Gottfried Bechtold

Right through the heart

About the Flatz Rail

The Flatz Rail. How a readymade could be made into a pietà and this into a rail support by Sylvia Taraba

If we direct our attention to three guiding concepts in Gottfried Bechtold’s work, and take the readymade as their mediation, we come upon a delightful numbers game with three work groups, each with three impressive executions revolving around the further and narrower theme of self-reference in the context of artistic self-positioning: cement Porsche, rail and signature.

The cement Porsche (Betonporsche),

executed as a cement solid-casting in a two-part moulding process, is, as we may summarily sum up, the global sculptural definition of the automobile as standstill in the age of traffic jams, of smog and of the ozone hole. A seeming contradictio in adjecto. Or two paradoxes: self-movement as mass movement, and mass movement as standstill. There are three manifestations of the hand-crafted, cement Porsche.

The Cement Porsche of 1971 is the legendary one-of-a-kind of a narratively extended readymade. The anniversary Porsche, produced exactly thirty years later, the Crashporsche of 2001, is another well-wrought, hand-crafted one-of-a-kind. Resembling a torso, it becomes an archaeological find, experienced as the broken corpus of an automobile. In 2006, then, followed the edition Elf/Elf (Eleven/Eleven) – eleven concrete solid-castings hand-crafted in the elaborate negative-positive moulding process: 11 multiples on the scale of 1:1 of a now covered-over Porsche 911. This Elf/Elf Porsche, with the exactly fitting Porsche covering, is, so to say, the subtly paradoxical “intensification” of standstill.

The signature (Signatur),

executed with different technical methods and materials, seems to be the global self-location of the artist after the death of the subject and the death of the author. Bechtold determines himself as a living visual inspection of a widely acting, discerning and describing creativity. On the strength of ripe knowledge, he can contemplate the entire world as his work, sign it and discover that he is capable of more than “the subject” and “the author” combined. The creative person assumes any ephemeral standpoint whatever. But he assumes responsibility for his distinctions, vouching subjectively and objectively for those he makes. There exist three versions, places and work groups of Signatur (Signature), each of which for its part refers to temporal states such as duration, transience and velocity:

Signatur of the Silvretta retaining wall, 2002 (length: 13.8 m; height: 2.80 m; script made of stainless steel);

Signatur of the Auenfeld Snowpack, 2014, Lech am Arlberg (length: 530 m; script is a track generated by a snow groomer in the snow);

Signatur of a Taurus locomotive, 2012, so far unexecuted. Virtual e-concept by Frank Mätzler, 2016.

The rail, seems to express the global positioning of the individual body under the conditions of borderline dead load, and points (beyond the technical limits) to global personal responsibility. There are three versions of the rail:

Schiene Kofler (Kofler Rail), 1972;

Schiene Mader (Mader Rail), 1993; and

Schiene Flatz (Flatz Rail), 2016 (conceived in 2015).

The last, the Flatz Rail, was generated one-hundred per cent by random, occurring to the artist out the blue, and is strikingly dissimilar to the previous works. Surprising features: extension of dimensionality. A pietà as carrier of meaning and of technical data. The self-referential theme of the rail is borne symbolically by a Christian main motif with a theme similar to that of the other rails and thus receives an intensification of meaning: a deepening of self-reference. A reciprocal intensification of meaning and content is created here by enlisting of a sacral external reference: an already existing sculpture, a readymade, serves as both the datum and the data carrier. Matter and spirit, the secular and the religious, stand here in dramatically interpenetrating relation. It comes to an unexpected and exciting confrontation of Bechtold with Bechtold.

