Ou Topos Toronto 2012

Ou Topos, Toronto - Abandoned Trailer Project

A survivalist scenario
1 shows: exhibition history

“What is unspoken can be passed on from generation to generation. For this project, I entered the Zeitgeist of my children’s generation, where hope has become scarce for many.”    Iris Häussler

Häussler is known for her meticulous creation of storied characters, whose complex private lives are often narrated through a haunting assemblage of ‘found’ remnants and artifacts ‘left behind’. In this variation of her “Ou Topos” project,* the artist once again invites visitors into an immersive fictitious world where they are free to speculate about, or perhaps confront, some of the more uncomfortable truths about the human condition.

Inside an abandoned camper trailer ‘discovered’ deep in an underground parking garage by Toronto city officials, a survivalist’s story of displacement, alienation, and paranoia begins to unfold.

An investigation into the ownership of the trailer and the circumstances of its abandonment, revealed the tangled threads of a cross-border, intergenerational story that centered on fears of a potential nuclear catastrophe. The trailer was owned by a German Canadian man, Tino Gerny (b. Amstetten, Austria, 1989), who apparently used it as a sort of survivalist den. It was found filled with jumbles of personal notes, scientific papers, manuscripts, and what appeared to be family photographs, mementos, numerous odd objects, and vast quantities of canned goods wrapped in lead. Some of the cans had fallen onto the parking garage floor suggesting the trailer had been abandoned hastily. The artifacts left behind evidenced a man's urgent, paranoid efforts to prepare for what he believed was an inevitable atomic conflagration.

The trailer also contained the remnants of a large package postmarked from Sudbury, ON, in 2008, and a handwritten letter from the owner’s mother, Gisela Gerny (née Knieschevsky). In the letter to her son, Gisela explained that her father, Tino's grandfather, Paul Knieschevsky (b. Petrovsk, Sarativ Oblast, 1926), hid himself away in an apartment in Vienna where for years he obsessively and methodically prepared for the end of the world. The letter indicated that after her father died in 1989, she took some of his possessions from the apartment and brought them with her when she emigrated to Canada with three-year-old Tino in 1992.

Among the items Gisela brought with her from Vienna were sheets of rolled lead, old stamps, some of the lead-wrapped cans, tattered notebooks, some photographs and clippings from various European newspapers–including one about the late Ukrainian photographer Vladimir Shevchenko who traveled to Chernobyl immediately following the catastrophic nuclear accident of 1986. This particular clipping included an intriguing photograph of deformed oak leaves he had collected. When Gisela cleaned out her Sudbury home in 2008, she decided to tell Tino about his grandfather and to send him what remained of his possessions.