"Considering ourselves, us sculptors, what happened was that our experiences in St. Margarethen, this emergence into an open space - into the quarry, into the meadows - made us free again. This release or mental liberation in a very broad sense was the crux. For us sculptors, stone is the means of achieving this mental liberation - this release from many obligations, constraints and taboos.
The education we received at our schools and academies led to egotism, which is, in consequence, a restriction. To open up again from that point, that was why we sought those close to us and called upon our colleagues to make this joint effort, and many came.
We worked in very simple conditions. It was possible to live and work with great intensity, and that was all we wanted.
The stones should stay where they were created and be there for everyone. It is not like in a museum: encountering a stone like this in the countryside produces a different form of experience: the tree, the grass, the moss and the clouds are experienced too. I see, albeit in my own way, that humanity should share in all Creation, that we should feel responsible for everything that surrounds us.
Art is help, and equating art with help is the fulfilment of what my work has engendered, especially during the symposia. At the time I had not yet foreseen this help as it was to become, although I undoubtedly felt it, which was presumably why I made the effort to launch this European symposium. We, the sculptors, were suffering a dearth, intellectual and material in nature, of kindred spirits. Not as young as we once were, we lacked specific tasks. Furthermore, we considered it time that humanity remembered humaneness. Art can perform part of this task. It should not do so with words alone, but also in practice. In the form of a stone, for example, since stone connotes resistance. Resistance as a form of expression in the face of our lethargic society.
For us sculptors, stone was a vehicle to communicate among ourselves, as well as with the outside world. Our intellectual and human crisis is global; that means it applies to the whole world. The idea we started out with - establishing communication between artists the world over - was an idea whose effect has been felt from Prague to Tokyo, from New York to Berlin. The increasing importance of the symposia now held all over the world proves how right the initial idea was.
So let the sculpture symposia be a purely spiritual exercise: practice sessions, preparations for tasks that lie before us and can only be performed by combined efforts - by working on behalf of our fellow men."
Karl Prantl, 1976
1957/58 Karl Prantl works on the ‘Grenzstein’ (Boundary Stone) – a commission by the Province of Burgenland for the Hungarian border in Nickelsdorf – in the idyllic quarry of St. Margarethen. The barbed wire of the ‘Iron Curtain’ is countered by an artistic statement about freedom! The stone is currently located at Mitterberg in Pöttsching on the former imperial border between Lower Austria and Burgenland.
1959 Establishment of the Symposium of European Sculptors in the quarry in St. Margarethen.
Karl Prantl initiates the sculptors’ symposium together with Friedrich Czagan and Heinrich Deutsch:
Eleven sculptors from eight different countries spend three months working and living together in the quarry. Thereafter, Karl Prantl devotes each winter – alongside his artistic work – to the preparation of the sculptors’ symposia, the first of which takes place in St. Margarethen.
This is followed by further symposia – held together with colleagues – in Eastern and Western Europe and also, eventually, in America and Asia. The concept of a sculptors’ symposium that facilitates autonomous, sculptural activity – mostly in the open air in the vicinity of the quarry – sparks great interest and is very well received. This enables Karl Prantl and his international colleagues, working in a spirit of collective exchange, to realise their first monumental sculptures, which fit into specific rural and urban contexts, and to engage in striking cultural political discussions that open up new perspectives for artistic creativity.
In the light of the then division of Europe the early contributions of Eastern European protagonists are of particular political (and aesthetic) significance. Karl Prantl realises ‘Five Appeals’ (which was destroyed by a blast in the quarry and subsequently restored and is now located in the ‘Pöttschinger Feld’).
1961 At the suggestion of Karl Prantl the St. Margarethen Passion Play is set in the Roman quarry whose ambience eventually gives rise to the opera festival.
1962 The German Critics’ Prize (in the field of fine arts) is presented to the ‘Symposium of European Sculptors’ with special mention being given to Karl Prantl as the initiator of the symposium at the ‘Berlin Wall’, which is in the process of being erected.