Gottfried Bechtold could not know that the replica of Albert Bechtold’s pietà would one day come to be his work, yet it is significant that the sculpture of the other Bechtold could become this and show the appropriate dignity in the artistic fashioning of the unforeseeable. How could this happen so unintentionally? Perhaps through the love of one’s own fate; whatever may happen, I want to want it, and I want to want it again and again: “I know of no other manner in which to treat great tasks than as play: this is a sign of greatness, an essential prerequisite of it. […] My formula for human greatness is amor fati: that you want nothing to be different, neither in the future, nor in the past, nor in all eternity. Not merely to endure the necessary, still less to pretend to endure it – all idealism is phoniness in the face of necessity – but to love it. ” (Nietzsche 1992: 124)[1]

Amor Fati

It is a “pietà” that we see before us. But actually what stands before us is a medial difference, an aporia, a monstrosity, the stupendous representation of an incredible event, which seems to be worse than the thematically antecedent crucifixion. On top of that now comes a transfixion. The ramming of a wide-flanged beam into the chest chakras of Jesus and Maria. A violent emotional impression, totally unlike the dry effect of Gottfried Bechtold’s other work.

Albert Bechtold, on the other hand, the 2.40 m high marble replica of whose small bronze pietà we see here, had a fundamental affinity in his work to the present theme. His Trauernde Frau (Grieving Woman), the unusual interpretation of a war memorial in the form of, as it were, a “collective pietà” created for the city of Lustenau in 1932/34, is only one example of this. Amidst one of two other lamentation groups there is also a little-known pietà by Albert Bechtold: a small bronze statuette in triplicate, each copy about 100 cm in height. One of these stood until recently next to her 2.40 m high marble copy near the shop window in the Eichholzstraße 5 in Bregenz. Never ever envisaged or even thought of as “readymades”, but as sculptures and devotional images, which they were.

So there is the small bronze figure of the pietà and her large marble copy. Research determined the small statue to be the original. In view of this, the large pietà was officially declared the replica. We could also say “artistically suspended” and thus, from having been a seemingly authentic sculpture, rendered an available readymade. So, then, something must be done with her. Show her. Why shouldn’t she be used for the upcoming exhibition? There is also the additional felt “sense of time”, and she can be made into a bearer of the Passion and a wide-flanged beam knocked through her chest. So there she has stood for a few months inscribed with the yellow-marking for the future punch hole, waiting for the solemn reception of the rail.

The idea that she would soon no longer stand here in Eichholzstraße [I have inserted this because I’ve have assumed that here and in the whole previous passage, the author is imagining the moment when the idea of the piece first occurred to the artist and so refers to the statue in its original position. If not, please correct me.] as a matter-of-course, engendering this special additional “atmosphere”, seemed strangely disconcerting, yet acted on both statues as the atmospheric bonding agent of an otherwise barely perceptible family relationship.

The pietà by Albert Bechtold

The subject of the pietà, the so-called Vesperbild, the Lamentation of Christ at the evening Vespers of the day of his death, was a very widespread icon in Europe of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The body of Christ is shown, depending on the expressive intention of the image, the stylistic norms and the artistic canon, limply hanging or sometimes tautly stretched in the lap of Mary. No so with Albert Bechtold. There could be no greater contrast to the pietà of Michelangelo, the Pietà par excellence, than that of Albert Bechtold. It is not, like the former, the avant-garde of the germinating Baroque, but the avant-garde of a modernism that reduces the representational to the barest minimum. What further intensifies this intention is that the pietà is also standing. Very uncommon and unusual. A rare vertical, upwardly compressed representation of the utterly expressionless empathy of Mary. A strange interleaving of complete absence of expression and impression. The contemporary avant-garde experiment of denied expression drives the representational abstraction. Albert Bechtold’s paradox of the non-expression of the Passion. It captures the moment when a still representationally perceptible statue of Our Lady of Sorrows evidently changes suddenly into a column of stoic taciturnity.

The figure of the Mater Doloroso, which as far as I know is always represented as standing in the work of Albert Bechtold, marks the moment of the descent from the cross. The moment when Mary receives and holds Jesus, her murdered son, executed on the cross – a moment that actually exceeds her human powers. An instant of inner strength, shown here in the prolonged transcendent moment in which she, standing behind Jesus, and again melting into her own born son, holds him up, and finds herself capable of the strength to hold him up.

