One of Hundertwasser’s pet peeves was the omnipresence of straight lines that dominate the built environment in industrialized societies.
One of Hundertwasser’s pet peeves was the omnipresence of straight lines that dominate the built environment in industrialized societies: “The straight line is godless and immoral. The straight line is not a creative line, it is a duplicating line, an imitating line. In it, God and the human spirit are less at home than the comfort-craving, brainless intoxicated and unformed masses.”13
Another pet peeve was the practice of designing dwellings without the involvement of their eventual inhabitants: “The characteristic thing about prisons, cages or pens is the prefabricated “a-priori” structure, the definitive termination of building activity prior to the prisoner’s or animal’s moving in to a structure which is innately incompatible to him or it, coupled with the categorical restriction that the inmate may change nothing in this “his” housing, which has been imposed upon him.”14
Hundertwasser named the stars of 20th century architecture when he identified those who were guilty of these offenses: “Take Le Corbusier, who wanted to level Paris completely in order to erect his straight-line, monstrous constructions. Now, in the name of justice, the constructions of Mies van der Rohe, Neutra, the Bauhaus, Gropius, Johnson, Le Corbusier, Loos etc. should be torn down, as they have been outdated for a generation and have become morally unbearable.”15 His zealous pursuit of a biological aesthetic drove him to propose a drastic correction of the geometric severity of their modernist designs: “In order to rescue functional architecture from its moral ruin, a decomposing solution should be poured over all those glass walls and smooth concrete surfaces, so the moulding process can set in.”16
Hundertwasser was not alone in his desire to obliterate art luminaries. In 1953, the young Robert Rauschenberg had the audacity to take a box of erasers and rub out a densely layered drawing by Willem de Kooning, a grand master of Abstract Expressionism. At the time, many young artists were emulating de Kooning’s expressive style. Although Rauschenberg committed this sacrilege with de Kooning’s permission, the act resonates as a symbolic overthrow of an esteemed master by an ambitious younger artist. In the process, Rauschenberg transformed the de Kooning into the all-white minimalist work that he was experimenting with at the time. In the same spirit, Hundertwasser proposed that modernist masterworks “be torn down” to assert his own anti-modernist practices.
Marcel Duchamp provides a third example of a ‘hall-of-fame’ masterwork being defaced. He placed a goatee and mustache on the revered Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. The image appeared on a post card. The title L.H.O.O.Q., when pronounced in French, confirms the sacrilege of this alteration. It says,”Elle a chaud au cul”, which translates as, “She has a hot ass”.
These displays of personal insolence shocked the art world. At the same time, each coincided with cultural conditions that dislodged the beliefs and behaviors that characterized one era and set the stage for the emergence of new world views and art movements. Identify the sources of cultural turbulence that coincided with Duchamp’s action (early 20th c), and Rauschenberg’s and Hundertwasser’s (mid 20th c).
13Hundertwasser, Freidensreich, “Mouldiness Manifesto against Rationalism in Architecture”
14 Hundertwasser, Freidensreich, “Mouldiness Manifesto against Rationalism in Architecture” http://www.hundertwasser.at/english/texts/philo_verschimmelungsmanifest.php
15 Hundertwasser, Freidensreich, “Mouldiness Manifesto against Rationalism in Architecture” http://www.hundertwasser.at/english/texts/philo_verschimmelungsmanifest.php
16 Hundertwasser, Freidensreich, “Mouldiness Manifesto against Rationalism in Architecture” http://www.hundertwasser.at/english/hudertwasser/biogrpahie.php