John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Many urban dwellers would no doubt like to give Austrian artist Michael Heindl a piece of their minds.
I have a theory that many people would like to punch Austrian artist Michael Heindl in the head.
This theory is based on observations of Heindl's various public artworks, which seem designed to provoke great annoyance in the people who stumble across them.
The young conceptualist, who studied at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, likes to craft interventions in urban spaces like parks, alleyways and public-transit systems. Here are three of his more irritating projects:
1. "More Than They Expected"
Here is Heindl's statement on this short film, on view at Vienna's Project Space Karlsplatz:
"Over the period of several weeks I placed a white cube on a specific spot in a Viennese subway station. After the object was removed by the cleaning staff I replaced it by an identical form. As a documentation, I filmed their daily action of cleaning up my intervention with a hidden camera."
As you can see from the above clandestine photograph, the cleaning crew did not like running into this white cube after a while. They would probably gladly stuff Heindl in a cube, if they could find him.
2. "The Placeholder"
For this film, set on the public trains of Vienna, the artist built a black box around a pair of empty seats. From the outside of the train, commuters could look into a window to see a pristine, white booth and the two seats. But riders inside the car were completely walled off, left to stand when things got crowded. Still, Heindl gets props for successfully erecting the "placeholder" without getting tossed out of the train station on his ear.
3. "A Good Turn Daily, Project No. 4"
In Barcelona last year, Heindl carefully plucked a tree bare of leaves with his fingers, stuffing them in a bag and leaving the sad plant totally denuded in the middle of the city. Then he trekked up a hill to find a tree with no leaves, and carefully stuck all the first tree's leaves on it. Cities have enough problems maintaining a healthy canopy – nice job on reducing it some more, Heindl.
(To his credit, the artist did once fix a bike with a stolen wheel by giving it a wheel he made out of food leftovers scrounged from dumpsters and the sidewalk. But again, I suspect the person whose bike that is would not appreciate the gesture as much as Heindl, assuming it wasn't his in the first place.)