Here lies the dramatic moment, brought about by the accident of serendipity, in which Bechtold meets Bechtold: this still-just-being-able-to-bear is also the endogenous physical theme of the lapidarily stoic Rails of Gottfried Bechtold.


Gottfried Bechtold’s three Rails

The legendary Kofler Rail,

named after the Bregenz metal worker Wilfried Kofler, who was commissioned to make the components of the rail and weld the joints of the parts, dates from 1978 and is now in the possession of the artist. Previously exhibited to the public twice (Deuringschlössle Bregenz, 1972; Vienna Art Museum, 2007), it will be shown again in the autumn of 2016 at the Lentos Art Museum in Linz. Dimensions, materials and physics: length: 21.03 m; steel; the rail consists of seven bolted-together wide-flanged beam parts and is supported at both ends by a tripod and bipod. Owing to its self-weight, it sags in the middle.

The impressive Mader Rail

dates from 1993 and is named after the Bregenz structural engineer Ernst Mader. It was made for the 1993 Ushimado Biennale in Japan, first shown there and immediately purchased by the Biennale organizer and owner of the site, the factory owner and art patron Hattori. It consists of three bolted wide-flanged beams parts. The middle of the rail rests on a support, on which it is freely balanced. It stands today at the original exhibition site, amidst an olive grove on a hilltop overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The flexion of the rail caused by gravity and the curvature of the distant horizon converge in orbital harmony. The self-weight, which in accordance with the specific weight of the steel can just bear itself without signs of material fatigue or breach, bends the rail downwards at the left and right of the central support. And just this gentle curving under its own weight traces – the poetry of accident! – the slight curvature of the Sea of Japan’s distant horizon. Dimensions, materials and physics of the rail: length: 28.8 m.; steel. (The sculpture park of the art patron Hattori also contains works by Buren, Kapoor, Kawamata, Abramovic and others.)

The theme of both concepts: pure self-reference. In the broadest sense, however, they appear to me to be metaphors of the self-referentiality of paradoxical autopoetic processes of life and of the resilience of their carrier.

The expressive Flatz Rail,

executed in 2016, was spontaneously and naturally occasioned and emotionally aroused as an invented paradox in April 2015. Dimensions, materials and physics: length: 14 m. marble (Chiampo venato/mandorlato/filettato) and steel (EAH carrier). A standing marble figure through whose middle a centrally mounted wide-flanged beam is balanced. The carrier-figure itself is supported vertically at the back by a visible steel post and base cross. If the experiment with the marble boring and introduction of the steel beam goes awry, in spite of the new, specially acquired, high-precision Hilti mega-drill, and the carrier cannot bear up against the perforation because the Madonna is having none of it, well, then, we can only join hands and sing “Marmor, Stein und Eisen bricht, aber unsere Liebe nicht” (Marble, stone and iron break, but not our love). The involuntarily chosen concept of Bechtold’s rail: self-reference and external reference. Here we are thinking of Niklas Luhmann’s cryptic dictum: “Self-reference qua external reference” and vice versa, in any direction of the Strange Loop of the universal paradoxical concept of creation and in all degrees of contamination by the constantly streaming flow of referential meanings.

The Flatz Rail, named after the Bregenz structural engineer Markus Flatz, is the third rail of its kind. It is endowed with iconographic “additional qualifications” that have to do very originally but completely unintentionally with its spontaneous emergence, and which contain remarkable references and re-references.

The copy of the vertical pietà became not only quite unexpectedly a readymade; it also became almost at the same time quite unexpectedly the bearer of the rail. We have here to do with an extended readymade, extended by and born of an apparently insignificant coincidence of individual bearers of family history and an apparently fateful family connection. And also a spontaneously emergent artistic relationship and an abrupt combination of great-uncle and nephew. A work that speaks not only of multi-layered encounters but also of an unusual and complex interpenetration of two works. Moreover, the rail has become an object not only of virtual and material and virulent art and family history, but also of an epitomized Passion, and this in two respects, as a mountain and a valley diverge: total negation versus highest exaltation. Because the figure has now become three-dimensional, or because of the representational third dimension of its bearer (to remain two-dimensional, the wide-flanged beam would have to pass sideways through the figure; here the angle of penetration is turned 180°), the rail goes right through the heart. And for all of us who see it, it also goes right through the heart – as if just then our very own life were in play, and as if it touched on things that would cause us pain.

