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Unveiling of the "Corona Monument of Hope" on the forecourt of the University Hospital Vienna

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Herwig Wetzlinger, Markus Müller, Gerda Essl, Martin Essl, Nora Ruzsics, Emmerich Weissenberger und Barbara Essl

(Vienna, 05-09-2023) The "Corona Monument of Hope" symbolizes solidarity and hope and stands for a place of gathering, exchange of opinions and ideas. The ensemble of objects includes a wooden sculpture five and a half meters high and about two by two meters wide, in the center of which is positioned a ceramic object. Commissioned by Martin and Gerda Essl and designed by the artist couple Emmerich Weissenberger and Nora Ruzsics, the "Corona Monument of Hope" has now been donated to the Medical University of Vienna as a sign of gratitude for the extraordinary achievements in medical care and research during the pandemic and beyond. It was unveiled today on the forecourt of the University Hospital Vienna.

"The artwork, which can be walked on and experienced without barriers, was created out of deep gratitude. In February 2020 - immediately before the pandemic swept over the world - Zero Project's annual conference in Vienna's UNO City, with 830 participants from 90 countries, was spared Corona," said Martin and Gerda Essl, entrepreneurs and founders of Zero Project, a global innovation platform that promotes the rights of people with disabilities and an inclusive society. After the blank of the wooden sculpture served as a stage for young artists on the occasion of the Jubilee Festival 2020 in Salzburg and, after its completion in 2022, was set up on Vienna's Heldenplatz for a period of one year by decision of the parliamentary presidium, the monument has now been donated to the Medical University of Vienna. "The 'Corona Monument of Hope' is dedicated to all victims, sufferers and hero:in of COVID-19," Martin and Gerda Essl hold.

"Research brings hope. And so we consider the 'Corona Monument of Hope' not only a reminder of the challenges posed by SARS-CoV-2, but also an appreciation of the achievements of our university," emphasizes Markus Müller, Rector of the Medical University of Vienna. "Through their work in now more than 150 research projects on issues related to COVID-19, MedUni Vienna's staff:ing have contributed significantly to the management of the pandemic. The scientific examination of the infectious disease and its consequences will, of course, continue with unbroken determination. We thank you for the recognition and will consider the artwork as a constant incentive to generate knowledge and protect public health."
"The sudden emergence of the pandemic Corona virus fundamentally changed our hospital operations for some time. It required all of us to adapt quickly to new realities, especially the clinical teams. As an institution of cutting-edge medicine, the focus at the University Hospital Vienna was on the care of patients with severe COVID-19 courses. The fact that the intensive care units were already specialized in the treatment of acute respiratory failure before the COVID-19 pandemic had a positive impact on the care of severely ill patients. Challenging issues to safely maintain hospital operations for patients and staff during the pandemic, such as access regulations and testing, also required a great deal of commitment and cohesion from our staff. The 'Corona Monument of Hope' on the forecourt of the University Hospital Vienna AKH with its benches invites us to pause and commemorates these extraordinary achievements," Herwig Wetzlinger, Director of the University Hospital Vienna, notes.

Symbol for the ups and downs of human life
The wooden sculpture of the "Corona Monument of Hope" was made in a CO2-neutral way from massive black pine trees that have dried out in the Dunkelsteinerwald forest in Lower Austria. The wood was cut, peeled, planed, engraved, flamed, oiled and waxed. Earth lines and seals, which are refined with leaf bronze and stand for the seven cardinal virtues, make the work of art also haptic experience. The shape of a lemniscate, a looping curve in the shape of a lying eight, is based on the sign of infinity. In the center of the Corona monument is positioned a ceramic object, in which three words "Include - Sustain - Love" are burned. The creation of the artwork were accompanied by photo artist Barbara Essl

"The lying eight has a strong symbolic power and has a calming effect on body and mind. The Corona monument takes its cue from this shape with its two loops that rise to the sky and return from there to the ground, rising and falling in infinite circles. The monument symbolizes the heights and depths of human life, the struggle of existence in the joining of earth with sky, body with spirit. In its center, a space opens up in which the ceramic object with the three messages of hope 'Include - Sustain - Love' invites viewers to linger, touch and feel," is how the artist couple Emmerich Weissenberger and Nora Ruzsics describe the artwork.