nearby. (That library replaced anarchitecturally more than moderate union building equipped with a tiny hall occasionally used for rock concerts, for instance for Loudon Wainwright III performing in front of ten people who wondered and joked about the huge shadows of him the two spotlights threw on the wall). Now, is the camera intended by chance to confront web surfers with drug addicts? I mean those addicts who chose that part of Resselpark between the school and the broad entrance to Karlsplatzpassage to be their tolerated place during day time, now made impossible by the Schutzzone (security zone) to be described now. The Evangelische Schule as a space of control - control being one aim among others like education and care - from the first includes tentatively and even necessarily space surrounding the school as building. In a more restricted sense - the territorial restriction and the conditions of its introduction conceptually and practically would require a discussion in detail - control of space depends on authorities of controlling agencies be it traditionally the police, be it newly founded private security firms. It implies imaginary or codified borders, hence zones as transitory as a space allows it. In some way, it seems to me, the Evangelische Schule took the burden from the shoulders of Vienna society to express the accusation and call for police observation and prosecution. It is the headmaster of the Evangelische Kooperative Mittelschule-Hauptschule - which is part of the Evangelische Schule - who publicly welcomed the initiative on behalf of the police imposing a security zone until July 15 valid in principle 150 meters around the building to be protected (see public response to the headmaster: Beringe 2005).


This was preceded by an amendment of the Austrian security law of police (Sicherheitspolizeigesetz) in 2004 for the period beginning with January 1, 2005. The so called security zone amendment (Schutzzonen-Novelle) - conformity with the Austrian constitution is yet to be examined - is intended to guard against or banish among others drug addicts including dealers who are presumably associated with or are part of the crowd of the zone in question and who are incriminated of approaching students of the school who need to pass the addicts for getting to or coming from the Karlsplatzpassage and the subway trains. Also a punishment fee of Euro 350,- for disregard of banishment was imposed. With the imposition of security zone amendment on February 15, 2005 xeroxed drawings were posted at several points of the area that define where must keep remote under suspicion. The zone is drawn by a line on a print out of part of



“Grafische Darstellung der Schutzzone” („Graphical rendering of the security zone“) posted at the area, here with standing-point and direction of photograph taken at exit Karlsplatzpassage/Resselpark in red



This regulation may be aggravated if you consider other trends of measures taken, for instance private or public video observation zones as recently imposed at another area at the border of Vienna’s first district (with commercializing public space like all stations as recently done by law in Germany). Surveillance technologies installed at open and public places require today to even acknowledge aspects of privacy needed in the public when this kind of public action is scrutinized. Also, for the future we need to be afraid of two other trends of measures: zones observed by video systems and zones without access for some people regulated by surveillance. For prohibition zones account to nothing but virtual jail with a „no“ in the widest and multiple sense because the rest of the area is restricted as well contains borders. Jail hovers at many places because today’s technology allows that there is principally nothing that could not be taken away in terms of free space. Mind the electronic hobble as recently applied to human beings for simpler and less expensive punishment. Here the inclusion or exclusion of a restricted zone assimilates human beings to well trained cattle included or excluded by natural materials and electric or electronic technology.


Also a „preemptive“ ban on people - expanding the military sense of the word recently invented by the U.S. administration - may now be imposed by the police only by suspicion. Emptied here, before any crime is committed, is space however not only of drug addicts who are innocent as long as the opposite is proven. Emptied is space also from those people who may be aware of the measures taken and feel uneasy about spending time there. Are we going to loose that space for free movement as condition for the freedom of speech, writing and acting? Do we really care? Well, you might not wear your hair long or blue, but maybe your non-drug-using son or daughter does or will do so. Are we finally going to accept that obscure and dangerous context of Nazi „Willensstrafrecht“ (Becker/Wassermair/Mokre 2005)? (Compare on Willensstrafrecht Steven Spielberg’s movie „Minority Report“ (2002)  and Hartl 2000)


With the security zone amendment comes, since 2004 and especially for places like Karlplatz, a more severe imposition of the Austrian traffic regulation law (Straßenverkehrsordnung). It allows police to call on people for walking who do not „move without a cause“. The police is assigned to tell people to move on, an order given at least three times a day. People obey but move very slowly and are stimulated to translate motion into action and expression. More generally spoken they are forced to perform permanent movement in a non-moving state. Is this the kind of nomadism commanded by police with a structure different to a former number, rhythm and speed of movements? It may be that over the last years the appearance of the addicts may have seemed to have become more „aggressive“ although no problems in this respect are reported or discussed recently.


Now, with increasing pressure on all people concerned directly and officially the City in early 2004 announced some architectural and gardening design changes by the City’s construction CEO, the drug coordination manager (Drogenkoordinator) and the city’s security police CEO. The changes concerned the improvement of so called „subjective“ and „objective“ securities as directed against drug addicts with promising a „harmonisches Gesamtbild“, a harmonious total picture (a. 2004a).


What is interesting to us is that the changes were explicitly put in the context of the project „Art Square Karlsplatz“ („Kunstplatz Karlsplatz“). Yet only until late 2004 these changes were confirmed and announced in more detail by the mayor’s secretaries for culture, urban design and environment (a. 2004b). As if the people using Karlsplatz were not predominantly passenger pedestrians and without any concept about the relations between security and aesthetic square design measures this overall project is referred to an alleged predominance of institutions of arts: Künstlerhaus, Wien Museum, Secession, Musikverein. To begin with: There are as many institutions of education as of arts: Evangelische Schule, Technische Universität (2 buildings), Handelsakademie and, if you like, Karlskirche and Wien Museum which are not simply art institutions. Following improvements were announced: ways for pedestrians and bicyclists, more lighting during night time, enhancing „visibility“ with removal of underwood, subterranean "E-Center Karlsplatz" for entertainment and education projects about the canal sewer system (famous for the site of the final showdown in Orson Welles’s 1949 movie The Third Man and object of guided tours one of which were given to Peter Eisenman on occasion of his invited lecture to Vienna Postsparkasse some ten years ago) and also the creation of „green“ peninsulas as areas of the sqare to be marked off by artificial, artistic elements and related to the „big“ institutions. And corresponding to the dissolution of public rest rooms in recent years no plans were presented for new ones. Also the removal of old and the installation of new sculpture is planned - although until now without specifics on the selection of artists and the jury selecting. This does not seem to be a daring perspective in contemporary art.