And we also see even a virtual three-dimensional cross.

What Gottfried Bechtold’s rails intuitively address is the inner psychological tension of an individual border-crossing and its specific physical representation. It is a metaphor of just-still-being-able-to-bear without perishing.

It is this that in Gottfried Bechtold’s concept of the rail can go to our heart, for through it we can experience in a downright physical fashion a symbol of our own borders, or a just possible or impossible border-crossing, or at any rate a definitely measureable boundary value.

Furthermore, we can (if we like) perceive, or produce, a plus of contexts – to wit an analogy to the story of Christ’s Passion and even to the symbol of the cross. The cross in its symbolism of contrary directions; for example, as symbol of the creative interpenetration of the masculine and the feminine, and beyond this the symbol of the four world-creating elements; hence on the one hand an ambiguous symbol of life and on the other hand the wooden cross as a real instrument of torture and symbol of death. Symbol of the Passion of Christ, who, having reached his human limits, sees this life extended beyond the temporal world. To this extent an analogy of the risk-taking artistic personality, who repeatedly seeks to go beyond and expand the limits of existence, an exploration that the fearless adventurer can pay for with death. The Passion of Christ therefore as simultaneously an image of the passion of the creative person, who, always aware of his limits, feels and thinks himself beyond them and so finds the courage to approach them as far as possible. The Passion of the daring human being is also discernible implicitly and explicitly in Gottfried Bechtold’s three rails.

We have before us an iconographic interpenetration of works of two artistic personalities of different generations and today already distant epochs, as well as two interlocking works whose content could not be more contrary.

The Flatz Rail, intuitively conceived in an instant, with its previously mentioned and still subsequently to be further specified “additional qualifications”, affords us, without having consciously intended to, overviews and vistas of contexts of art history and the philosophy of art, and insights into them, that today still usually lie hidden. It is a pleasure for me to take these up and illuminate them in various respects.

Rail and carrier medium

The rail requires a support, or the self-carrying weight of the rail makes use of the recently “ready made” representational carrier medium to raise itself against and above gravity, and so to burden itself, or even more to display this life-like material strain, in the first place. Life requires a carrier as such. The theme of the carrier is the theme of the rail, and even more so the theme of life.

Gottfried Bechtolds’s three rails – the Kofler Rail, the Mader Rail and now the Flatz Rail – broach, in and for itself, a fragile, tense, existential state of self-reference.

The Flatz Rail expresses this state by means of the particularity of the work no longer now only with terse restraint on the physical level alone, but also with downright passion and welcome martiality, for it relates physics and anthropomorphic figuration to each other.

Creaturely vulnerability is insinuated to be material vulnerability, embodied by the technical instrument of boundary violation, the drill. Its electric and water-reinforced abrading and penetration – with the brittle material’s lacking capacity to resist, with the reciprocal alienation of at once foreign and not-foreign materials, and finally with the dwindling material resistance to the water-bathed penetration – coldly forces upon the marble the rail cross-section’s negative form of an I, and drives precisely this through the chests of Jesus and Mary.

In the first two works the raw rail was the object and moment of a meditation. Here now the forcible penetration of a Mary statue triggers shrilly visual pain.

In the Flatz Rail the significance of the carrier comes to be that of an individual carrier of self-referential material, or again a metaphor of creative self-borne life. A story of accident typical of this work, in which something happens to an artist (G.B.), some miscellaneous paradox occurs to him and this unexpected, undecided Something of his unconscious instantaneously spurs his will to association and experiment and creative decision.

An accident that brings together Bechtold the Elder and Bechtold the Younger and lets something unusual occur by converting the pietà that has been freed of actuarial attribution to become the carrier of a self-carrying rail and so achieve creative reparation. The theme of the symbolic carrier is broached by an accident in the history of the work and the culmination of forces, obsessions and passions in history and family history, and is completed in the work of the younger artist.

