A thick fog of snow looms in the sky, as we stand at the edge of a field in Flachau, Austria, shivering with anticipation and cold. The thirty-something car tires lie in a black pile in the white snow, waiting. The date is Friday the 21st of January, 2022. Excited chatter gives way to a thunderous sound which grows more and more fierce. A fiery red helicopter emerges from the grey sky, circles the field and descends rapidly to land right before us, creating a small blizzard that completely dissolves our vision to white and burns the skin on our faces. Everyone is covered in white. The artist, Roman Signer, and the tires are loaded into the helicopter for take off. Hovering above the field, they begin the performance of Fallende Reifen (Falling Tires). We watch from a distance, peering at the perfect black circles fall from the red helicopter, hitting the white ground, and creating clouds of snow that bloom as the tires makes contact with the ground again, again, and again…  

Fallende Reifen was performed as a part of the 2022 edition of minus20degree (m20d), a three-day long art and architecture biennale which installs and stages artworks in the outdoor winter setting of Flachau, analpine village in Austria. All works shown during the biennale are conceptualised and made specifically for the m20d exhibition.

Fallende Reifen - Roman Signer (CH) (image by Lena Prehal)

When Marcel Duchamp brought a urinal into a gallery space, the mundane object was suddenly labelled as art, and caused quite a controversy, throwing the definition of art itself into question. Not only that, it challenged the relationship between art, reality, and the gallery as a kind of mediator. It seemed to pose the following: Put reality into a gallery, and it becomes art. M20d on the other hand, poses the question: If you take ‘art’ and put it into the ‘real world’, does the real world become a gallery? Valued (speculatively) at over 100 million USD, I wonder what would happen if you put Marcel Duchamp’s fountain back into a public toilet… Perhaps most fascinating is the way in which the confines of a gallery change our understanding of what we are looking at – everything is strictly understood as ‘art’ simply because it exists within these walls, and we all agree that stuff in here is ‘art’.

As an antithesis to Marcel Duchamp’s fountain, minus20degree brings art into the real world and challenges the notion of the public space as a space for artistic presentation. In fact, it invites artists to create work with the outdoor environment in mind – as such there aren’t many oil paintings on display, but rather sound installations, sculptures, performances, and various other installations. When art is removed from the gallery setting, or ‘the box’, certain things change. Especially in the case of m20d, for which art needs to be conceptualised for the outdoor spaces of the valley. The fabric of the real world is necessarily a part of the artwork itself. Both in terms of your experience of the art as a viewer, as well as how the artwork itself is actually generated or produced. Outside, there is no entry fee for your art to hide behind. There is no smiley clerk at the entrance to pay 15 euro to to see all of the art in a gallery – which is how you know, it must really be art. Engaging directly with the real world and the real outdoor conditions, your art cannot be detached from the world that surrounds it. As a curator of the biennale, the questions are no longer:

''Which wall should we hang this painting on?''

as they might be in a gallery space, but rather:

''Which farmer should we ask first for permission to drop 30 tires onto their field from a helicopter?''

For the viewer, experiencing the work is a completely unique experience as well. The bodily experience of witnessing Roman Signer’s Fallende Reifen will never be replicated within the short videos that will be shown in museums. Further, the ability to explore this field of tires after they had fallen will always remain a once-off spatial experience that speaks only to the people that were there. Placing art into the museum segregates it from the outside world, and you generate a conversation between art and itself – one painting speaks to another. When art is placed outdoors, the art talks to you, and of the things you are doing today.

The question then is, what would you place out there in the wild?

Minus20degree is holding an open call which closes on the 31st of January 2023 for the upcoming biennale in January 2024. For further information please see the website, or Instagram, or contact m20d via info@m20d.eu.

If you would be interested in visiting the next biennale in 2024, there are plenty of travel options, either by plane to Salzburg and then with a train to Radstadt, and a bus through to Flachau, or alternatively you can book a journey through öbb (the Austrian railway service) or the Deutsche Bahn to travel by train all the way to Radstadt. If you’d be interested in helping out, you can also send an email to be a volunteer to help with setting up and supporting the artists with their installations.

View the open call for 2024 here >

Fallende Reifen - Roman Signer (CH) (image by Lena Prehal)