The period of a musealization of public space as corresponding to mass media museums already started in the 1980ies and now is over (Mahr 1996). This applies to open public space as well. Instead of legally admitted occupation by materializing space - a privilege that indeed can only be granted by the legislator - we have artistic political actionism by various possible agents like artists or NGOs today, a fact to which the City and especially secretary of culture, Kulturstadtrat Andreas Mailath-Pokorny should attempt to respond to as difficult as it may be.


I will not refrain from making a critical remark. The Kunsthalle Wien, a public exhibition space for contemporary art that entertains a small pavillion extention on Karlsplatz ground, has recently plugged into the lawns two dozens of pillars with yellow plates showing sort of conceptualist instructions (called „Handlungsanweisungen“) by artists to Resselpark pedestrians like „Imagine the strangest woman you know“. I say again it is not the business of today’s cultural politics to even ironically give „instructions for actions“ to people in public space generally loaded with advertisement so much. Public space is too precious. Therefore I ask all people involved in „Art Square Karlsplatz“ to moreover consider how to improve the conditions for art in public space rather than enabling an art that may be presented in the public as well as in closed private or museum spaces. Otherwise art becomes stunted and runs into being mere advertisement, be it as an advertisement for Kunsthalle Wien or for private advertizers like powerful construction firms to be seen at another square nearby Karlsplatz.


I claim that an advanced art of agora/forum entails a delimitation and deseparation of the concept of art itself. Art in public space - the Austrian label „Kunst im öffentlichen Raum“ is something else - does it contribute to save public space itself? Maybe, but only if apart form sculpture and with perspectives to squares, gardening architecture, landscapes, environments in the widest sense opening to aesthetizable political and public events like demonstrations that include today all spatial, plastic and visual arts including literature.



Wer heult denn da? Wer kreischt mit Macht?

Ist das erlaubt so spät zur Nacht?


Wagner 1981


a square - not public, yet homeless


We have seen that the small square use makes appear the big „square“ problem. From the first this has to do with the square as an interzone. The interzone is the true meaning of the square today.


I take it that in more recent times squares have been forced to oppose streets heavily loaded with traffic. This could be shown by an analysis of historist Ringstrasse gardens including several allusions to the tradition of squares. The designers of these gardens were commissioned in the attitude of late nineteenth century to not allow for squares at all. The Ringstrasse itself was determinated to give way to radiation as a broad way with offering views on either the representative houses built by the bourgeoisie and court or the representative procession of the Habsburg empire’s estates and professions on the occassion of the emperor’s anniversaries to be celebrated. Here a pre-parliamentary representation was the key issue of public space. This happened of course at a time when the parliament had been seperated from the agora/forum and given an own roofed place. Even though Karlsplatz if considered as part of the Ringstraße does not belong to the tradition of the agora/forum it is, as seen, one group of users that uses it for their own public agenda: the poor, the homeless, the punks and - sharing their festures - the addicts. So, what is the aesthetics of Karlsplatz with respect to its center as occupied and thereby defined by drug addicts who are poor, homeless punks in some respect? Nothing but the aesthetics of what there is which is the place as it looks and sounds and as it is shaped to look and sound by people using it primarily. What is there?


To start with a detour. It is clear to all of us that a square is a place without roof. But there is a rooflessness (Dachlosigkeit) which comes down to a homelessness (Obdachlosigkeit) that in its turn may be a heimat-lessness (Heimatlosigkeit, individual state of emigration) that escapes easy categorizing. Of course this characteristics belongs to people, not spaces. However homeless people carry space with them: things, but also a kind of being there or here (or here or there) that makes sensible with more than one sense an almost invisibly defined environment or architecture if you like as non-permanent, small, participatory, constantly changing, non-locating, displaced as it may be. Do these people carry a square with them? Do they set it up?


The square as usually seen and experienced reveals to be the reverse. Unroofed as it is, it represents what we deliberately occupy for a limited period of time to show the world what we think, feel and act, as individuals or as a group and what may be private to an extent and in a way that seems to be not decent anymore to some of us. Does it make a difference to know that people show who are or feel themselves deprived of roofs, partially or totally, and therefore use the space of the square for purported leisure, „private“, non-public reasons.


Homelessness is part of the phenomenon under scrutiny. It has been addressed philosophically and aesthetically by an essay in the philosophy of history published during World War One (Lukács 1994). The history of the novel reveals, so Lukács contends, that at his (post-Neo-Kantian) times it seems to be anymore possible to metaphorically give shelter to individuals by a transcendental philosophy in the form of a narrative. As the preestablished transcendental structure of a parallelly shaping of subjects and producing of form worlds is torn (31) the trancendental way of being - being human - has become set on the path of a lonely wandering through a new world (25). Here the novel itself, according to Lukács, signifies a transcendental homelessness (32, „Obdachlosigkeit“). In other words, the form of transcendental homelessness („Heimatlosigkeit“) in its strongest sense is embodied by nothing else but the novel admitting a real time of durée to a group of constitutive principles and allowing for a „return of the subject to itself“ (107) with for instance „crime and madness [as] objectivations of transcendental homelessness“ („Heimatlosigkeit“, 52). Lukács did not ascribe to homelessness a rest of the transcendental split in spatial or urban terms. Along his theory of the novel he moreover thought to recognize a merely lonely wandering in the real time of durée however without political potential.