As with God the Father and God the Son, so is it often with related artist pairs of art history that the younger one by, as it were, creative leapfrogging and springing away and not exactly willing it – that is, accidentally – rounds off, connects and completes the work of the older artist (from which the work of the younger genealogically proceeds in the first place).

The completion here consists in the objectively given revaluation and transformation of a religious symbol in an artistically inadequate execution into an impressive readymade of unknown fabrication. Both pietas, the small and the large, were left and taken up within the family as part of the artistic legacy of Albert Bechtold, but the larger one was recently marginalized as artistically unassignable and released for further use. That is to say, the said replica was made by Gottfried Bechtold, by its thematically rigorous use in a revaluation of values, that recursive creative gesture first adopted in art by Marcel Duchamp, into a readymade.

A gesture, by the way, that can occur in Bechtold’s œuvre. For example, in 2012, in the high-water sculpture Spitz (Point), a pointed bronze cone on the banks of the Danube in the village of Spitz in the Wachau, which today marks the historic flood levels of 2002. Bechtold felt compelled to incorporate – into his competition design an on-site, already present, larger-than-life representational readymade – a sort of Anacreontic Pallas Athena of sandstone – and to adapt it to his idea by means of daring interventions. The statue could not be rotated. So one late evening Bechtold himself unauthorizedly turned her head (by means of simple if not hazard-free sawing and slightly twisted re-gluing with dowels and cement), thus changing the direction in which her bronze inlaid eyes looked towards the point of the flood water-indicating bronze “point” at Spitz, over which she now, in a second chance education, keeps watch for floods with a bronze book in her arm and with constant, brazen gaze, a mythic observer of the Danube.

Back to the Flatz Rail. It is thus not “typical” Bechtold, neither the Younger nor the Elder. But it shows in a typical manner the gift of making the most of an unexpected moment. This is no religious gesture, but a violent narrative of art and life. It tells nevertheless of the totality of life references that erupt suddenly and briefly, rip open a gulf, send a signal of action and take a radical artistic form, which is now assignable and genuine. But by no means typical and by no means whole, because the pure self-reference of the rail is broken by the obvious external reference of the carrier medium and is now also charged with a trunkful of meaning.

All translations  by Jonathan Uhlaner. 

Gottfried Bechtold, retrospective at Kunstmuseum LENTOS, Linz  

Oktober 21th – February 26th, 2017



Gottfried Bechtold


Gottfried Bechtold

Born in Bregenz in 1947. Apprenticed in stone masonry in Hallein. Journeyed to Great Britain, the USA, and Canada, amongst other destinations. From 1973 to 1974 visiting artist at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, Canada. Collaborated with the communications theorist Paul Watzlawick at Stanford University. In 1999 awarded the Vorarlberg International Art Prize. In 2009 Honorary Prize for Video and Media Art from the Austrian Ministry of Education, Art, and Culture. Visiting professor in Austria and abroad (Cornell University, Ithaca, USA; Karl- Franzens-Universitat, Graz; Technische Universitat, Innsbruck). Lives and works in Bregenz, Austria.  (Claudia Slanar)

Gottfried Bechtold in conversation with Ingrid Adamer, curator of the exhibition

My working method is not to add anything fundamentally new to the world


Ingrid Adamer:

The installation you have conceived for Kunstraum Dornbirn, a former assembly plant, seems surprising at first glance as it appears untypical of your output. Religious subject matter and anthropomorphic form haven’t previously made an appearance. The work is multi-layered and includes a gesture that goes “through the middle of the heart.” Theology and physics collide, organic and inorganic materials permeate each other. First of all I would like to focus on the Pieta elevated on a granite plinth takes center stage, a sculptural representation of Mary as Our Lady of Sorrows with the corpse of her son Jesus Christ that has been taken down from the cross. What is your interest in this sculpture, which you didn’t actually create yourself? How did you come across it?

