Inhabiting the earth: Walter Pichler’s “Sitsgruben”
Walter Pichler (1936-2012) is renowned for his conception of the unity of artistic disciplines: sculpture, architecture, art have no boundaries in his oeuvre. This vision was somehow taken for granted throughout his career, with no concern in switching constantly through different media and considering the corpus of his work as an indissoluble whole. There’s a constant in the Austrian artist/architect production: the construction of environments which are completed only when they are inhabited by a human being and that can never become autonomous objects, exhibited and commodified.
The “Sitsgruben”(The Seating Pits) is a work he built in Peter Novler’s property. Since 1971, Novler, an important Austrian designer and curator of art, architecture and media, curated an on-going land-art project called “die Grube” (the Pit) intervening over a landscape of abandoned quarries and vineyards in Breitenbrunn (Austria) with a series of works by notable artists from different parts of the world. The “Sitzgruben”, Pichler contribution, is a way to inhabit the land: eight hollow squares with a sitting section are arranged at regular intervals, 90 cm below the ground level. Anti-monumental and rigorous, the intervention has an out-of-time aura. The pits are concrete cells letting man isolate from the world, a (personal) concern the artist expressed throughout his life, and more famously through his 1960′s Prototypes. In 1972 Pichler moved to an old farm in Sankt Martin an der Raab in Southern Burgenland, where he lived and worked ever since, far from the established art world.