Wilhelm Scheruebl Jr.







The Illegal Project

Scholarship Architecktur Preis Land Salzburg

Exhibited at
Initiative Architektur Salzburg

The Illegal Project deals with illegal use and the use of gray areas in public space. The original idea was just to document them. However, through the study of different urban places and situations, it became clear that public space is the last possibility to appropriate a city. It is an important political actor, be it as a place for demonstrations, for putting up anti-capitalist slogans, or as a place that directly and concretely points out the problems we are failing at as a society.

It becomes clear that politics in particular prefers to solve visible problems rather than questioning their origins and finding a solution at the root. Drug addicts are forbidden to stay in certain places in order to beautify the cityscape, but they are not really offered alternatives, which creates dynamics of its own that are unpredictable and very interesting. Public space reflects the population, becomes the scene of political actions and is adapted by users to their needs.

The works question what happens to public space and how it changes. It is shown what potential it offers and how it is used. One quickly notices those who try to take their space, who succeed. Examples, such as illegally built skate parks or a hut on a small island in the Danube, show that there is potential for the space and its resourceful users.

In the various works shown in the course of this exhibition, an attempt was made to approach the project - conceptual video and photographic works were created that reflect part of the research and theoretical work.


Supply and demand are closely linked, as the market economy teaches. Accordingly, drug trafficking will exist as long as there are people who use them and are willing to pay for them, usually well, on the one hand, and people who earn good money with them and whose only chance is to earn money with them, because they are excluded from the normal labor market, on the other hand. Of course, one could find ways to solve the "problem", such as liberalization and nationalization of certain drugs, psychological care for those affected or better job opportunities for people who otherwise have no chance on the labor market.

Mostly, however, the search is on for media-effective solutions - whether it was the delocalization of Karlsplatz in Vienna at the time or changes in the law combined with police actions, as was the case last year on the Gürtel. Nevertheless, drug use and trafficking still exist. The trade has perhaps been curbed and made more inconspicuous, but is still there. Due to the changes, traffickers and their customers have had to reorient and adapt, but as mentioned earlier-where there is demand, solutions can always be found.

The example of the area around Josefstädter Straße and Wiener Gürtel shows how dealers in particular adapt to their surroundings. They use various situations of public and semi-public space to gain an advantage over the police. What used to happen obviously in front of and around the subway station has now shifted to the closer surroundings to happen more covertly. It is used the nearby market with its stalls that offer protection or house entrances that can be accessed with the postal key to hide.

The belt is also an ideal place, so to speak; its spaciousness and manageability mean that "dangers" can be identified early on. The constant personal checks by the police of people with a migration background lead to the natural avoidance of carrying drugs on the body, so in some cases components of buildings are deformed or altered to hide the drugs or certain architectural situations are used to make them disappear. The more intense the police action, the more inventive the solutions to avoid the law enforcement officers and get the goods to the customers.


The video work shows situations that were observed and noted during the research. It is explained how different aspects of the street space are used and utilized. Of particular interest is the adaptation to the environment and the adaptation of space to protect themselves and their goods.


Through protests and demonstrations that are carried out in public space, it is made possible for society to make its concerns known. Everyone gets a mouthpiece or has the opportunity to use it. This is in no way illegal, it is even quite easy to register a rally and this must normally be approved. Most of the time these events run without any problems, but in the last years there were more riots and problems from the side of the police and demonstrators. This was provoked on the one hand by the police, who declare rallies at the last moment as "illegal" or unauthorized, which often leads to resentment on the other side. This discontent then often leads to the fact that a rally, which might otherwise have been carried out without major problems, leads into the realm of illegality and disregard for the law - often on both sides - both the police and the demonstrators then rely on means that do not conform to the law. At the last G20 summit, one could see how quickly it comes to an escalation, the police stormed the announced demonstration without a valid reason. As a result, groups dispersed into the city and partially devastated it or used objects from the public space to buy more time or to block the police.

It is particularly interesting how the street space is used by both sides. Demonstrators use all the means at their disposal, build blockades from them and often set them on fire, thus distracting the police on the one hand but also holding them back. Through a constant back and forth of the demonstrators try to hold or gain space. They loosen cobblestones from the pavement and throw them at the police. The police, in turn, rely on heavy equipment and group strength and often show the following approach. Usually, a large group of officers starts toward the demonstrators and gains space with batons, pepper spray and protective shields. Likewise, water cannons are used to reclaim space.

Throughout history, public space has been used to highlight grievances. One can mention Rosa Parks, who sat down on a bus seat that was not legally hers. Jan Pallach set himself on fire on the steps of the National Library in Prague. PussyRiot were imprisoned for several months after their performance in a church.

The various graphics show the different stages of a protest. In the beginning a normal demonstrator and a policeman are facing each other, through the accessories that change, it is shown how quickly a legal and calm situation can turn into an illegal and violent situation. The images in the background show different demonstrations, historical protests, riots and protests of individuals.

Stalking / Voyeurism

Of course, both are different in principle, but both involve breaching the privacy of one of several people. For this reason, they are grouped together here.
They both use public and semi-public space.