Gottfried Bechtold:

The figure is by an unknown artist, who carved it in the style of a sculpture by my great-uncle Albert Bechtold. This was about fifty or sixty years ago, probably in Italy. For the majority of my life I’ve been continually confronted by this figure. It stood in my parents’ house in Bregenz, and since I’ve been working there, which may have been five or six years now, I see the figure daily. It’s had a daily effect on me, it’s become a catalyst yet remains unchanged and dumb, it nevertheless provoked reactions, both positive and negative ones. Three-dimensional things have a very strong effect on me.

Ingrid Adamer;

What prompted you to place this sculpture at the center of your installation?

Gottfried Bechtold:

On my way to school I passed the figure morning, noon, and evening. During religious education lessons we were told about the Immaculate Conception, the Pieta, and all those things, and then when I passed it I always thought, yes, you’ve done those things. During these fifty years my responses have differed greatly, sometimes I even wanted to smash it to pieces.

Ingrid Adamer:

As you have already mentioned, the Pieta is a replica of smaller sculpture created by your great-uncle Albert Bechtold in 1926- 27. Albert Bechtold set a significant non-conformist accent in Austrian art during the inter-war period with his radical, cubist- abstract sculptures and designs for memorials. To what extent has your great-uncle influenced you and your output? Spitz on the Danube and almost desecrated it by cutting its head off and re-attaching it at a different angle, so that it would be gazing at a certain spot. It wasn’t permitted, I had to do it secretly, giving the head golden eyes and attaching a golden book. The figure looks downwards to a meadow, at a particular spot where there’s a pointed bronze. I used the figure without any hesitation, it had already been damaged by the weather and wasn’t particularly good either in artistic terms. During the planning for the installation at Kunstraum Dornbirn I had several mental dialogues with uncle Albert. I asked him if I could drill through the sculpture and explained to him what it was that I wanted to express. In the end he was completely satisfied and thought the figure would be revitalized by this intervention.

Ingrid Adamer:

Drilling the aperture was a great technical challenge. Could the “operation” have had fatal consequences? Gottfried Bechtold It was a day’s work and certainly needed a lot of concentration. Core drills were used to make partial jacket holes. The drill can get stuck, which can result in the figure breaking up. But thank goodness it worked. I’m always very interested in the technical aspects, I’m very curious and like working with various materials. Ingrid Adamer I’d like to address your relationship to religion. In an earlier interview you referred to both the Christian faith and also other religions as providers of consoling stories that describe the transcending of death. And on the other hand you talked about becoming more aware of time being limited, as you get older. To what extent have these thoughts played a role in the installation?

Gottfried Bechtold:

I suspect that these thoughts have something to do with the existence of death. Things that were transcendent have always been created. All religions are related to each other cryptically. I think that religions are inventions or fairytales that can provide guidelines during life and make death easier. These are of course inventions by us humans, because everyone needs something transcendental. Capitalism is also in some ways a form of religion, with God being money, or the power that money brings. I like believing in something, even though we don’t know what it is. It’s important to be able to think spiritually, which is what I permit myself to do. However, such considerations have nothing to do with the actual church. Unfortunately religions also tend to present themselves with absolutism and brutalism, a current example being Islamist tendencies. Religion is a wonderful thing, as long as it remains a lay movement practiced privately. I begin to have problems not only when Jews believe themselves to be the chosen people, but when thinking about the crusades the Christians led. Things improved with Martin Luther who said the Pope was not the head of a government. Ultimately however all gods were invented by humans. Religion should remain private and not infringe on public life. But to be able to think spiritually is important. I was very influenced by the Catholic Church in my youth, our father took us to see a lot of Gothic cathedrals and early Christian mosaics. As a child I thought they were great and was very impressed.

