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The life of a grown-up rebel

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The life of a grown-up rebel

Alexander Dür became known as a thrower. And not just for throwing any old thing, but duercubes. For ten years, he tossed these special cubes from bridges, waterfalls, cliffs or cable cars. Today, he spends much of his time with metalworking, prefers making raised planting beds out of steel and tries to remove himself as much as possible from the hamster wheel of consumerism.

“The first thing that I threw from the Lingenau Bridge was my moped,” says Alexander Dür with a laugh. “We were 16, it was summer and we were bored. The sound and the feeling when the moped hit were tremendous!” We’re sitting in Alexander Dür’s parlour, a renovated workshop and residence in a former inn called Gemsle, which is located on a hidden plateau directly above Lingenau. The Gemsle once belonged to Dür’s grandfather. Today, Alexander lives here with his wife and three sons. In the corner of this simple, homely room, glows a basic stove covered in ebony-coloured steel plates, a prototype of a line developed by Dür himself.

The first big storm of the year has just hit and millions of tiny snow flakes are flying horizontally past the window. At present, there is nothing to see of the breathtaking scenery of the Bregenzerwald. It’s a total whiteout. The moped was just the beginning: Since 2007, Dür the metalworker has also become known as the “thrower.” He throws his so-called “duercubes,” 1x1x1-m steel cubes, from bridges, cliffs, waterfalls or cable cars.

Has he always been magnetically attracted to the 90-m-high bridge above the Bregenzerach stream? Dür nods and grins: “We’ve been climbing around there since we were children and as teenagers the height and length of the vertical fall fascinated me.” In point of fact, he was never meant to apprentice as metalworker. At age 15, his parents sent him to the commercial school in Bregenz. “I wanted to be an apprentice, but that was out of the question,” he remembers running his hands through his sandy-brown hair.

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Today, at age 41, Dür is calm, a sort of mature rebel with a restless spirit who questions everything and is unafraid to make waves. Raising children, consumerism, health – Dür appears restrained but when discussing such topics his blue eyes flash quickly and he becomes feisty. The very first duercube? This was just a wild idea, he says while looking out at the storm beyond, hatched ten years ago, while enjoying a beer with friends at his terrace.

But there was also something else, he adds: “For a long time, I lived quite intensively – worked a lot, partied a lot, and completed my master craftsman training. At the end of my 20s, I felt as if I was sitting in a dark room. I was so afraid and I didn’t know why.” He received some help from a young doctor who told him that these feelings were like his very own personal alarm bells: “You can continue living as you are or make a change. It is up to you.” Back then he seized upon the topic of ‘personal freedom.’ “A cube is something precise, formed with external force. It is a metaphor for the forces that work upon us every day and for the pressures that weigh us down, fence us in from the outside, and which we all have to combat. It also shows us just how strong we can actually be. Because the impact does not destroy the cube just as no one can take away our personal freedom.” That he has become calmer because of his cubes is a good thing.

He doesn’t see himself as an artist he emphasises modestly: “I am simply Alexander Dür!” Instead of devoting himself to action art, Dür has committed himself to his craft and his family. Some of his most successful product lines were initially designed for personal use (or for use by his family). Now in high demand, the raised planting beds made from steel are a good example. “This was an experiment for our home garden and then someone came and asked if I could make one for their garden too. Suddenly I had more work than I would like. Now, I’ve basically become an “organic metal worker” with something to say about not only raised planting beds but also gardening in general!” At present, he is also experimenting with objects that he can cover with white high-gloss finish. “I want to portray steel as something clean and pure, instead of something mundane. I like these objects very much and enjoy playing with the feel that gives the objects a proprietary charm.”

Author: Babette Karner