Heidegger on the other hand had the means to aesthetically conceive of a spatial configuration of homelessness. He could have thought the „squared“ („Geviert“, Heidegger 2000) as emerging from a squaring on the grounds of the square or as the open conflict of parties as being grounded in a secularized artistic conflict of earth and world (Heidegger 1970, 30, 42!, 46-51, 67, 71, 75, 78f.). But non- or even anti-political Heidegger neither in his philosophy of architecture nor of art discussed the square in the sense of an open and marked off place. The key topic for an architecture according to the Geviert is the bridge. And with the notion of „Stadion“ Heidegger invokes space as an interval only as far as the farm land (Hof) around the peasant’s house rests on the conception of the familiar, more precisely the family house (Heidegger 2000, 151-153, 159-161). So the conflict of the opening of the world with the closing/housing of the revealed within the earth that the Freiburg philosopher might have politically imagined as a genuine truth of public works of art (Heidegger 1970, 49-52, 71) remains uncanny as it is caught in a „conflict of lighting <„Lichtung“> and concealment <„Verbergung“>“ (56-60, 60). Finally spacement („Räumen“) addresses the open only with respect to a dwelling enabled by open space however succeeding with furnishing a home or failing with the effect of homelessness (Heidegger 1969, 9).


As become evident Lukács and Heidegger more or less did not arrive at conceptions of homelessness spatially configured and so did not recognize an aesthetic significance. This is not so remarkable since the square - agorá, forum - has been a marketing, legal, military and begging space from the outset, hence a matter of polis (not village). Besides aesthetic concerns of ancient times were restricted to téchne, and the archi-tékton in ancient Greece was commissioned with either public works requiring a chief executive tékton or running an institution like a theater with taking care of construction work necessary. In no case squares as such were designed or commissioned. They were kind of lucky left overs by bordering buildings although accidentally intended.


So a square may be considered as a limited empty or open surface with „natural“ borders by houses or artificial borders by design, as the center of a (part of) town for gathering, as an open space you pass by, walk across it, stand there for a while and to which your mind is set on for unforeseen or expected encounters with invisible, experiential structure (a space for activities specified or not, restricted to be a ground for recreation, if not sporting, or a court), as a place to temporarily to be occupied by sitting (without booking or accommodations in general, hence no commodities; advertisement not banned when restricted to square borders), as a re/distributing knot for flows of individuals, commodities or information/regulation for private (market) or public reasons (res publica) flowing in and out on pathways like streets and sidewalks (the latter were invented when car/riage traffic dangerously increased by the time), as a place to be observed by the police beyond the rules for parking lots. (To render what is meant by the German word „Platz“ I just have used the words square, place, space, room, ground, court and seat here.) It becomes clear that squares today are loaded with more than traditional tasks of market, court and politics. Today traffic may be prohibited and part of public communication transferred to gardens, press media, broadcasting and the internet. Visible may remain more than ever the poor, addicts, homeless.


A square is a real medium for communication, potentially and actually. It is a perceptual medium as much as a transport medium. As perceptual medium it is not recognized and acknowledged by McLuhan and disciples (see chapters on roads/streets in McLuhan <1964>, 90-104, Seitter 2002, 125-143; for Virilio 1986, 72, squares have dissolved in virtual thresholds for cinematographical lighting). Yet notwithstanding our experience of private rooms we meet in the public, at squares, first with seeing and hearing others: steps, movements, clothes, in case signals of greeting and utterings. We greet, make way if required, slow down, approach people we intended or are surprised to meet. We start to speak, to one or more persons. We present something and are allowed to some extent to mark off and even elevate the space on the square to heighten attention for the message we want to deliver. What we use this way is public space transforming thereby a person or persons into the public. Naturally, (temporarily) marked off space may be returned to or derived from what we know as theaters or coffee houses, roofed places that still are accessible to the public. This applies of course to stations or traffic stops in general when additional places (Bahnhöfe, the German word literally „court for trains“) give space to what was earlier reserved to squares.


Public space developed early on, in modern times, with the invention of coffee houses and the invention and use of substitutive media like newspapers, books and mass media (Habermas 1976). Today res publica or public agenda have become a matter of publicity instead of public space, mediality instead of communication, images instead of bodies. We cannot dispense with republican space though. We need public space in which way ever loaded, configured, coded since public space is coded from the outset.


Open space is understood here as opposed to closed space of houses - be they public institutions like the parliament or marked spaces like the lawns or flower beds of a garden or the Spaziergang/walk in the rough sense. A „spatializing“ walk in Schiller’s understanding is a walk that constitutes landscape. His proto-romantic „Spaziergang“ has a wanderer taking prison-like situations for a starting point: metaphorically the private study room at the beginning of the walk/poem and in „reality“ the walls of the alienating town that had, in a later section of the poem, burned down with finally arriving Zarathustra-like in the mountains’ air space (Schiller 2004).



I’m on the pavement

Thinking about the government


Zimmermann 1965


rather than resistance:


„It is the transformation of our environment into a completely human interior that cuts us off from the experience of nature out there. Think of [...] such total environments as we have them here in the passage from Karlsplatz to the Opera [...] Nothing here is by itself, everything has its own end, everywhere the human being meets him/herself only.“ (Böhme 1980, 3). This may not be entirely true since the passage gives way to the garden part of Karlsplatz. But more importantly the narcissist aspect of the arcade problematics is touched on here. For the arcade architecture of earlier 19th century Paris as Walter Benjamin recognized it and is still present here works with an „ambiguity of the passage as an ambiguity of space.“ (Benjamin 1983b, 1050) For instance Benjamin obeserved with the extensive use of waxwork a mutuality of intentional attitude and mirror-like worlds with the consequence of ambiguous orientation and space transformed in front of the „nothing“ of mirror worlds (1050) that allow for an unconscious underworld dreaming (1046). He further understood the pictorialization of the city as an interior, as an ambiguous pictorial appearance of a so called dialectics in a standstill (Benjamin 1983a, 48). However a cultural critique as expressed by Benjamin seems to be not sufficient today. For this particular kind of utopia (55) does not give an account of urban space the way it is contested today.