Ingrid Adamer:

Various different, even diametrically opposed things collide in the installation. On the one hand the Christian faith, on the other the empirical certainty of a rail as well as the most differing materials. The work is in actual fact a paradox. Gottfried Bechtold Such paradoxical combinations are typical of my work. Regarding religions, of course I’m interested in Jesus and Mary, but basically as a specific material. That also applies to the Trinity. In addition there are also the construction materials and marble in the installation at Kunstraum Dornbirn. The figure and the rail are inseparably connected to each other, Mary not only carries Jesus but also the rail. Jesus and Mary are inseparably linked by the aperture. In contrast to the earlier rails, which were all much cooler in terms of content, fifty years ago I would have never permitted myself to work on anthropomorphic sculptures. Also, I only started to make nude drawings at sixty-five. Physics also plays a major role in transcendence, whilst belief also plays a big role in technology. The chief structural engineer for the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge must have also been a very religious man; even if he’d statistically calculated everything precisely, there still remained unknowns, transcendental elements. The same is also the case for the moon landing, for which technical knowledge alone was not sufficient; it also required enormous faith. They could all be made cardinals, in terms of the quality of their faith. In this respect the scientific and religious phenomena and dimensions are intertwined. I try to expand the areas, but that means a simultaneous slowing down of time. It then becomes possible to offer the Viewer completely different levels of experience, ones which are very remote from an iPhone.

Ingrid Adamer:

Using a Pieta as a readymade and drilling through the middle of ist heart could indeed be misconstrued as a “brutal” act. As a religious violation? Religious issues concern people greatly at present. Do you think the installation will be the cause of discussions? Gottfried Bechtold That was what to some extent motivated me. Questions concerning religion and the laity are virulent. I’m interested in both Christianity and the Koran, which I’ve read. I think the whole thing is a serious structure and not suitable as rovocation. At least it’s not the intention on my part to provoke. Of course it might provoke superficially. My experience is that faithful Catholics and church officials hardly concern themselves with art. I don’t think there’ll be any uproar. The idea of a hole through the heart appeared to me spontaneously, all the ingredients of this Installation had been present for a long time, it has long been brewing up inside me. The space and its numerous old beams were very present for me. Originally I wanted to place a very large cube in the space so that this airy building would be opposed by an enormous mass. But then I wanted to remain site-specific, installing the Pieta and reanimating it. The rail’s length of almost fifteen meters resulted from the dimensions of the space. The rail forms a cross motif with the sculpture standing in the center of the space. The aperture is very well proportioned – if you want to consider it as a heart operation, it might be thought of as being aesthetically successful.

Ingrid Adamer:

I would still like to mention the number three, which plays a central role in Christianity. It’s also important in your work, I’m thinking of the three concrete Porsches, the three signatures, the three rails – “Schiene Kofler,” “Schiene Mader,” and now “Schiene Flatz” – and also the installation’s three components: granite, marble, and steel. Gottfried Bechtold The triad is not something I’m always aiming at, there are also works with two or ten components. But the triad does play a role in my work. For example there are subterranean sculptures which are connected by three openings. The trinity or the Topos of the Madonna and Child with Saint Anne certainly influenced me a lot. That’s how the third rail, that is the Installation for Kunstraum Dornbirn, came about, and here there were also the three different materials which I took into consideration. By the way, the solid plinth and the delicate figure have sometimes reminded me of Giacometti.

Ingrid Adamer:

Thank you very much, Gottfried Bechtold, for this interview.



Gottfried Bechtold "Mitten durchs Herz"

Gottfried Bechtold in conversation with Ingrid Adamer, curator of the exhibition


Kunstheft Gottfried Bechtold "Mitten durchs Herz"
Gottfried Bechtold
Right through the heart

Vermittlungsheft für Kinder, Schüler, Jugendliche und Erwachsene
Gesamtkonzept und Text: Martin Oswald, Pädagogische Hochschule Weingarten
Herausgeber Kunstraum Dornbirn

Gottfried Bechtold

Right through the heart
Gottfried Bechtold
Right through the heart

Editor Kunstraum Dornbirn
Text by Sylvia Taraba, interview with Ingrid Adamer, installationviews
German/ English, 185 Seiten,
Verlag für Moderne Kunst
ISBN 978-3903131712
€ 28,-