Apparat für Park [Apparatus for Park]

Martin Gostner, 1991/2019

In German, the word ‘Zapfen’ can mean many things: a cone, as in the female inflorescences of coniferous plants; the cone cells in the retina of the eye; or even an icicle, since the term ‘Eiszapfen’ translates literally as ‘ice cone’. The cones of cotton wool hanging from the trees here subvert these ideas. We associate cotton wool with warmth, purity, softness and silence. In the mounted ‘devices’, we find a combination of stiffness and fuzziness, formlessness and shaping, durability and transience. Despite its precise modelling, this work of art seems mouldable and not finalised; among other things, the weather and the external influences of the park contribute to a constant change.

The work consists of oversized white cones made of absorbent cotton hanging high in the branches. The work consists of oversized white cones made of absorbent cotton hanging high in the branches.

Image Credits


Elisabeth Fiedler

Location on map


Neue Galerie am Universalmuseum Joanneum 

Artist biography

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About the sculpture

In botany, "Zapfen" refer to the female inflorescences of conifers; in medicine, they refer to the photoreceptors in the retina of the eye. This term is thus characterized as oscillating between what we observe and what we actively observe. Modified, it appears formally as an "Eiszapfen" [ice cone] in extreme cold. In its morphological peculiarity and phenomenological diversity, the cone also corresponds to semantic ambiguity.

 A constructed, two-metre-tall white absorbent cotton cone shape hanging from a branch not only deconstructs our idea of "Zapfen" [cones] in its softness and oversized dimensions, it also examines sculptural form, materiality, fragility and presence as well as duration and transience as a work deliberately placed in an outdoor space.

"Cotton wool is basically a loose structure of fibers or threads that only form a volume structure due to their adhesion to each other." (Wikipedia) We associate this material with warmth, healing, purity and stillness, while at the same time its whiteness conveys coldness and rigidity. Within this bipolar paradox, every design oscillates between this rigidity and blurriness, fleetingness and incomprehensibility, so that a sculpture does not appear definitively limited despite precise modeling.

 Martin Gostner expands on this apparent contradiction once again by assigning a structural concept to the amorphous structure and understanding absorbent cotton in his work as an apparatus in order to speak of it as a "stock of visual tools".  "Thus a sculpture made of absorbent cotton", as he says, "in its shapelessness and morphological diversity...possesses the largest stock. It is a tremendous morphological store - reservoir and resource at the same time."