The statement of the jury: ‘The idea of accomplishing free ‘sculptural work’ in the open air and of combining a feeling for modern form with an earlier, craft ethos has been taken up around the world. The international impulse given by the symposium concept is one of the most convincing proofs of the unwavering creative energy of modernity.’
1963 Expansion of the sculptural activities from the quarry to the hilltop in St. Margarethen with the aim of creating new artistic perspectives and experimenting with a broader range of materials (Land Art). Karl Prantl realises ‘Stone of Meditation’ from psephite (current location: ‘Pöttschinger Feld’).
1965 Work finally starts on the construction of the Sculptors’ House on the ruins of the former canteen at the entrance to the ravine leading to the quarry (the former railway line to Vienna). After many years of planning (together with the sculptor/architect Jacques Moeschal from Belgium and Barna von Sartory from Hungary) the final design is the work of the architect Johannes Gsteu. Karl Prantl completes ‘Stone for Joseph Mathias Hauer‘, which was created over a period of two years and whose materials evoke the surrounding area – Land Art (located on the hilltop in St. Margarethen).
1967 Completion and inauguration of the Sculptors’ House and award of the First Client Prize of the Central Association of Austrian Architects to Karl Prantl and the SEB.
1968 Karl Prantl receives the Prize of the City of Vienna for Sculpture
1969 Double Symposium: Uta Peyrer-Prantl organises the parallel ‘International Painters’ Weeks’ in the Orangery of Schloss Esterhazy in Eisenstadt. The participants include pairs of prominent artists such as Kenneth Campbell (sculptor) and Pat Sloane (painter) from the USA. Karl Prantl realises the ‘Table’ in front of the east façade of the Sculptors’ House (Location: Pöttschinger Feld).
1970/71 The sculptors devote themselves to specific topographical aspects of the hilltop in St. Margarethen: ‘Japanese Line’ – an exemplary Land Art manifesto by Makoto Fujiwara, Makio Yamaguchi, Tetsuzo Yamamoto, Takao Hirose and Satori Shoji marks the entire hilltop from the quarry. Other works include Kengiro Azuma’s ‘Stone Garden’ and Heinz Pistol’s ‘3 Positions’.
1972 The SEB holds its International Convention at Constantin Brancusi’s ‘Table of Silence’ in Tirgu Jiu, Rumania – in order to make it easier for artists from the Eastern Bloc to attend. The meeting provides the impetus for a realignment of the symposium concept: increasing sculptural interventions in urban contexts and a concrete engagement for the remodelling of the St. Stephen’s Square in Vienna.
1975/76 End of the Symposium’s local activities following the abandonment of the project for St. Stephen’s Square in Vienna, which had sought to redevelop and remodel the square in the heart of the capital after the construction of the underground railway and had been a research commission for the SEB from the City of Vienna.
1977/78 Karl Prantl and his family live and work in New York.
1986 Karl Prantl represents Austria at the Biennale in Venice.
1989/90 Karl Prantl dedicates himself to fighting the suppression of ‘the deed and its setting’ in Rechnitz in Burgenland. Having long been aware of the cover-up regarding the ‘scene of the crime’ Karl Prantl was finally able to firmly establish the ‘Kreuzstadl’ as a ‘place of remembrance’. This act of active reminiscence (disclosure) is both an anchor and a perfect example of Karl Prantl’s lifelong engagement: providing ‘remedies’ in a wide range of contexts, creating symbols in stone and establishing ‘places of meditation’. This applies in particular to the subject of the Second World War which he himself only narrowly survived: ‘Nuremberg Stations of the Cross’ (1985-91) consisting of 14 granite panels, which were produced by concentration camp inmates for the route of the huge Nazi parades in Nuremberg; ‘The Road to Kawasaki’ (Expo Osaka 1968); the memorial stone for the teachers and pupils expelled from the Akademische Gymnasium on Heumarkt in Vienna…
Thanks to Karl Prantl’s persistence and the support of Marietta Torberg, the ‘Kreuzstadl’ property is finally acquired (for 250,000 schillings). SEB then restores the ruins and places the sculpture created in St. Margarethen by the Israeli sculptor Kosso Eloul (1920-1995) in front of the building. (In 1960 Kosso Eloul created the ‘Yad Vashem’ (‘eternal flame’) memorial, the most significant place of remembrance for the Holocaust in Israel). SEB ceremonially hands over the ‘consecrated ground’ to Vienna’s Jewish Community in 1993.
