Jana Gunstheimer | Germany

The Coat of Werner Hofbichler, 2008

Installation, coat, framed inkjet print
250 / 200 cm

Courtesy of Gallerie Romerapotheke, Zurich

The following letter, written by the source of inspiration for this work, and addressed to the National Canonization Committee In Vienna in 1944, is published here as part of exhibit. The Canonisation Committee Alserbachstr.

27 1090 Vienna Honoured Sirs, It is with deep embarrassment that I put myself forward to you as a candidate for canonisation.

Discretion obliges me to remain silent concerning the motives for my application, but I assure you that I have no alternative. In the winter of 1944 I found myself guarding Russian prisoners of war in a camp in Carinthia.

Food supplies were running out, and the prisoners hated us because we gave them hardly any of the few remaining provisions. We felt that we were completely in the right, and we, for our part, hated the Russians from the bottom of our hearts.

But one night, when I could not get to sleep, I suddenly heard voices which seemed to come from within me. I do not mean this in the way you might understand the term “inner voice”.

These voices were loud and filled my sleeping quarters with their bickering. They seemed to be quarrelling about who had the right to the provisions, and I was terrified out of my wits when I realised that the voices were speaking to me and were in fact berating me for my shameful actions.

As I tried to work out where the voices were coming from I made the following discovery: I had kept my coat on because the night was so cold, and the coat was arching itself above my heart with every word, each of which I could perceive loudly and clearly. Horrified, I opened the coat and saw, no, heard a voice speaking from each of my inside pockets.

I tore the pockets open, but there was nothing to be seen. They just moved slightly when the voices spoke. Some time previously I had sewn in these pockets so as to be able to stash away more provisions.

Now they were occupied by voices which always admonished me when I was about to do something wrong. God sent me a conscience and I made room for it in my inn.
Respectfully yours,
Werner Hofbichler