1976, Munich, Germany, lives in Vienna, Austria.
Devoting his attention to the small gaps that open up in the frequently overregulated systems of urban order, Leopold Kessler performs (usually unannounced) interventions that subtly alter familiar cityscapes. He sometimes even ‘camouflages’ himself by wearing workman’s overalls, and so his actions may appear to be performed at the behest of the public authorities and escape their attention for quite some time. Little wonder, given that the primary targets of his ‘attacks’ are harmless street signs and streetlights, fountains and loudspeakers. In Privatisiert/Paris (Privatized/Paris, 2003), he manipulates eight streetlights on Rue Louis Weiss, Paris, during the day so that he can turn them on and off with a remote control while taking a nocturnal stroll down the street. As more and more restrictive ordinance regimes control urban space by means of video surveillance, ostensibly improving public safety, Kessler creates humorous disruptions in the state’s power structure and at once lodges a claim of ownership of his own. Operating in the interface between private and public, the artist prompts us to keep testing the limits of personal responsibility and critically examine the prevailing conditions, especially also with a view to the question: ‘who owns the city?’