(It may be possible to integrate or even take as a point of departure for further analysis - with focus on the scene as a veiled strike - one of Benjamin’s seminal earlier political essays. There have been made several attempts to interpret „Critique of Violence“ (Benjamin 1971). One of the essay’s aims was to show that there is a form of violence that entertains a particular relationship to law which is the strike. Although not necessarily enforced with bodily power strikes endanger the prevalent order of law. Similar to negotiation followed by peace the strike succesfully passes the moment when a new legal order is given or an old one confirmed. Derrida shed light on Benjamin’s recognition of a crisis of democracy with distinguishing three kinds: a mythical founding, a sustaining and a devine destructive violence/power (Gewalten) emphasizing the equality between the founding and sustaining powers. As the right to non-violent striking is of founding character as is the general strike violently effectuating a revolution and abolishing the former law as illegitime the law is basically always in the making and always past at once; so deconstruction is able to conceive the equality between the founding and sustaining powers as a sharing and repeating whereas the police rather confounds the founding and sustaining powers/violences and thereby capitalizes violence, a figure without figure of polis (Derrida 1991). The nearest to an aesthetic consideration - Derrida only touched theater in passing - is Werner Hamacher with his explicitly calling for a critique of aesthetic reason. As a teleology without aim, i.e. a pure means, he deals with an art work however without intuition, rather giving a discourse or self-placing language conformable to displacement. Accordingly Benjamin’s theory does not take account of action as does Kant’s second Critique but of omission of action. This necessitates the step from pure means to the pure violence of the strike as a language in its afformative mediality. Hamacher coins the term „afformative“ in order to break an aesthetics of politically moral placements by means of the event of strike. With realizing displacement the strike does not represent anything, it rather represents something that amounts to rendering the negative of an aesthetic event for instance of performance art or show realities (Hamacher 1994). And Giorgio Agamben took as one of his points of reference what Benjamin’s „Critique of Violence“ remarked about the animal with respect to the definition of the human being as a zoón politikón, an urban animal. In another publication he tried to profit from forming a concept of Ausnahmezustand, state of exception (Agamben 2003, Agamben 2004).)


Today urban space is dissected, multiplied, imposed to a variety of conflicting interests. Likewise there is not anymore simply one regime of gaze as for instance was in ancient times the spectacle or play for the masses by a kind of a few persons’ public life style performed in temples, theaters and circusses or the reversal of these few seen by the many with a modern times’ panoptism to be endlessly spreaded with ever more refined surveillance technologies (Foucault 1994, 277f.). So contrary to non-liberating, machinery like utopia the chance are given by non-locations of power (Foucault 1991). At stake is a logic of other „spaces that own, amidst a socially defined area, an entirely different function that even may be completely contradictory to the functions of the surrounding space“ (Defert 1997, 281, quotes a Foucault interview of 1982). Instead of the medieval space of locations and the modern space of extension and expansion defining the „place of a“ person by „not more than a point in its movement“ (Foucault 1991, 36) we today live in the period of depots or placements, non-empty irreducable spaces with intrinsic qualities. Placements relate to other placements with for instance being invisible or contained in them. These relations called heterotopias by Foucault finally define for instance traffic spaces like streets, trains, cafés and cinemas. Two aspects of Foucault’s account bear particular importance. The heterotopia of crisis with the „nowhere“ today is replaced by heterotopias of deviation (40f.). And placements or spaces at one location may be incompatible as are structures like the theater or the cinema allowing different kinds of opposed spaces or the garden as a totality of the world (42f.).



Look out kid


Zimmermann 1965




Let me therefore pick up what we need to focus on as the other space of the „interzone“. For on closer observation we are able to recognize two interrelated zones. It attains the status of an intermediate zone, in short an interzone. I hasten to add that I do not mean a security zone - quite to the contrary - and what it spatially implies, namely the spatial rest, what is outside - in other words - : the „normal“ zone and the „abnormal“ zone, the zone of the norm or by law or the zone outside it. I rather mean two areas that are linked in a particular way, more precisely that intersect, interfer, interlude and interpenetrate and not just border on each other in the spatial as well as in the sense of communication systems intermeshing. (On squares no permanent private device or installment of signs usually is permitted. Yet communication on squares is loaded with semiotic activity. The real comes into play with the clash between the civilized, which is the consequences of a dislike to perceive each other. It is a pure question of power. Alone for this reason we need to guard against zoning in the sense of legal prohibition.)


I believe that urban squares always already have been interzones. For communicative reasons these areas need to be protected and deserve particular attention and care. The interzone in question is marked invisibly - by gestures and not by marks applied, conditions that Lars von Trier shed light on in his movie „Dogville“ (2003) - by the sheer presence of the homeless addicts and their movements within the passage’s interior design as materially given and what is left spatially by the passenger flows. Anybody, any individual or any group more or less opens up a visibility and audibility of the square offering to the senses what would not be noticed otherwise.


More precisely, at stake is an area of invisible space right within the visible intersecting spaces that already appear or are provided. I think of a kind of space split into two spaces in terms of perceptions. This perception has an object with identical phenomenal realities but with two different appearances as is the case with picture puzzles. It does not make sense speaking that the duck or the rabbit are one as seen into a figure drawn. They have been one in the first place. But then that entity of a pure presence of space given in the form of a particular line drawing did either not exist as something we live with or would never have been possible to ever existing as not perceived by us (Wittgenstein 1953, 194f.). Is that the point? Are the two outer and the two self perceptions of the dwelling addicts and the passing pedestrians incompatible exactly because they are what can be termed as the reverse imperceptible of the other group and vice versa?


In other words, given that there are two separate visible and invisible spaces there is an in-between produced by the intersection processed. This kind of an in-between is like all other kinds permeable. However it is an interzone not to be touched. Whatever there is materially may not (allowed to) be touched though it always already is „touched“ phenomenally in terms of two intersecting spaces. This zone however is realized only by communication enclosing an interaction with those people who figure as the untouched or as a kind of (Indian) untouchables. And yet allowed to really touch them in the public are only „third“ side people, either social workers or the police in strictly regulated ways.


