The Zünd-Up group was part of the radical Austrian scene which drove the architectural debate in the 1960s and 1970s. Their name, derived from the English verb ‘to burn up’, announced their programme: “setting fire” to the university institution and the bourgeois society of the day. Influenced by Viennese Actionism and the films of Otto Muehl—with whom the group worked from 1967 onwards—, as well as by the student movements and the emergence of underground cultural forms, Zünd-Up devised playful and subversive projects with Pop overtones. Influenced by the thinking of Karl Marx and Herbert Marcuse, their politically committed and often ironical works regularly had recourse to a violent imagery (guns, famines, demonstrations, police and military repression), amplified by aggressive and critical writings. So in the performance Information Circus, the group members surrounded their faces with barbed wire to rail against the condition of students. Zünd-Up also questioned the encounter between technology, body and architecture. Like their name—an evocation of the Zündapp make of motorbikes—the photomontages draw from the world of speed and mechanics to engender hybrid forms and mutant kinds of architecture: Viennese architectural jewels, cityscapes and human bodies were all mixed together in high-powered cars of every shape and size, parts of engines, exhaust pipes and radiator hoses. In St. Stephen’s Countdown, St. Stephen’s cathedral was turned into a rocket depicted by a rifle bullet, precisely where the series titled Erotische Architektur (1969) presented erotic and even pornographic images enhanced by high-tech elements and ammunition with oblong, tapering forms.

Zünd-Up was created in Vienna in 1969 by Timo Huber (1944), Walter Michael Pühringer (1945), Bertram Mayer (1943), Hermann Simböck (1945-1997) and Marcella Ertl, all then students at the Technische Hochschule in Vienna, to mark the presentation of their project The Great Vienna Auto-Expander. The members of Zünd-Up continued to work together under that name until 1972, but in 1970 Huber, Mayer and Simböck founded and collaborated in tandem with the group Salz der Erde, alongside Wolfgang Brunbauer, Johann Jascha and Günther Matschiner. Huber and Pühringer still work together to this day. The Zünd-Up projects were presented in various retrospective group shows (Les Années pop, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2001; Summer of Love, Kunsthalle, Vienna, 2006) and in solo exhibitions (Architekturforum, Linz, 1999).

Gilles Rion

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