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  • The Head of Siegfried
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    Arcaded courtyard

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    The Head of Siegfried

    Cause for critical reform

    The monument with the head of the fallen Siegfried you can see beneath glass cubes, originally stood in the centre of the Aula. In 1923 it was erected on the initiative of the anti-Semitic and anti-democratic Deutsche Studentenschaft Österreich and their professors. The Viennese sculptor and professor of fine arts Josef Müllner designed the Siegfried monument as a lying full body statue. For financial reasons only the head was produced.

    The Head of Siegfried was originally supposed to commemorate the students and professors who were killed in action in WW1. From the 1960s onward it became the focal point of conflict between right- and left-wing students and at the beginning of the 1990s public debate over the political significance of the monument intensified.

    The controversies, which spanned decades, were the reason the University chose to redisplay the head of Siegfried in its historical context, introducing an analytical viewpoint.

    The Rector of Vienna University arranged for the monument’s relocation from the Aula to the arcaded courtyard and commissioned Bele Marx and Gilles Mussard to create a new version, which was completed in 2006. The Historical Institute, led by Prof. Friedrich Stadler, provided consultation.

    The two artists started by throwing Siegfried from his base and surrounded the individual pieces with glass and added text and images from discussions from the last three decades. A further glass and text sculpture can be found above this, with excerpts from the memoirs of Germanicists, pedagogues and writer Minna Lachs about their time as students in the late 1920s, a time marked by anti-Semitic incidents.

    This work is intended to encourage critical reflection on the history of the University and of Austria, and, at the same time, to remind us that the first thing to happen under dictatorships is the prohibition of free speech.