Manfred Erjautz


Opening: 10/03/2023, 16 pm

The Graz-born artist Manfred Erjautz (*1966), who spent his childhood and youth in an apartment in what is now the Folk Life Museum, received an invitation to engage once again with this location, which was expanded and converted in 2021 and repositioned in terms of content. After extensive research, he developed a multipiece contemporary sculpture that will be visible from afar as a clear sign of the dynamics in public space.


Five plows floating in the air mark the historic building complex of the Folk Life Museum founded in 1913. This institution is located in the former, early 17th-century Capuchin monastery with extensions added in the 1930s. Directly connected to it is the Church of St. Anthony of Padua, erected in 1602 after the burning of Protestant books and with all the severity of the Counter-Reformation.


Out of its eventful history, which has been critically and openly discussed here for many years, this house was adapted, designed, expanded, converted and reopened in 2021.

Based on the collection of more than 40,000 items, mainly from the pre-industrial age, different living conditions and worlds are addressed in this museum in terms of their social, cultural and socio-political transformation.


Manfred Erjautz, whose mother worked as a sacristan in St. Anthony of Padua and who spent years of his youth in this complex with her and his brothers, was invited to develop a work in and for the public space. After considerable research and thought, the artist finally decided to turn an implement of identification used in farming into an artifact.


For decades, Erjautz has been dealing with advertising strategies, the criticism of the consumer society, as well as coding, decoding and disclosure using analogue and digital technologies and mechanisms. Here he declares the plow to be an identity code that, relieved of its heaviness, becomes a sign in public space in all types of light and weather conditions.


For him, themes such as identity, time and space, the congruence of materials, forms and content, or the relationship between differing positions, balances of power, techniques and dynamics are just as important as the market and technology. Destabilization, combined at the same time with precise measurement, plays just as important a role in his work as the oscillation or irritation of accepted definitions. This applies both to its formal and content-related determination, which we encounter with great fragility and ascertainment in the field of tension between a form of possibility thought to be in motion.


For this location, Erjautz chooses wooden plows from past centuries, discarded from the museum inventory, “deaccessioned” by the museum on account of brittleness and worming. Through transformation and translocation, they are rewritten and function as an impulse moved by invisible forces over the elongated boundary wall. The mutual conditionality of space and time, but also their relativity, erratic nature and differing perceptibility, have an irritating effect in their supposed goal-directedness.

Invented, according to legend, around 3,700 BCE by the Chinese Emperor Shén Nong before the wheel, the plow is one of the oldest machines in the history of human development.


The alienation of the material – these are aluminum casts of the originals – not only makes their operability impossible but also opens new impulses and perspectives. Deposed of their original purpose in the truest sense of the word, five different plows seem to have taken on a life of their own as works of art and to have vanished. Simultaneously, time seems to have stopped here. Erjautz enables us to experience the extended moment of a journey through time, in which we ourselves are inscribed, on which we have stored memories.


In this combination of reality and fiction, gravity appears to have been overcome and suspended. By positioning the plows in a situation contrary to the task originally intended for them, they not only acquire a new significance and (meaningful) level that unhinges what is familiar and believed.

This work does not see itself as a retarding hymn of praise to the historically, politically and ecologically burdened past and present of the earth. As archaic objects from everyday agricultural life, plows propel themselves, along with our attention and interest, beyond today. Our perception of the familiar is questioned and challenged to sense something new.


In this way, Manfred Erjautz involves us in the process of transformation to which he has subjected the plows and expects us to think of the unusual or seemingly impossible.


Elisabeth Fiedler

Art in Public Space

Marienplatz 1/1
8020 Graz, Österreich
T +43-316/8017-9265




Life Folk Museum

Paulustorgasse 11, 8010 Graz

47°04'29.8"N 15°26'23.5"E