American born and Berlin based street artist Brad Downey intervenes with his environment using objects in an unconventional manner thereby questioning their inherent function. An “art intervention” is not just an installation but something that intervenes on the common understanding of the space and object. Downey was invited by the art collective lend|hauer this summer to realize a temporary installation at Lendhafen, formerly the harbor of Klagenfurt. In his current temporary installation Fountain on view through August 12, a rusty bicycle is recycled from from decades of art history and assumes a new function as a fountain using the nearby lake water. His photo series Barricade also intervenes on the in the urban space of Klagenfurt. Curator Nora Leitgeb discusses the impact of the artist’s urban intervention.
Translated by Felix Pöschl
For his installation Fountain, an old rusty bike was mounted on a rusty bicycle rack and transformed into a fountain. Water from the nearby canal is channeled through the frame and out of the handlebars back into the canal. As a fountain, which is usually used as a decorative element and attraction in parks and gardens, the installation gets an additional meaning. Cities compete for height and originality of fountains, which are symbols of prestige. Currently, even the Lendhafen fountain vies with others. Two years ago, the artist duo zweintopf from Graz set up a 9-meter high lighthouse made of concrete rings as part of the cultural revival of the Lendhafen through the lend|hauer art collective.
Along the opposite side of the canal lies a heavily used bicycle and pedestrian path. Passers-by notice the rippling water and discover the repurposed bicycle. The installation also references the short film City Line by the Swiss artist Roland Roos, in which he retrieves a bike from the bottom of the lake Wörthersee. The artist drove the muddy bike along the Lendkanal and at the end of the canal in the port area jumped, together with the bike, back into the water. The short film was made with slow motion inserts, clichéd images and specially composed music as a promotional 47 seconds advertising film, but campaigned for nothing. By broadcasting the film with commercials before feature films in movie theaters, marketing mechanisms were subtly questioned, leaving the moviegoers irritated. With the installation Fountain, Brad Downey seemingly recovered the bike sunken by Roland Roos, and installed it on the shore of the Lendkanal almost at the same spot where it disappeared last year.
In the photo series Barricade, Brad Downey setup fifty road barriers at four different locations in Klagenfurt, which are characteristic of the city. The typical Austrian lattice-style road barriers in the national colors red and white were queued up row by row and thus robbed of their original function. The “barricades” were set up for a duration of thirty minutes at each location and can be interpreted as entertaining interventions, preserved only in the form of photo documentation, photographed by Gerhard Maurer. Aesthetically, the uniformly set up barriers resemble soldiers in various public spaces. While they lose some of their seriousness by being brought into an artistic context, the barricades seem ever harder to break through with each additional row. As in many other cities, Brad Downey takes ordinary, already present objects, such as the bicycle or road barrier, and gives them a completely new meaning.
Featured image: Brad Downey, Barricade, Images © Gerhard Maurer / lendhauer