1993 Final transfer of sculptures from the quarry to the hilltop.
1993/2007 Artist’s residencies of several years for international sculptors in the Sculptors’ House.
1999/2000 Karl Prantl discovers the location of Mitterberg in Pöttsching on the former imperial border between Austria and Hungary (now between Lower Austria and Burgenland) and, together with Irene Izmeny (the former mayor of Pöttsching), organises the repositioning of the boundary stone which had lost its impact as a result of the remodelling of the border at Nickelsdorf. Further sculptures from the Symposium are moved to Mitterberg from unsuitable locations in Burgenland.
2004 Publication of the book: ‘Gehen von Stein zu Stein’ in Passagen Verlag, Vienna, by Katharina Prantl, Design: Walter Bohatsch (State Prize for the ‘Most Beautiful Book 2004‘).
2006/2007 Due to the expansion of industrial quarrying operations and the resulting threat to the artworks 18 further one-off pieces are transferred from St. Margarethen to Mitterberg with the organisational help of Ursula Pasterk (Vienna’s former Executive City Councillor for Cultural Affairs). Together with the ‘Boundary Stone’, these form a new, meaningful artistic landscape at Mitterberg. (Four further sculptures owned by the Province of Burgenland which are located at unattractive road junctions: Herb George – USA, Milos Clupac – Czech Republic, Oleg Truszynski – Poland … ) should also be transferred to Mitterberg.)
2008 Karl Prantl receives the Grand Austrian State Prize.
2009 The 50th anniversary of the founding of the SEB is celebrated in the Sculptors’ House in the presence of Federal President Dr. Heinz Fischer, Minister of Culture Claudia Schmied, Provincial Governor Hans Niessl and Provincial Councillor Helmut Bieler … a ‘Public Private Partnership’ solution for the cultural and natural environment of St. Margarethen should be found.
2010 Karl Prantl dies in the family home in Pöttsching. No solution is in sight for the situation facing the total work of art of the ‘Symposium of European Sculptors’ on the hilltop in St. Margarethen.
2011/17 Revitalisation and partial refurbishment of the Sculptors’ House by Sebastian Prantl (Chairperson of the SEB) together with the architect Johanna Rainer and with the help of EU funding and Burgenland’s Department of Culture. Clearance of some woodland from the hilltop and restoration of individual sculptures. Regular guided tours, conclaves organised by international universities in the areas of art and architecture and events organised by the Sculptors’ House: ‘International ChoreoLab Austria’, ‘Literaturraum im Bildhauerhaus’ in cooperation with Beatrice Simonsen: ‘Art & Literature’ and ‘Trans Art Works’…
2015 Publication of the book: ‘Outdoor Art – extraordinary sculpture parks and art in nature’ by Silvia Langen, published by Prestel Verlag (Munich-London-New York).
2015/17 The legal dispute and the ultimatums presented by the Esterhazy Holding to the SEB intensify. The lawyer Dr. Robert Mogy, the architects DI Dr. Renata Hammer and Mag. Johanna Rainer and Sebastian Prantl represent the SEB in its negotiations with the Esterhazy Holding, which is not prepared to permit cooperation as equals and refuses to acknowledge the association’s expertise.
2018 Austria’s Supreme Court decides in favour of the Esterhazy Holding. The Sculptors’ House is cleared by the ‘Symposium of European Sculptors’ under intense time pressure (a deadline of 14 days) in the sweltering August of 2018.
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