The Dutch artist Hans van Houwelingen took this tragic contradiction involving past, present, and future and made it his own. His work for Petuelpark catapults a quote from art history into the present time. Near Barlachstrasse stands a replica of a fifteenth-century statue of the Virgin Mary; water flows from the stigmata on the palms of the child into the basin of a fountain, which also serves as an anachronistic-looking pedestal for the marble statue. Torn away from the context of Catholic piety in a baroque, Austrian church, this statue unexpectedly takes on a unique currency and modern sensibility in the unprotected, urban outdoors. This specific connection once again transforms it into a common symbol of human existence. Almost shyly, the pedestrian directly passes by the statue of Mary; the child in her arms appears to have been brought to life by the water flowing from its wounds; suddenly, it seems to become an actual interlocutor. Should the pedestrian stop now, kneel down, start praying? Perform a ridiculous-looking, intimate, private act under the eyes of everyone else in the city? Or could it also be the artist’s ironic reference to the so-called loss of values in Western societies, and to the petty lives revolving around the consumption of superficial consumer goods, in a place where the best-case scenario is that a statue of Mary and Jesus manages to serve as a tourist attraction?
But that’s not all: After the statue was set up in Petuelpark, Catholic, Protestant, and Greek Orthodox Christian clergy consecrated it, and so the 21st-century copy regained the function of its 15th-century original. The supposedly clear cutoff between the past and the present becomes blurred—a possible future perspective?