The work done by people to whom the job is conferred to most probably causes frustration, even horror or disgust - in front of the dirt, contamination, loudness and aggression as little as it may be. Here it is too obvious that the mutuality of perception and perceptual imagination on both sides is not balanced. However the standard interpretation of the situation called „reality“ is simpler. There is the passage/arcade, and this passage is disturbed or is, to put it this way, not „clean“, contaminated, contagious. So whatever „it“ is that makes the passage dirty et cetera - cleanness being the suspicious supreme law of aesthetic communication in contemporary passages - this „it“ is an object that can be enhanced and spread by all sorts of prejudice possible starting with stamp like ascriptions to people being drug addicts, criminals of all sorts, sick people, homeless people, people with bad behaviour, dirty/stinking people, beggars, lyars all in one. In other words, „normal“ people have a lot of means to project and assemble much of all the bad imaginable. As always, power decides about the picture. All this is well known.


Although „aesthetic“ perception and „non-aesthetic“ observation - the latter even more restricted with respect to restriction zones enforcing obeyment of lines not to be stepped over - are basically distinct and even contradictory they appear to be combined with monitoring (Cavell 2002) and, as for our case, with additional help of an appropriate lighting system for the environment planned as „Kunstplatz Karlsplatz“.


My solution for the beginning: „We“ people need to perceive the addicts, install a common space or set up the conditions for that space as well as „they“ would need to learn to perceive us to some extent. So the „third“ side people should provide an aesthetic education - the set up of its structure and the courses to be given we aestheticians will be happy to provide - , not just in order to restore our feeling secure and being accepted as the headless people quickly passing by we most of the times are. A mutual perception requires an inclusion of sensation/sentiment on both sides in order to achieve a restitution, even expansion of „space“ mutually. This should enable all of us to move beyond the perspective of pictures not just registered by surveillance cameras like the one directed from the top of the Evangelische Schule. Mutual perception is necessary in order to protect public space - agorá/forum - for a conversation as competitive as it may be (Habermas 1976, 13f.).


As I said, both of the two spaces circumscribed have an outside. I mean that addicts and „normal“ people both refer to, depose of or intervene to what they believe does not belong to their own area, to what are the others. Because for addicts privacy falsily exists to a certain extent and in a somehow diminished way taking outer space as a feeble entity or diffused agglomeration of surrounding stimuli. Likewise „normal“ passenger-pedestrians reduce somehow group-like structured crowds of addicts to a mere acoustic and visual phenomenon falsily assumed to be active and intentional aggressors. Obviously these outer spaces are composed by imagination and perception on both sides. They are primarily intended not to be part of their visual fields in either way. As I said before, they are attributed to the outer space.


Now, metaphysically the interzone or medium has early been recognized as the metaxy (Aristotle 1831, Mahr 2002, Mahr 2004). The metaxy obeys an intrinsic difference according to the through. The through does not only impose a direction to an undirected area. It also entails an indication of two beings containing the between as between. The between is the connection and relationship of these two entities. Yet for us a through reveals us as the first being at which another being is directed or which being is directed at the other one. That relation shows to be one of possibility and reality and need not be described in spatial and procedural terms and as efficient in terms of modern physics. Additionally we can take this relation as a bilateral, symmetrical one, theoretically as well as practically with realizations. The medium is structured bidirectional, "functions" in both directions. If „we“ are not just perceptual systems - machines, animals - we are beings of a kind to develop the perceived, transform it to a phantasma and move on to reflection. I further assume a mutual perception of two subjects with so realizing a symmetry that is structural to subjectivity. This brings us to the question concerning mutual perception as - for human beings - acknowledgement (Hegel 1970). That this relationship is unstable is shown by struggles for acknowledgement and the dialectics of desire including motoric and semiotic actions. Yet even without symmetry and mutuality we should be able to conceive of human beings perceiving each other. This is the point at which communication superimposes perception. Media of perception need to emerge as media of communication. In any case the interzone as derived from the metaxy metaphysically - as aesthetic as it may be (Mahr 2004) - remains rooted in touch and its sense, in a discourse about the animal which is zoology. As is shown the sense of touch is the only sense indispensable for the existence of living beings (Aristotle 1831). Hence the taboos and the ground for a primordial „untouchability“ with touching as the sense of the senses and as a question for life and death. Besides, the sense of touch has not a distinctive, own sensible quality at hand, so to say, but several ones and potentially all qualities in one (Derrida 2000, 61f., compare de Kerckhove 1993).



You don’t need a weather man

To know which way the wind blows


Zimmermann 1965




It is Jean-Luc Nancy who reminds us that the city as a public area is a space (Nancy 1999b, 125). More precisely, in it citizens and the city as the public correspond to each other institutionally. This res publica requires a specific „spacing out“ (127f., French „espacement“), something that provides a distance, a weft, an interstice. This is point where Nancy passionately thinks the relationship of the interzone in addition to and beyond metaphysics with taking up the old concept of community. He does so in a particular way. The „in“ of that „inter-space“ called interzone, in his words the being-in-the-community, concerns a communication of associating and dissociating that may be circumscribed by way of calling a non-identifiable and giving shape to it. If so the city, the polis, as a being-in-the-community could be conceived as an existence (Nancy 1994a, 191), as what is or exists as or is signified by the „inter est“, the common for an individual. However this in-between, this interval could be realized by politics only in a broken way. Nancy invents a new word,comparution“, which he derives from French „parution“ meaning a book just published. In consequence „comparution“ here means a common appearance, a common just-being-published. If this is the ground of a being-in-the-community, as Nancy suggests, this ground from the first is paradoxically excluded by communities as we know them (Nancy 1994a, 195).


Excluded hereby are people signifying the community as do the Karlsplatz addicts who, by means of the interzone, together with pedestrians have the chance of „comparution“.


More precisely, here as elsewhere common appearance is the space of public appearance, however an appearing-together that cannot be distinguished from a private appearing anymore. For the appearing-together is not anymore urban, civil and even political in the administrative sense (Nancy/Schober 2004, 132) - politics traditionally being the administration of civil society and the being-common (136) - because the urban has been intruded by commerce, leisure, tourism, design, cinemas, museums, various communication media and by sexuality and infection. The space of public appearance as a multiplied and potentialized space has become deformable and destructible, labyrinthic and megalopolitical (Nancy/Schober 2004, 132).


