Christoph Mayer chm.

In his artistic work, Christoph Mayer chm. sets off in search of differentiated forms of perception. Whereas his own body served as the focal point of his perceptual investigations at the outset, the artist now reacts to the socio-political developments around him. Due to his intense interest and investigations in neuroscience, elements and methods from the field tend to flow into his work. He is particularly interested in the physiology of perception in relation to the phenomenon of cognition, experimenting with interactive project forms.

For his listening piece Audiowalk Gusen, Christoph Mayer chm. pieced together documentary material in order to examine the long-repressed history of a section of the upper Austrian community of Gusen. It was only by chance that the artist, himself born in the neighboring community of St. Georgen, discovered the historical significance of this area during his youth from the person sitting next to him at a local summer festival: the story which Mayer recounts is of a large, sprawling satellite camp of Mauthausen Concentration Camp along with the armaments production facility “Bergkristall,” which was located on the premises. Mayer’s 96-minute audio impression, which includes fragments of interviews with former Gusen prisoners, perpetrators, collaborators and the present-day local populace, reveals the detailed topography of fear and terror at Gusen’s two camps that was to be successively expunged from local history and memory following the war’s conclusion.

This precisely choreographed audio tour through the terrain of the former camp is divided into 18 stations distinguished by topographic features, proceeding as follows: front courtyard with memorial and the “Jourhaus” – the Danner company, the “Left Jourhaus” with the barracks to the right + commandant’s home – Danner private road, the bordello, in front of the prisoners’ bordello, Lagerstraße – Untere Gartenstraße to Obere Gartenstraße, Block 10 (left) – Untere Gartenstraße No. 6, Block 11 (right) – Obere Gartenstraße No. 6, mustering grounds, crematorium – Obere Gartenstraße, the “Revier” [sick bay] / Block 27, dentist – Obere Gartenstraße at the intersection with Parkstraße, industrial courtyard / in-between space, Gusen II, crossing over Große Straße, rail siding track bed, bench / view into the meadowy flood plain, Bergkristall_ PROLOG, bridge for the rail siding, farm house, camp gate. Even just the matter-of-fact neutrality of these designations serves well to imply the monstrousness of both the camp and its subsequent history. In his script for the audio tour, Mayer proceeds to ask methodological and ontological questions regarding evidence, repression, bearing witness, and the Holocaust’s representation in reports by its survivors: how can the rescued speak for those who did not make it? How can they report on something which they themselves did not experience all the way to its ultimate conclusion? The voices of Gusen’s survivors, their injuries inscribed deeply into their bodies and souls, are lent suggestive power in Mayer’s theatrical yet distanced audio direction. The tour through the neighborhood, narrated in fictitious first-person form by a young woman’s voice, brings the camp to new life in the minds of visitors, even though it is extant only in rather abstract traces. Alternation between a narrative perspective and documentary interview passages gives rise both to distance and to reflected authenticity. Interviews with people from the present-day residential development and the nearby village reveal how they relate to their homes, to history’s commemoration, and to the shift in reality that takes place when one thinks back to the past.



1975, Linz / AT


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  • Foto: Didi Tolerian