MARTIN BEHR &
ROSSELLA BISCOTTI &
KEVIN VAN BRAAK
CHRISTIAN VON BORRIES
BREAD & PUPPET THEATER
IGOR & IVAN BUHAROV
DEPARTMENT OF ULTIMOLOGY
FUNDA GÜL ÖZCAN
NICOLINE VAN HARSKAMP
KOZEK HÖRLONSKI & ALEXANDER MARTINZ
MAZZAJ RAP BAND
THEATER IM BAHNHOF
Dear past and future
steirischer herbst visitor,
partner, and colleague,
Perhaps you have been a guest of our festival for years or even decades; you are our faithful supporter, our true friend, even our sharpest critic, sometimes.
Or you’re hearing about the steirischer herbst festival for the very first time and find yourself wondering where it is and what it might be. Or maybe you used to visit Graz in the 1980s, 1990s, or 2000s, and then stopped for one reason or another, never looking back.
Whatever the case may be, we encourage you to come to Graz, the second largest city in Austria, in autumn 2018 in order to see a newly-configured festival and to become part of the most recent chapter in steirischer herbst’s fifty-year history.
steirischer herbst plays with expectations and likes surprises, reinventing itself with every new director. My team and I just started in Graz at the beginning of this year. Many of us are new in town; some are new to Austria, and some are non-native German speakers. We bring with us fresh angles and new positions, and we carry around our own stories, which we hope to interweave with the stories we encounter here.
So, what will be different?
Not everything! steirischer herbst still takes place in Styria and in autumn! This year we stay mostly in Graz, but the surrounding region—fruitful terrain in more ways than one—is not forgotten. There are significant projects that reflect deeply on its past and we’ll certainly bring elements of the festival program there in the coming years.
But you will no longer see names of disciplines divided one from another—as categories labelled “theater,” “dance,” “visual art,” and “music.” Instead, art works that are fundamentally interdisciplinary, belonging to several categories at the same time, can be found. You’ll discover projects that can be called films, installations, performances, stage productions, or literary texts all at once.
Instead of a series of performances supplemented by several exhibitions, you will now encounter what can be understood and experienced as a single expanded exhibition spread through town and over many locations. Some of its elements are installations, some performances, and others are venues where a symposium or a series of talks might take place. Each part is connected to another, and together they build a story—in the true sense of that word. This narrative is set in both space (on the map of Graz) and time (in the calendar of the festival). We encourage you to navigate it as a whole. The complete program will be announced in mid-July.
There is no one single right way to explore this story, but it is preferable to see projects several at a time; not isolated from each other, but in a dialogue, sometimes even in conflict. You will also be able to read how we write this story in our comments on the website and in a printed guidebook. Yes, that’s another change. This year instead of the program book that you may have regularly received in June over the last decade, we will be releasing a guidebook with a new design closer to the opening of the festival.
This new structure also means that instead of separate tickets for each event, we are now offering a festival pass. The festival pass gives you access to all the events and installations that make up Volksfronten, the core program of steirischer herbst this year, and it also grants you reduced entrance prices to the program of musikprotokoll as well as the traditional partner programs of steirischer herbst. Still, even with the festival pass, we strongly encourage you to reserve seats for performative productions, as the number of seats is limited.
One will be able to buy a festival pass on our newly reconceptualized and redesigned website when it launches with the full program details in mid-July. From then on, it is also possible to reserve seats. We understand that this is a bit later than you might be used to, but never fear—all information will be revealed in plenty of time for you to plan your visit. We will be working with a bit of a different timeframe from now on and appreciate your patience.
What else will be new? This year, we open the festival on Thursday 20 September. You might be used to a gala opening in Helmut List Halle, but we’ll be doing this a bit differently. A number of opening performances are in public space around town; learn more about it here. One more thing—instead of the festival center of recent years, we are excitedly returning to the tradition of the herbstbar where one can meet, drink, listen to artist’s playlists, talk about art, and meet artists and steirischer herbst’s team. This year it will be in Postgarage and opens Friday 21 September.
What does not change? The fact that the festival presents new and innovative, reflexive and critical art forms and contents. Some people call this art avant-garde, and we sometimes do as well—but only when we are specifically reflecting on a certain tradition and still with a bit of irony. The fact that we privilege new productions. The bridge between the regional and the international that we are building. The commitment to intense social and artistic debates.
For more on what you can look forward to in the program, we share a few highlights in the preview that follows. Myself and the entire steirischer herbst team are looking forward to welcoming you in Graz!
Director and Chief Curator steirischer herbst
Our title this year is Volksfronten, in German and in plural. It is deliberately ambivalent, as it evokes at the same time the Popular Front, the antifascist coalition of the 1930s and Volksfront International, a US-based white supremacist organization of the 1990s. We all live in a world of harsh ideological battles, open conflicts and hidden alliances. Old dichotomies of right/left, archaic/progressive, and nationalist/cosmopolitan, are shattered. This is a perfect time for artists who want to reflect on it, represent it, and poke fun at its contradictions.
Here are some highlights of our program that we are encouraging you to put into your agendas.
The festival starts on Thursday 20 September with a parade by Bread & Puppet Theater, the legendary American theater group working with giant puppets. They will walk you from Bahnhof to Schloßbergplatz, making stops for performances on the way, and you can join this parade as a participant, not just as a viewer! (And speaking of participation, in the weeks leading up to the festival, new puppets will be conceived in open workshops, which you are warmly invited to join.)
