Eduard Habicher

Reflections by Gian Paolo Prandstraller

Eduard Habicher's underlying concept seems to be that the whole reality is uncertain, vulnerable and doomed to be wiped out. Reality is seen as a totality of objects and topics at the edge of an abyss which could be destroyed at any time. . The entire reality is about to be dragged down to a point of no return by a sort of universal force of gravity

For every physical and biological entity, however, there exists a universal principle of salvation that allows creatures to avoid sliding into the abyss, albeit temporarily. The artist catches this benevolent principle and shapes it into an event which rescues what otherwise would be doomed to crash, a force that is usually weak and tenuous and yet sufficient to perform the miracle.

The rock rolling down a mountain is an evident symbol of this contradiction. It keeps rolling downhill, but suddenly a jut, a bump, a root, a tree or something else stops it exactly on the edge of a canyon. As we observe its unstable balance we think: the slightest tip will make the rock roll further down.
Habicher dedicated a significant part of his career as an artist to this entity: e.g. a rock is held back on the cornice of a building by a thin steel blade or is propped up on a wall or a ceiling, or hovers somehow miraculously over the heads of people on a road. Through an artifice, however, the rock is unburdened of its natural heaviness.

The same happens to a tree trunk in the middle of a raging torrent: it is hooked in a tangle, a knot, a lace that pulls it out of the vortex, towards the river bank.

There is falling glass doomed to smash that is saved by a piece of metal embracing it; another piece of glass is made to adhere to a ceiling, against the law of physics. Glass is the very emblem of fragility (the opposite of the rock). The event that saves it is so to speak a remedy against the risk residing in its very nature.

Transpositions of the idea of help, rescue et sim. are present in our author as well. The shelter, the refuge, the nest, the hallow: all these are occasional and provisional structures which protect people and things from hostile forces such as wind, rain, snow and storm. There are various things and actions which have the capacity for rescue. Probably, on his creative path, Habicher will find more of them.
It suffices to think of the conceptual potential of an "embrace". Isn't the embrace a most ancient manner of hosting something, securing or protecting it? Why not explore to the very end the iconography of embrace?

It is no coincidence that Habicher has been creating for quite some time temporary shelters, weak structures which allow living beings to survive - for instance, ad ideal prototype of a hut. Herein lies an anthropological reminiscence. Didn't primitive men seek shelter in an unstable construction made of branches, straw, canes or savannah grass? Such simple shelters gave them a brief, yet precious serenity, not so much the certainty of living as the hope of surviving. The primitive man knew very well, that his life hung by a thread, that he was exposed to hostile forces and that the day on which “mors omnia solvit” (death solves everything) was always near. The great anthropologists have described this condition very accurately: perhaps experiencing this state themselves, they have recognized in primitive man the man of all times.

However, the advanced individual, too, as much as he is supported by science, still has the feeling he is "hanging by a thread". It is still a terrible feeling when chaos approaches him unexpectedly. An extreme feeling of uncertainty can destroy all the stable things that this man has built up. The fear of danger and risk increases exponentially. In this moment the idea of an occasional rescue becomes important to the modern man, and the artistic implementation of that idea gains an irresistible charm. What about the so-vaunted ability of our days to "predict"? Sociologists and economists say that in today's society, the future is "open"; however only few think about the fact that "open" means boundless, risky and undetermined. In fact, we constantly measure ourselves by the unforeseen. Above us we see a mass of events which can both happen and not happen. The uncertainty of possible events puts us in a situation of agonizing helplessness: an expanding epidemic, a down-falling meteorite that destroys all life on the ground, the abnormal rise of the oceans, air pollution, the outbreak of senseless violence and so on and so forth: all these are examples of such scenarios. These and similar events generate unforeseeableness and chaos. They represent for us what remains of the mystery that once upon a time religions claimed to their support.

Science has in store a remedy for all uncertainties. However, once the unforeseen has arrived, unfortunately it is almost always too late for the remedy. Our present time will probably go down in the history of men as the one that introduced the enormous hazard we try to oppose as we can. Secretly, we return to the “carpe diem” of our ancestors, whose wisdom doubted a secure tomorrow, and focused on enjoying the present day. For us the idea of tomorrow is a symbol of hope, but a very uncertain and poisoned one.

Now I would like to venture a hypothesis on the following point: why does Habicher impress the educated public? My answer is: he represents in a very transparent way the existential condition of contemporary man who, while being caught in the middle of disorder, senses that the only serious thing is life and constantly mixes depression and will, fall and hope.
This modern man has experienced extreme sensations of limit and of loss, but has realized that one can live in spite of such factors. We are learning to do without the idea of eternity. However, we still worry about the fact of a feverish tomorrow. Ruptures, crises, and destruction are not alien to us. In his sculptures and drawings, Habicher shows us exactly these concepts. He gives us a glimmer of hope even in the most difficult situations, always mixed with a bit of irony and insolence: depicted by a steel blade that rises up from the castle wall against the sky – above the abyss. Isn’t this an ironic and bold challenge?

He who approaches Habicher's art does so in order to reflect on present day man with his fears, but also with the capacity for working out stratagems thanks to which he can avoid ruin. The use of materials such as glass, wood and rock (perhaps a pebble from a brook) held together by steel allows the artist to represent at the same time solidity and fragility, fall and salvation, desperation and the capacity to react. For the observer, these materials turn into contradictory symbols all of which are hinged on existence.


Padova, January 2003
Translation: Katia De Gennaro