Anselm Wagner

Young Bauhaus Research Colloquium




Anselm Wagner

Institute of Architectural Theory, Art History and Cultural Studies, TU Graz

Anselm Wagner studied art history, philosophy and classical archaeology in Salzburg and Munich (M.A. in 1991, PhD in 2002). He worked as freelance curator, gallery manager, art critic, and editor of the Austrian art magazines frame and spike. He held teaching positions at various Universities in Salzburg, Linz, Vienna, and Graz. In 2004, he was Research Fellow at the Clark Art Institute Williamstown, Massachusetts. In 2009, he assumed a Fulbright Visiting Professorship for art history at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. In 2010, he was appointed Professor and Chair of the Institute of Architectural Theory, Art History, and Cultural Studies at Graz University of Technology. Since then, he has been editor of GAM (Graz Architecture Magazine) and the book series architektur + analyse at jovis, Berlin, and has been member of the ASVK (Advisory Board of the Preservation of the Historic Center of Graz) and head of the research project “The Solar House of Konrad Frey”, funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).
Wagner’s many publications are focused on the art and architecture of the 20th and 21rst centuries. He is author and editor of various books, including Was bleibt von der ‘Grazer Schule’? Architektur-Utopien der 1960er revisited (jovis: Berlin, 2012; together with Antje Senarclens de Grancy), Konrad Frey: Haus Zankel. Experiment Solararchitektur (jovis: Berlin, 2013; together with Ingrid Böck), Staub: Eine interdisziplinäre Perspektive (LIT: Wien-Berlin, 2013; together with Daniel Gethmann), Is There (Anti-)Neoliberal Architecture? (jovis: Berlin, 2013; together with Ana Jeinic). His upcoming book, Popular Terms in Architecture: A Dictionary, will be published in 2017.

Poetics of Dust.

As nearly everything will turn to dust some day, dust contains nearly everything. “Dust”, says Roland Meyer, is a “material archive, an encyclopedic representation of the substantial environment.” Thus dust serves as trace and sign as well: criminalists can detect a crime by analyzing the dust found at a crime scene and physics can reconstruct the genesis of our solar system by analyzing dust from space. It is for this reason that John Ruskin was very skeptical of the restoration of historical buildings because their cleaning, renewal, and addition swept away one of their most important functions: to be a “lamp” of memory. That is why modernist architects preferred materials without patina like glass or chrome to evoke the feeling of an eternal presence that does not know any past. But, on the other hand, how can a building keep memory alive when it falls to dust? For dust, as George Bataille knew very well, is one of the great actants of the formless, opposing all kinds of order, of structure, and – not at least – of architecture. So, architecture with and of dust seems to be a largely tricky thing because it questions one of its intrinsic qualities: that is, to give shape to our environment (and society). The paper will try to figure out to what extent a “poetics of dust” can help to understand architecture as a kind of trajectory between form and formlessness, where impurity guarantees memory and purity oblivion.