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ATEM (Breath)
Temporary Intervention on the Occasion of the 500th Anniversary of the Fortified Tower in Perchtoldsdorf, Austria. June - September 2021.

This year, Perchtoldsdorf is celebrating the 500th anniversary of its massive fortified tower. The late mediaeval, 60-meter-high construction in the center of town is a key landmark that has become an important element of the town’s identity. Its functions and uses have fluctuated over the centuries, ranging from a defensive tower, watchtower, church and bell tower, and town tower, to clock tower.

In celebration of this special anniversary, the artist Nilbar Güreş was invited to design a temporary project for the striking construction. Güreş, who was born in Istanbul and divides her time between Istanbul and Vienna, is known for her poetic, profound, and often subtly humorous artistic practice in which conventional social roles and traditional forms of culture are consistently undermined and considered in novel ways. 


Güreş’s artistic concept for the fortified tower touches on the question of whether objects have a soul. The fundamental belief in animism, an ancient religion whose traces can also found in her own Kurdish-Alevi culture, is based on the belief that objects have an invisible power and can build intuitive bridges to our emotions and desires, to the past, to certain events, and to our own identity—in other words, they have something alive or corporeal about them.

In order to demonstrate the tower’s significance as a kind of “communicating vessel,” she installed “breathing balloons” in several of the tower’s windows. These balloons, which are made of balloon silk and measure at least 4 meters in diameter, inflate with air and deflate in regular intervals, giving the tower the impression of breathing.


The textile objects shaped like oversized airbags also refer to another important aspect of the building: its protective function. This invokes such questions as: How have the things we protect ourselves from and the way we protect ourselves changed over the centuries? How can we protect and defend ourselves without putting others in danger? At the moment, wearing a mask and keeping a safe distance from each other are at the forefront of safety measures. Through the airbag-shaped forms, the artist creates a link to our everyday lives and inspires a conversation about constant and changing symbols of life, protection, stability, and similar ideas.

ATEM (Breath), 2021

Kinetic sculpture

Ø 500 cm & 600 x 400 cm, unique

Courtesy the artist and Martin Janda Gallery

Production team: Object Fabrication &  SCHULTES Wien

Photo credit: Lisa Rastl


Draft drawing of the ATEM (Breath) (2021)

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ATEM (Breath) (2021)

ATEM (Breath) (2021)

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