Voyeurism is the exploitation of certain urban conditions to obtain sexual pleasure. This can be from looking out of the window or from the street into the apartment across the street or from the bushes at sunbathers or bathers. this watching of other people, often goes further. In South Korea, voyeurism in public spaces has gone so far as to create a separate police unit, made up only of women, to deal with so-called "Molka crimes."

Molka means taking pictures of women in public places. On the one hand, this takes place in the subway, with smartphones or other specially made devices photos are taken under the skirts of women and girls. This led to the fact that in Korea only smartphones are sold where the sound of the camera can not be turned off - of course there are apps for this that suppress the sound.

In one variant, cameras are hidden in public toilets or changing rooms and women are filmed while changing or visiting the toilet. These videos and photos can then be found on the Internet.

Stalking goes one step further. The victims are not only always observed, stalkers try to build up a relationship with the persons of their desire and to get closer to them. Victims are often harassed, followed on the street or disturbed in their homes. Victims often have problems moving out of their homes, the street space becomes uncomfortable and they feel persecuted. Stalkers use this very public space to get closer to their "lovers."

In the video work, the two themes are brought together through the video to depict a situation of voyeurism. Through the images it is shown that it is often just everyday situations that someone finds exciting or attractive. On top of that, a soundtrack of a woman from South Korea, who was a victim of stalking and who gives an insight into her situation, was added.

Performer Video: Therese Leick


Ob man Häuser, die leer stehen oder nicht benutzt werden, als zum öffentlichen Raum gehörend bezeichnet, ist natürlich Auslegungssache.
In Zeiten der Wohnungsknappheit, in denen zahlreiche Wohnungen und Gebäude als Anlageobjekte leer stehen, sollte man diese als genau das sehen. Natürlich könnte die Politik diesen Leerstand versteuern und so dem Gemeinwohl helfen.

Da dies aber nicht geschieht, könnte die Gesellschaft diesen Raum für sich beanspruchen. In Österreich ist das Besetzen von Häusern nicht alltäglich es gibt/gab nur wenige in naher Vergangenheit. Und diese Hausbesetzungen wurden, zumindest in Wien mit übertriebener Einsatzgröße und vor allem großen finanziellen Aufwand beendet. In anderen Ländern gibt es Bewegungen und Kommunen, die Häuser besetzen. Besonders spannend ist eine Punk-Gruppe in Großbritannien. Deren Mitglieder brechen in leerstehende Villen ausländischer Investoren ein, und stellt diese Orte Obdachlosen und anderen Punks zur Verfügung.
Dies zeigt wie absurd die Situationen momentan ist.

In Wien alleine fehlen an die 15.000 Wohnungen bei einem Leerstand von 35.000 Wohnungen. Natürlich sind mehrere Faktoren relevant dafür und man darf die Fakten nicht banalisieren. Hier soll aber eine Möglichkeit aufgezeigt werden, die diese leer stehenden Räume der Öffentlichkeit zur Verfügung stellt und vielleicht auch Leute in Entscheidungspositionen anregt, über Lösungen nachzudenken.

Was würde passieren, wenn es eine Plattform gäbe, die besetzte Häuser auflistet, in denen man für kein Geld leben/überleben kann. Die Videoarbeit soll genau das anregen. Es wurde eine fiktive Online Plattform erstellt, auf der genau diese Immobilien zur Verfügung gestellt werden.


Some see it as an art form, others consider it vandalism. As an architect, it is difficult to make a judgment. On the one hand, it makes the city more lively - gray walls get some color and the monotony of plaster facades is broken. However, it becomes difficult when built objects, which are in themselves already an artistic or aesthetic object, are tagged *¹. Examples of this are the Kiefer Pavilion in Salzburg or the bridge by Marte Marte Architects on which a large ruin*² was applied. Attached to prominent buildings, these graffiti serve to make a person known - quasi as self-advertising.
Other sprayers try to draw attention to themselves through their artistic talent. You can find graffiti that are also shown in galleries. The British artist Banksy*³ is an example of this. Thus, graffiti or street art is exhibited in galleries specialized for this purpose and thus becomes purchasable art. However, galleries are not a public space.

Another phenomenon, similar to tag in its simplicity, are statements mostly of a political nature. Exciting in this context is how political contrary attitudes rival each other in the street space - a "refugees welcome" quickly becomes a "refugees NOT welcome". Or a - "Power to the women" to a "Power to the men".

However, political statements can also work differently, as I experienced in Indonesia. There, spraying on walls is not legal and can sometimes land a sprayer in jail for a night, but it is widely accepted. In Yogyakarta, graffiti can be seen on every corner. The resident graffiti artists have explained to me, however, that they never spray culturally important places, such as temples. There are exceptions, however. If certain places with significance fall into disrepair, the walls are sprayed. Ideally, this leads to the buildings being renovated. Graffiti can thus serve as an expression of an attitude, artistic talent or opinion. It changes space not always only visually, but can also cause that a deep renewal takes place.

*¹ Tags are writings of the artist's name, you get respect the more of them are seen in the city and of course if they are attached to difficult to reach places.

*² Name of an Austrian graffiti artist
*³ Name of a british streetartist/artist

Three different groups of graffiti are shown in the video. Graphically and artistically sophisticated, tags and scribbles as well as statements. It is intended to show how the space is embellished, played with or becomes a mouthpiece.

© Wilhelm Scherübl Jr.