Albert Hien


auf Anfrage zugänglich

Oskar-von-Miller-Gymnasium, Siegfriedstraße 22, 80803 München

Neonsysteme, DMX-Lichtsteuerung, 12,5 x 5 x 5 m

Architecture: Braun Architekten, München & Christoph Maas Architekturbüro, München

Landscape architecture: Realgrün, München

Photos: Florian Holzherr (und Video)

Text: Bernhart Schwenk

A mosaic spelling out the Latin words “Carpe Diem” is inlaid in the floor of the entrance to the language-oriented Oskar von Miller Gymnasium. It welcomes pupils, faculty, and visitors to the impressive Art Nouveau-style building, which was constructed between 1910 and 1911. The phrase “Carpe Diem”, which can be translated literally as “pluck the day,” comes from the Odes by the Roman poet Horace. It advises us to delight in every day of our lives and enjoy each precious and irretrievable moment. The appeal can be understood in the hedonistic sense of the Greek philosopher Epicurus, who recognized that the greatest pleasure in life lay in the simplest of lifestyles.

“CARPE DIEM” also begins the light installation by Albert Hien in the school’s historic tower, and is followed by seven other philosophical phrases dealing with time: “Tempus fugit” (“time flies”), “AB OVO” (“from the very beginning”), “TEMPUS VINCIT OMNIA“ (“time conquers all”) “AMICITIA VINCIT HORAS” (“friendship conquers time”), “Tota vita DIES UNUS EST” (“all of life is but a single day”), “DIES DIEM DOCET” (“one day teaches the other”) and “Vita brevis ars longa” (“life is short, craft long”).

Hien’s artwork is made up of two different illuminated bands of neon lettering, one transparent and the other colored, which sometimes overlap each other. They follow the curves of a spiral staircase more than sixteen meters high, which winds either up or down over several stories. Since each one of the illuminated messages can be turned on and off independently, different “read” or “write” speeds can be set by means of a programmed “score,” thus changing the rhythms of the light and its moods.

The ancient proverbs in neon light – which is, by the way, a dying craft – recall the ephemerality of life. To this day they have lost none of their currency, as, for example, the common acronym YOLO (“you only live once”) proves. In the context of a school, all of these bits of wisdom can be understood as challenges not to lose sight of the big picture and to see every day of life as an opportunity.

The school’s tower, by the way, which contains the work of light art “CARPE DIEM”, is more than just an architectural landmark for Munich’s Schwabing district, as large clock faces are attached to four of its eight sides, making it possible to see what time it is from far away. This function of perceiving time is now also reflected inside the building. In the artwork itself, however, it is not a benchmark or a physical quantity, nor does it serve the purpose of punctuality or fulfilling one’s duty. Rather, in “CARPE DIEM” time can be experienced through the senses as a conscious and enriching cognitive process – whether during school days or in life afterward.