September 18 - October 4, 2020
Artists: Lea Bammer, Simone Barlian, Florian Berger, Costanza Brandizzi, Pete Hindle, Leon Höllhumer, Edgar Lessig, Pepi Maier, Pia Mayrwöger, Larissa Meyer, Theresa Muhl, Sophie Netzer, Georg Petermichl, Liesl Raff, Kerstin Reyer, Franziska Schink, Alexander Till, Adrien Tirtiaux, Kiky Thomanek, Antoine Turillon, Seth Weiner, Anna Witt
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OEVERwerk brings the Rösselmühle back to life and opens the site to the public to re-locate the discourses about the meaning of production as a socio-political process.
To live and work on site includes the context of the site as the basis for the artistic interventions. Thus, the question is not whether we want to be part of the process, but how and where we position ourselves within this transitions process.
Practically everyone in Graz has heard of it, the “Rösselmühle”. Most people will probably be able to guess this mill’s location, but that’s about the extent of their knowledge based on rumours concerning the history of this abandoned industrial mill.
If you run a search, Google will let you know right away that the results not only include “Rösselmühle” but also “roesselmehl”. Obviously, in distress about the dearth and relevance of the available information, the search engine takes the precaution of including related terms. The first website it suggests is roesselmehl.at, where we learn that the company has been producing the “Finest Wheat Flour from Styrian Wheat” since 1270. Committed Styrian farmers deliver the very best grain, which is used for the majority of the wheat flour production, but this production is no longer performed at the Rösselmühle in Graz. Since 2014, the “Rösselmehl” has been milled in Enzersdorf an der Fischa, in a mill which is not the Rösselmühle.
“How long can we keep on dreaming of a good future for the development of the Rösselmühle?” asks architect Elisabeth Lechner on gat.st, the website that the search engine sends us to next. As a neighbour, she gazes upon the closed mill premises at Oeverseegasse 1 and wonders what will become of this industrial monument.
The desire for the place to be used for public interest goes back at least as far as the mill has been vacant. It goes hand in hand with the question of the responsibility for doing justice to the place. Taking the Rösselmühle as an example, the “Pirate Party” filed an urgent application at a local council meeting in 2014, requesting that timely action should be taken when dealing with industrial monuments. “May the Mayor be instructed to contact the owners to clarify their intentions and to ensure that construction projects serve justice to the city’s oldest surviving mill.” Also, “in the spirit of safeguarding green spaces, the responsible department of the local authorities in Graz is asked to ensure that the Oeverseepark belonging to the grounds of the Rösselmühle remains accessible to residents of Graz in the long run.” While old plans refer to the mill’s adjoining area as the “Garden of the Rösselmühle”, its use changed in 1996 when local authorities in Graz leased the site for ten years and established the Oeverseepark. What was once an allotment and maize field was redeveloped and turned into a public park. The lease was renewed for an indefinite period in 2005 and the Oeverseepark has remained a popular inner-city green space for residents of Graz ever since.
Since the mill’s closure, young people have begun taking over the “languishing” mill site as a kind of extension of the Oeverseepark. Holes and already mended holes can be found in the fence around the grounds, and traces of two fires on the site remain visible alongside sprayed testimonies to youthful adventures and explorations. Martin Stier’s plan from 1657 already depicts the two outbuildings, at right angles to each other, which are visible in their current form on Google Maps, and where fires broke out in 2017. The first mention of the mill, however, goes back much further, to 1270. The mill was a gift to the parish of St. Andrä, with the right to mill there independently.
A change of ownership in the eighteenth century gave the mill its current name, with the new proprietor being the bakery “Zum weißen Rößl”. Various annexes were added to the mill from the end of the nineteenth century onwards. New outbuildings were erected and a storey was added to the main building. The owner Emil Felix Pfeiffer added structures on the west side, including a new silo and a grain cleaning facility in 1905, a water turbine (a Francis turbine, 1906), and a flour store and new office rooms (1909). In 1920, Ludwig Polsterer bought the mill. It has been in his family’s possession ever since. With the addition of a pearl barley factory and two new storeys in 1925, the mill building has since remained more or less unchanged. After the end of the war, the residential and office building was rebuilt after having suffered bomb damages in December 1944. Eventually, in the 1960s and 1970s, the existing wooden silos were replaced with the concrete silos that characterise the surrounding architecture today.
The closure of the mill initially went unnoticed by many people in Graz—after all, “Rösselmehl” remained available for purchase. The
Kleine Zeitung wrote on January 18, 2014: “The last mill in Graz stands still.” It is hard to say whether protests by residents against the noise and lorries on their doorstep played a role. The “Rösselmehl” brand and the machines were sold; only the turbine continues to run, generating electricity for the city.
Since the beginning of May 2020, the façade of the silo has become an area for political demands, sprayed onto the structure by unknown persons. Visible from afar, these interventions show how the importance of the mill and the perception of the place have changed over the past years. Today, the mill—with its four-storey workers’ house, a laboratory, three thirty-eight-metre-high towers, workshops covering an area of 6,500 m2, a hydroelectric power station generating 100 kWh, a horse stable, five bridges, two yards, and various, partially burnt down outbuildings—is no more than a symbol of the historical long-distance relationship between the manufacturing periphery and the city centre of Graz, visible from afar.
The current owners would like to make the site available for new use suiting the Gries district, which has been undergoing development for some time now. But until all the stakeholders’ wishes have been reconciled, the Rösselmühle continues its long sleep.