So the real intruders of the urban appear to be commerce, design and the media as visible or invisible as they may be. This converts the „intruder“ addicts to reserves of a conflict to be staged about the destructibility of a public appearance space intruded by the private activities on a large scale mentioned.


Yet the ground of a common appearing is actually excluded as a fundament of being-in-the-community not just because of the disappearing of the distinction of public and private appearance. Additionally very often such a common appearing is made impossible with denying a figure or name to people. Such an exclusion, as Nancy points out (Nancy 1994a, 195), such refused sharing is nothing else than the injustice of saying no to our very existence, even to the „in“ of the being-in-the-community which nonetheless „forces us to appear together and calls for our taking responsibility“ (194).


Exclusion is exactly what happens to the Karlsplatz scene with „Karlsplatz scene“ being the name for „the“ problem instead of the problems that have drug addicts or homeless people or criminals or jobless people we have with them together if not in common.


Because of the destructive effects showing already with emerging the communities must not to be misunderstood as products, as operations, works composed of components - the common escapes, is inoperative and irrepresentable (Nancy/Kate 2002). Post-totalitarian politics is only possible by acknowledging that irregular moment of a specific kind of opening. Communities may only become aware of themselves by being disturbed by intruders and at the same time being ready for this as irrepresentational it may be (Nancy 1988). In fact, from the beginning the center of selfproductive modern communities has been inoperative and empty and is to be refilled permanently with the consequence of humanitarian desasters threatening (Nancy/Kate 2002).


This is exactly what the Karlsplatz scene embodies and demonstrates, an empty center.


The reason for these desasters, says Nancy, is the modern kind of being-in-common or between-/among-us or „cum“ that entails no given community, a community constantly and necessarily de-/constructing itself. Therefore the being-in-common needs to be conceived as an interval, an inter/cum. Here something different or „new has installed itself between“ like between the notes of music - interval - which is nothing but a gestalt not disposed of the ephemeral. With paying tribute to the two most famous buildings located at Karlsplatz - New Year’s Concert’s Musikverein and first White Cube exihibition space Wiener Secession - a reminder is due to late 19th century when, against the background of a physicalist, associationist psychological philosophy gestalt qualities were discovered at what is known since Pythagoras as the (musical) interval (Mach 1991, Ehrenfels 1890; see also Mahr 1988). For Nancy he interval needs to be conceived neither as a new substance nor as an operation, moreover as a decentered subject, something that emerges from an „in-operating“ interval (desoeuvrement) which is a radical nothing of a place, topos, area or bordering line. Therefore com-munication is always problematic. The task of the „cum“ is being responsible for ourselves to being exposed to the „inter“ of the interval. (all quotes Nancy/Kate 2002) (Nancy could have mentioned Latin moenia which means - walls of the - house or town with placing the locus amoenus/charming place outside of it and emphasizing intervallum as the interstices of palisades that again remind us of “Der Lattenzaun” (Morgenstern 2000).)


Here is the hardest thing to think. That empty center as de-signed by the Karlsplatz scene is to be imagined and realized as an inoperative interval. That can mean nothing else than a figuration of something different or new: of the nothing of a place as an ephemeral gestalt. What is this scene if not designed legally, politically, socially, aesthetically and yet to create something beyond the elementary particles that move in different groups, speeds, consistencies? Because of a significant lack of common being the relation of being-with with politics should not be a founding or expressing relation which would run again into a founding or expressing of a totality of being-with. How can politics guarantee justice within a multitude and multiplicity (Nancy 2002, 40) and leave expression to the space of the interval, the interzone? This questions remains to be answered.


Hang around the theater


Zimmermann 1965




There is a task whose outlines may have been felt with the remarks concerning the lack of McLuhan’s general theory of the media and Nancy’s observation on the breakdown of the distinction of public and private spaces. The task is defined by the question about the relationship of the interzone and the media. A systematic analysis and account is yet to be done. Here is some material concerning some phenomena that have recently appeared in cities also showing effects of contemporary media. These phenomena also prove the relentlessness against those parts that do not fit into the medial constitution of today’s cities.


What, among other things, determines life in cities today is a phenomenalization of the body in the public by means of extended pictorial activities. For instance could be made a case of the commodification of public space with billboard campaigns for nylons that interweave media as bodies and bodies as media (Lammer 2004, 183f.). This appears to be specified as the pores of the city’s body (194), pores that are materialized and pictorialized at once by means of a complex procedure of urban imagination that confirms the town as woman (195f.) for instance with virtual porose film membranes (200). In fact this analysis is further sustained by the new technology of semi-transparent billboards covering whole houses or trams with billboards that allow the transmission of light to people sitting in these houses or trams. It is not unlike the semi-transparent mirrors or those „sculpture“ actors on public squares covered with porose although metallicly shining „nylon“ on the other.


Also to be found on a level more or less pictorial are other phenomena of transparency. The fact of the construction of noise protection walls along highways and railways (a chance of medialisation, but of what kind?) seems to correspond to a kind of necessitated „picturing“ accompanying transportation. A consequence may be that we act in real space as if it were just a picture we pass through. Mistaking real people for pictures - nourished by VR like computer games - may therefore be understood as resulting from an increase of ghost-drivers or of people recently canceling the consensus of going on the right side on sidewalks and being ready to bumbing against each other (compare discussion of trust on using streets by car: O’Neill 2005). Resistant „materials“ are obstacles to be removed. This „passing through“ has been realized in art by Jeffrey Shaw’s „Legible City“ (1989), a video installation of a home trainer you sit on and use for virtually (on the screen you look at) driving through a Manhattan rebuilt with huge letters and enabling you to read and see your own city by the houses you can pass by and - if not „careful“ - even drive through (as a counter work to „Legible City“ may be read Luc Courchesne’s “Paysage no. 1/Landscape One” of 1997 where spectators may become themselves virtual visitors of Montreal’s Mont Royal Parc, have a walk with individually selected route and speak with several persons or person groups pre-filmed as for instance a young couple or a family.). Today this technology is used by computer games offering figures you can literally go through what is still abhorred by some gamers.


