Sabine B. Vogel

Otto Mittmannsgruber and Martin Strauss

A gigantic tarp painted to mimic the exterior of a depressingly modular postwar apartment building has been stretched over the MAK's historic facade. This unsettling transformation comes courtesy of Otto Mittmannsgruber and Martin Strauss's exhibition "Public Spaces Go Public." The artists have been installing giant posters throughout Vienna since 1995, working with a series of different companies. Their "sponsors" put their ads at the duo's disposal and share the cost of plastering thousands of sixteen-sheet posters around the city. Mittmannsgruber and Strauss skewer the comercial images they work with in a number of ways, splattering them with paint or emblazoning them with words like "Demokracie." Presented without comment or explanation, their interventions consider the social value of billboards and of public space in general and highlight themes of politics, alienation, vanity, and the pressure to consume. Their Christo-like covering of the building is a customarily deadpan gesture that points toward a critique: In this case, they've targeted the government's cost-cutting policies, which have left arts institutions like the MAK without the funds to maintain their magnificent architecture.

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