Mario Merz, 2003

Mario Merz: Numbers in the Woods
Sammlung Würth, Inv. 15607

The renowned Italian artist Mario Merz, one of the most important representatives of arte povera, selected Mönchsberg mountain as the site of his work. Close to the Museum der Moderne, it stands in a dell next to the water tower, half concealed by trees and brush, but nevertheless close to the lookout point over the city. The work, configured like an igloo, consists of twelve arched stainless steel tubes with a matte-brushed finish, seven metres in height, bearing a total of twenty-one neon numerals that gleam over Salzburg by night.

The structure has a surprising and enigmatic effect. Open on all sides, it blends into the landscape, a perfect symbiosis of aesthetic and natural creation. The “Numbers in the Woods” refer to a numerical series developed by the medieval mathematician Fibonacci, who discovered it to represent the rate of propagation of physical forces. Each integer after the first is the sum of the two preceding integers: 1 + 1 = 2, 1 + 2 = 3, 2 + 3 = 5, 3 + 5 = 8, 5 + 8 = 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987, 1,597, 2,584, 4,181, 6,765, 10,946. Merz views the numerals that seem to sprout from the steel arches as evoking the growth of leaves, in the sense of an eternal, endless process of evolution.

“Numbers in the Woods” is a work in which the contradictions between the world of living and the world of work, sensibility and rationality, are brought into a precarious symbiosis. Merz’s approach to art relies on an interplay of forces governed by to the principles of ratio (Fibonacci), gravity, aesthetics, emotion, and nature, and that appear symbolically focussed beneath the transparent framework. The artist’s walk-in igloo does not initially provide the protection we would expect of a dwelling. Yet viewers immediately sense a change of atmosphere when they enter it – some even speak of magic.

We feel confronted by a secret, shimmering inside the igloo’s shell. Yet only on first sight does this riddle seem to inhere in the logical mathematical system of the Italian scholar Fibonacci: ratio as the ordering principle of nature. Merz brings us face to face with a new reality, challenges us to explore and ramify it in our own imagination.

The Artist

Inaugural Address by Peter Iden (in german)


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Mario Merz 47.800904, 13.038958 Kunstprojekt Salzburg 2003: Mario Merz, Mönchsberg