Another urban media phenomenon are computer games, especially multi-player games that helps to develop the players’ spatial capabilities on screen like „Asheron’s Call“ and „The Sims“ with increasingly involving players in (space) design processes that encourage sociability and thereby succesfully profit from urban planning knowledge (Jenkins/Squire 2002).


In which way ever it will be aesthetic, one thing is for sure. Squares, as do streets, will be or already have become objects of visual design with the use of video and web cams. The camera on top of the Evangelische Schule is one among many proofs. Electronic observation systems - to be considered as virtually restricting and changing part of a space into zones - may be hidden but are just another example of aesthetic design which remains to be examined by a scientific analysis of its aesthetic aspects.


Under way is the imposition of a different kind of surveillance system. Again, aesthetic design is given and may be playfully possible with the introduction of surveillance by electronic hobbles which in Austria runs through a testing period and will probably replace imprisonment penalty for certain persons under certain conditions here as elsewhere.


Don’t forget television. For TV has constantly appropriated private space and made it public in sensationalist reports or reality shows that offer sadist pleasures by watching people suffering. It seems as if people who show them suffering in material or symbolic ways publicly - as do drug addicts - are not conceded any public space beyond electronic mass media. In other words, addicts who more or less involuntarily show in the public have become (or been?) competitors with the media and especially with TV. Surveillance at a time when discussed in the wake of dawning control societies was already analysed by a powerful work on June 16, 1981 carried through for the Vienna Festival of that year. Robert Adrian X with “Surveillance” short-circuited the video observation of the Vienna subway lines centralized back then at the Karlsplatz VPTA control space with Austria’s sole national TV company transmitted the Karlsplatz observation for a few prime time minutes nation-wide.


A problem has arisen - for social workers, for the police - with recent mobile phone communication. What is difficult to survey, what seems to be chaotic may become a tool for again aesthetically organizing and also consciously showing yourself. People loudly using mobile phones could profit from what has become an actual political means. Also consider what has become a kind of instant nomads called smart/flash mobs, a phenomenon that has already been converted to performance art by Hamburg radio art group Ligna with “Radioballett” when in Hamburg (2002) and other cities a few hundreds of people were ordered via small transistor radios to cover the public space of stations with allowed or not allowed actions like begging  (see At stake, artistically or not, is a reorganization of public space that may once again put to the test of what a square achieves today in terms of conceiving a continuum beyond shopping arcades and prohibition borders.


All these phenomena are focused to some extent in the problematics of squares today. As such these phenomena give rise to another question. Do addicts respond to these various kinds of media aesthetically? To which extent do they medialize themselves? Do they stage themselves as a counter medium?



Watch the parkin’ meters


Zimmermann 1965



aesthetics, ltd.


Aesthetics is the future of ethics, to reverse a saying by Lenin for approaching the conclusion. We might win almost everything with enhancing and spreading aisthesis.


So what does and did aesthetics have to say, the philosophy of art? Have there been made contributions for a philosophy of aesthetic space? Not until Kant. A theory and classification of the arts before Kant was concerned with the classifying criteria of use or pleasure, invention or imitation, and design or beauty. With Kant the modern basis of aisthesis as considered by a theory of a specific kind of sensation/sentiment/perception - clear and confused cognition as Baumgarten had put it - seemed to be an object necessary for clarification. For some reasons Kant felt drawn to detach a basis of sensation. There needed to be something before sensation because sensation and what is given by it seemed to be determined by a variety of different contents constantly changing in our minds. Kant called it the form of all variety. This form is not yet an active form as produced and set free by the formation of mental activity but an entity that transcends or escapes our mental attention in general. The forms of intuition as prepared by sensation: space, time. As with space, Kant took away what could have been the basis of an aesthetic theory in space and time, but thereby achieved to open up space as a fundamental form a priori. Space is needed for mathematics, physics and other Newtonian mechanist sciences, for geometry and science proper. Required are objects in one space (Kant <1930>, A22) which is a necessary representation a priori (A24), a pure intuition (A25) a priori (B40, B73), an intuition of the outer senses (A378), however not empirical (A23), an infinitely given quantity (B39), a condition of experience (A49).


However Kant did not found his theory of art on space and time. He rather explicitly removed concerns of a theory of art and the aesthetic from what he called the aesthetic of time and space. As we know, Kant addressed the (beautiful) arts only late in the development of his three-partite system of Critique. Instead of sensation he chose to focus on aesthetic endeavours in the modern sense with filling a gap left between the first two critiques. He sort of discovered the complex mental activity of judgment. Hume had aroused his attention on the topic who showed that there is (aesthetic) judgment based on principles and standards however not to be defined as with natural or moral laws. Judgment instead of sensation further lead Kant to (aesthetic) art in so far as art is one of the most suitable objects for the refinement of judgment as a work - first for the artist, secondly for the critic.


But when Kant in his Third Critique more incidentally begins to speak about art (as distinguished from nature, science and manufacture) he very soon pondered the arts as an objectivity appropriate to the freedom of artists who liberate themselves from merely imitating nature. Accordingly the capability called the artist’s ingenium is seen by Kant as a mental activity not dealing with indifferent space (and time) to be shaped but requiring a coordination with objects of ideas. Hence artistic ingenium particularly requires, besides imagination, taste and reason and a spirit which guarantees an ability to express aesthetic ideas which is what art does.


Proto-idealist himself Kant gave his account of the arts as an expression of (aesthetic) ideas by means of words (speaking arts poetry and rethorics), gestures (plastic arts including painting and plastics in the more narrow sense comprising sculpture and architecture, the latter with restriction of aesthetic ideas because of the use of its objects) and sound (music as art of the beautiful or merely pleasant play of sensations/sentiments, also and likewise an art of pure colour).


