Art Installation by Michael Goldgruber, international culture promenade, Place de l'Europe, hotel de ville, Paris.

10 June - 10 July 2016 (Cubes Nationaux during the EURO 2016 soccer championship).
Photography, video.

A project of the Austrian Cultural Forum Paris

Günther Oberhollenzer on Kicking the Horizon

The Austrian artist Michael Goldgruber is a master of challenging our perception, of capturing and probing preconceived perspectives and prescribed viewpoints. With utmost aesthetic precision, his videos and photographic work revolve around human beings and their take on nature, their encounters with their surroundings. In the process, the artist provides startling insights into a world that appears both familiar and as if being seen through new eyes; his images capture how we see the environment and how we have modified it, for instance through the structures we build. At times disturbing or thought-provoking, the results can also be very intriguing.
In Goldgruber’s outstanding new series of works, human perception is again an important ingredient in his artistic output. Kicking the Horizon, an installation to be shown in Paris during the 2016 European Soccer Championship (EURO 2016), is a courageous attempt to take a compelling look at refugee children stranded in Austria, for whom playing soccer provides a brief interlude of normality. Soccer teams are organised to give the refugees the opportunity of getting some exercise, but also to foster community spirit and provide an outlet for pent-up aggression. Goldgruber considers it very important to encounter refugees in this new setting. The meetings between the artist and the refugees and the experience gathered at the sports ground provide the basis for photographs and videos of momentous intensity and expressive power.


Portraits, © Michael Goldgruber 2016

With great sensitivity, Goldgruber captures the team members in large-format black-and-white portraits. The artist concentrates on their expressive faces, with the close-up zoom steadily drawing in the viewer’s gaze. Although the focus is on the eyes, the refugees are not seeking eye contact with the viewers. Aimed at far-away places, their eyes are sad and vulnerable, but also proud and dignified. This is how Goldgruber singles out individuals from the masses, transforming anonymous refugees into real people. In a video, Goldgruber slowly pans the camera over the faces of the young people, some of them singing, others humming. It is not the national anthem one hears, but a song by Franz Schubert. The artist skilfully employs romantic elements such as the motif of yearning or an expression of noble dignity. At the same time, he makes sure the perspective is not overly romanticised: architectural photographs and videos present the -- partly improvised – soccer playgrounds in sober and disillusioning aesthetics; another video captures the players kicking balls against the side walls of a soccer cage. The crashing of the footballs against the metal bars gives an inkling of the young men’s potential for aggression.
Depicting architectural settings in a manner at once documentary and sculptural, focussing on the individual human faces and combining evocative images with rhythmic sounds and romantic music – all of these elements in combination create a many-layered artistic installation in which Goldgruber manages to give a very human face to the emotionally charged refugee issue. And he makes it quite obvious that the world’s most popular sport can be much more than just a game.

Günther Oberhollenzer (curator at the Essl-Museum, independent curator and author, Vienna), November 2015


Soccer cage on the Yppenplatz square in Vienna, © Michael Goldgruber, 2015 (illustrative photo)

Michael Goldgruber,
Born 1965 in Leoben, lives in Vienna.
1986 – 1988 photography training with Bernd Schilling, advertising and product photography, Vienna; 1986 – 1989 non-degree student at the University of Applied Arts (master class of Ernst Caramelle), Vienna; 1985 – 1995 art history and philosophy studies, University of Vienna; 2007 Austrian State Scholarship for the Visual Arts, BMUKK (Ministry of Education and the Arts); 2012 international photography scholarship of the BMUKK, Cité des Arts, Paris. 2015 artist residency in Brussels (Contretype, centre pour la photographie). 2015 Prix Photo at the Concours international de la Quatrième Image, Paris.
Numerous solo exhibitions 1988-2015, i.a. in Vienna, Berlin, Zürich, Paris and New York; numerous group exhibitions 1988-2015, i.a. in Vienna, Berlin, Zürich, Paris, Athens, Mexico City, Santiago de Chile, Zagreb, Belgrade, Sarajevo, Nizhni Novgorod, ...
Film screenings, including Vienna, Graz, Berlin and Linz.

Günther Oberhollenzer,
born 1976 in Brixen (South Tyrol, Italy), studied history and art history in Innsbruck and Venice, as well as cultural management in Vienna. The art historian, curator and author lives in Vienna. In 2006, he took up the post of a curator at the Essl Museum (Klosterneuburg near Vienna). In 2014, he became a member of the South Tyrolean culture board and started teaching at the Institute of Cultural Management and Cultural studies at the Vienna University of Music and the Performing Arts. In 2014, his book Von der Liebe zur Kunst was published by Limbus Verlag, Innsbruck.


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