“Spielfeld” – A Ping Pong tournament on the borderline

Social Design Studio

The Ping Pong tournament took place during the Angewandte Festival 2019 on the bridge crossing the channel of Wien river between the two buildings of Angewandte. The installation as well as the contest were inspired by the unifying game of Ping Pong as well as by the unsurmountable walls and borders separating regions around the world.

Ping Pong is a game which is played in all world regions and in its very structure could be regarded as a universal or global sports’ heritage. Its rules are quite simple and the game could be played without even understanding the language of an opponent player. Playing Ping Pong is also not specific to gender or age.

In 1902 the first international Ping Pong tournament took place in Vienna. It had been organized by the sport association “The Ramblers”. Today, quite a few public Ping Pong tables are shared by diverse communities. The tables function as intercultural meeting points also fostering inclusion. Because of these specific qualities Ping Pong has been chosen for the Spielfeld Open tournament.

The Social Design Studio invited the employees of public institutions working literally next door to Angewandte and the people passing by to participate in that competition.

The players experienced the challenge of an unexpected modification of the net that usually separates the players by creating a barrier. The two modified tables consisted on one hand of a concrete wall topped with barbed wire and, on the other hand, a moving border beam that separated the courts. The concrete wall refers to border walls like the wall now being built between the United States and Mexico or the ones in Israel, or the former one in Berlin, the list could be easily continued.

The boarder beam and the title of the installation refers to the Austrian border town Spielfeld where in 2015 many refugees crossed the border reaching Austria from its neighboring country Slovenia. Since then the name of the town served as a symbol – especially related to rightwing parties in Austria – for policies to close borders and aggressive control fantasies towards migration.

Not only the circumstances of the playground were challenging, with unexpected traffic obstacles, windy conditions and complicated light and intense sun exposure, but also the referees of the tournament were unfair in their judgements, were biased and easy to bribe – a game about giving in all, paying a much too high price and about nothing to lose.


(c) Herwig Turk


(c) Herwig Turk


(c) Anna Vasof

(c) Herwig Turk





Summer 2019
Angewandte Festival 2019
Social Design Studio