Steel painted with polyurethane enamel
36 ft. 9 in. x 44 ft. 6 in. x 3 ft. 8 in. (11.2 x 13. 6 x 1.1 m)
sited: 43 ft. 5 in. x 42 ft. 7 in. x 11 ft. 5 in. (13.2 x 13 x 3.5 m)
Commissioned 1982 by Documenta 7 and the city of Kassel
Installed May 1982
The pickaxe, or Spitzhacke was sponsored jointly by the international art exhibition Documenta and the city of Kassel, Germany, with the understanding that, following the exhibition, the sculpture would remain in place as part of the city’s collection of public works.
Several months in advance of the exhibition, following our usual procedure, we visited Kassel to get the feeling of the city, past and present, wandering about in search of an elementary, typical object which could serve both as a sculpture and a sign of the particular place.
Our attention was caught by a pickaxe, set in a pile of sand near construction underway for the exhibition. Nowadays power drills have largely replaced pickaxes, but we were reminded that the tool had been a ubiquitous presence in the city during its reconstruction after World War II. The universal form of the pickaxe in a position of balance had obvious aesthetic potential and, like an earlier sculpture, Trowel, made the ground around it part of its effect.
Kassel contains extravagant follies dating from the eighteenth century, the most dramatic of which is the eight meter high statue of Hercules, leaning on a club atop a pyramid on the roof of a castle that overlooks the entire city. When we realized that a straight line could be drawn from the statue down the long, wide Wilhelmshöheallee to a spot not far from where we had seen the pickaxe, we thought: what if, instead of a club, Hercules was equipped with a pickaxe, and, what if he would come to life and throw it -- the axe, increasing in scale as it twirled and flew -- making it land on our site, which happened to be where citizens gathered to picnic and relax on the bank of the Fulda river. The pickaxe might thereby acquire a mythic dimension connecting the city’s past and present.
A tracing of the pickaxe found in Kassel formed the basis for a sequence of models in different materials in which we transformed the original into a faceted, aerodynamic shape, recalling a bow and arrow or the silhouette of a bird. After approval by the Documenta committee and the city, the Spitzhacke was fabricated of aluminum in Kassel and, two weeks before the opening of Documenta 7, placed on a buried foundation which made the sculpture appear to be poised just at the point of entry into the ground, with a decided tilt provided by Coosje to offset the symmetry of the sculpture and the equilibrium of its position.
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