Since the time of Kant idealist-expressivist theories of art made their way. Schelling wrote about symbols of the Absolute as configured in the artworld’s real series of the plastic arts (musics, paiting, and the plastic arts in the more narrow sense) and ideal series of speaking art (poetry). Hegel only slightly changed the classification principle when counting as arts of the sensitive/sensual/sensible (active) semblance of the idea architecture, sculpture and the romantic arts painting, music and poetry. Bolzano also did non consider the spatial and/or temporal structure of arts when he distiguished between the arts of the inner (mere representation, fiction) and the outer sense (sonic, optical arts). Vischer did not come closer to analyse arts of space and time respectively when systematizing the objective art form or plastic arts (architecture, sculpture, painting), the subjective art form or music and the subjective-objective art form or poetry.


The classificatory matter shows to be even more complicate with Heidegger who concedes that the conception of art as essentially being poetry - art as a work-ing that unveils being - should not reduce the arts of building, pictures and sounds. However poetry is but a way of an enlightening design of truth. For language, before assuming shape as poetry, is beyond communication when putting things into the „open“ whereas the stone, the plant and the animal are destined to remain in the closed. It is hard to understand, even more so to track any criteria for classification within the claim that constructing and forming only occur within an „open“ of language solely which is not specific to any of the arts or, more narrowly spoken, to the aesthetic of space, for instance of the square. Has this lack of specificity something to do with a „fringing“ (Verfransung) of the arts in our times (Adorno 1967).


Goodman who might have been confirmed by Heidegger’s emphasis on language from the first cannot contribute to a concept of the arts of time and of space respectively. His semiotic ontology rather gives an account of a special kind of signs, i.e. of representations of art works as denotations under the autographic regime with singular multiplicatory, physical objekts (monoprint, cast) or with singular simple, physical objects and ideal entities (painting, sculpture) or with the object-event/act (performance art, acting, musical improvisation) or the allographic regime with ideal and reducable objects, the infinitely multipliable physical manifestations of ideal types of literature, notes or the architectural plan (books, performances of composition, buildings). It is obvious that a square has a name and is also spatially design(at)ed by surrounding buildings, mutually gaze-crossing window, walls and the rules for a specific use. Yet the multiple semiotic structure of a square seems to be too secluded to retain the powerful dimension of space.


Up to this day we see aesthetics as general theory of art only insufficiently equipped with addressing problems of space. Yet architectural and urban design offer an appealing albeit difficult aesthetic potential that affects the arts in a rather different way. Debated, fought for and used as the way of perceiving and letting perceive changes aesthetics with far reaching consequences here.


Here is the chance to turn to Nancy once more. We may now make more explicit what his aesthetics is concerned with in connection to his political philosophy of media. Unlike Hegel’s sensible appearance Nancy’s comparution - common appearing - may be read as a common appearance of aisthesis, even an art (work) that however does not express, for instance an idea. A mutually common aesthetic appearing-with-perceicing - even though the common escapes as inoperative and irrepresentable (Nancy 2002a) - belongs to a public urban space that needs a negotiation for what really intrudes that time-space now multiplied, potentialized and destructably labyrinthic (Nancy/Schober 2004), a space by the way, I would like to add, not anymore located on or structured according to a plane surface or other simply defined spatial forms as was for instance the amphitheater and is the Piazza Navona or Times Square.


The basic task of art still is to enable paths/trajectories by way of touching, of exposing eye and ear, a part of the self. Miraculously the sensible sense divides itself into the five (or more) senses and thereby fragments the sense. If art - a touch by being (Nancy 1994b, 183) - offers an approch to the fragment, moreover is a product of fragmentation, and „the fragment is the being-become-shared“ (178) the allocation/attachment here nevertheless does not escape the shadow of aesthetic creation and perception. „Art only is what thematizes and locates the path/trajectory for the sense of sensibility“ (181) like the symbol becomes true only if shared and „directed to all“ (182) as a secret in the openness (183), a „sensible intensity“ with reference on its own and a quality of contact (Nancy/Schober 2004, 132). This conception of art can be refined by a more bodily oriented notion of sensual zones that takes account of the division of differing spaces created by the artist and thereby set in contact with touching the world (Nancy 1999a, 35f.). Art divides the common sense, I add: confronts not just things but people, art separates the senses from meaning with achieving a „sense of the world as a momentary interruption of meaning“ (39).


Nancy’s example is striking. In spaces like the cinema or the mass media can be found the evidence of a community where pictures attain the status of passages for the sense of the world and self (Nancy/Schober 2004, 133). This is most important: When „art itself dissolves as a distinctive sphere within the ensemble of ‘politics’“ (135) a politics could be set free that aims at an aesthetic pleasure capable of transcending the given and acting without objectifying and transforming the actions and actors beyond an art work (137).


What is the lesson taught by the drug addicts to aesthetics? An art of aisthesis that leads us back, among other aims, to the arts themselves?


Whatever the conception of this art will look like - reordering architecture, theater, language and urban design in the space of a classification of the arts - it will become clear that aesthetic perception rather than legal and urban design will be the solution. The chance of para-site Karlsplatz is a constantly thematizing of an art of the public space that starts with the Wohnzimmer realized by those who legitimately use public space for private reasons. Karlsplatz square needs to be revealed as a scene in the theatralic sense. It is the small square use underneath that makes appear the big square problem. Therefore we all concerned have come

under pressure. It is obvious that one-sided populist legal, police and social measures aggravate the problem. For all these reasons a security zone is the wrong solution as is „Kunstplatz Karlsplatz“ which neither is appropriate nor sufficient. It rather would be a backdrop to aesthetic art objects where communication, especially aesthetic communication is needed. In search for other spaces an examination of aesthetic perception is required for the recognition of an interzone as given with Karlsplatz. This perception necessarily is a mutual perception appropriate to the interzone between the drug addicts and the pedestrians. As Nancy puts it a being-in-the-community is possible here, a comparution, a kind of common just-being-published, that is an appearing-together that again makes clear that an intruding cannot be evaded. We need to be exposed to the „inter“ of the inoperative interval as the interzone to be perveived. Art as fragmentary will be helpful in the future, that is not as a traditionally spatializing and reifying means but with the aim of a mutual appearing-with-perceiving and the creation of paths/trajectories that enable an aisthesis really touching and thereby enabling aesthetic communication.



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