At the end of the evening a new stage production by the group Laibach, who hardly need an introduction, will take place in Kasematten. There Laibach will revisit, with their usual brilliant sarcasm, The Sound of Music, the famous Broadway musical that contributed to the construction of the Austrian myth, in no small measure because of its extremely seductive music. Let’s see how it will work on us today.
On the next day, Friday 21 September you will be able to visit all locations of our one expanded exhibition. Some of these places you might already know; others might be new to you. In any case, we are addressing and activating the meaning and history of each location and its relation to the city of Graz.
Just to mention a few: there is a totally wild new project by Igor & Ivan Buharov, a flamboyant artist duo from Budapest. Their mix of installations, videos, objects, and performances will appear in Volkshaus. Mysticism meets anarchism to imagine a revolution of plants.
In Forum Stadtpark an installation by Graz-based artist Milica Tomić will make you (re)visit the dramatic—and dramatically neglected—historical site of the forced labor camp in Aflenz. It literally enters the space of the Forum Stadtpark, transforming the venue in a way you
will never forget.
You will also hardly recognize Haus der Architektur where young German artist Henrike Naumann, who recently made a name for herself with sharp works on German unification, imagines an alternative historical scenario for Austria... Stay tuned!
In Kulturzentrum bei den Minoriten it is time for a horror movie pause—Viennese artist duo kozek hörlonski in collaboration with Alexander Martinz create a new film and installation that sees Styria and Graz as a location for chainsaw massacres and nights of the living dead.
And this is just a part of our parcours. Follow it to known and less known places in Graz. Come and explore, there will be more! In the evening, go to Karl Franzens University and attend the very serious (but also funny) Iran Conference by a well-known Russian playwright and director Ivan Vyrypaev, currently working in Warsaw. It is a conference with journalists, politicians, and writers... and at the same time it is not. How is that possible? You will see.
In Volkshaus, Igor & Ivan Buharov will perform in their installation with many performers who join them, and the same evening you are invited to the first opening of our herbstbar at Postgarage.
On Saturday 22 September, the traditional walkabout will bring you to our partner institutions who prepared their own herbst-program, presented separately on the map as the partner program of steirischer herbst. Our exhibition spaces will be also open, and you will have a chance to meet artists in many of them.
In the evening, we will be waiting for you in Orpheum for an evocative performance conceived and staged by a young and promising Belgian choreographer and curator Michiel Vandevelde. This is an epic story about a group of very different people on a train journey through Anatolia, set against the enormous horizon of human history of the 1940s. It is based on one of the greatest forgotten classics of the last century, Human Landscapes from My Country by the Turkish dissident poet Nazim Hikmet.
We encourage you to make a night of it and stay in Orpheum for a performative, musical, and cinematic evening with Tel-Aviv based artist Roee Rosen and Igor Krutogolov’s Toy Orchestra. The work is Kafka for Kids, but there is more Kafka than kids.
And we are not at all abandoning Helmut List Halle: this year, it will host a very special project by Moscow-based artist Irina Korina. Her work will be about nature and the notion of Motherland; Peter Rosegger and the Russian landscape fuse in something like an amusement park. Take the kids on Sunday!
With the exception of Korina’s project, only on view on 10 specific days, the installations in our program will continue through the whole festival. There will be other performative works later in the program—intriguing taxi tours by Theater im Bahnhof, and the performance My Name is Language by Nicoline van Harskamp that addresses how personal names travel and transform across national boundaries, in the age of migration and surveillance.
On 28–29 September in Orpheum, the international symposium “Our Little Fascisms” will offer a platform for in-depth conversations and heated debates on our turbulent present, forgotten past, and uncertain future. More on that soon!
On the third weekend, there is the opening of musikprotokoll, a partner festival inside steirischer herbst. This time, it features a collaborative production of steirischer herbst, a monumental orchestral suite by German composer, conductor, artist, filmmaker, and media theorist Christian von Borries. It will be a Neujahrskonzert from The Land of Music!
And don’t forget—this is just a part of our program. From mid-July on, you will be able to read the detailed program of the whole festival, learn more about the participating artists, buy your festival pass, and reserve your seats online on our website.
steirischer herbst’s 51st edition is a prologue that introduces some of the themes and principles that will be relevant over the coming five years. The title Volksfronten—consciously used in the somewhat unconventional plural form—resonates with very different historical contexts: the antifascist solidarity of the 1930s, the left-wing platform of some of the postwar European countries, as well an ultra-right wing nationalist group in the US. It is deliberately ambivalent. It addresses current ideological battles that seem to challenge the old dichotomies of right/left, archaic/progressive, nationalist/cosmopolitan, and diffuse the good, old antifascist Popular Front into a scattered, fragmented “human landscape,” as the visionary Turkish dissident writer Nazim Hikmet put it. Political wars are being interpreted as cultural wars and the atmosphere of the 1930s, with its dark ghost of fascism, is here again, but in an even more aberrant and entangled way.
steirischer herbst was founded in 1968 in Graz, then on the ideological “edge” of the western world, and brought to life by founder Hanns Koren through an unusual scenario: a political constellation of cultural conservatives created an avant-garde festival in order to oppose the fascists who remained in their midst. This paradoxical context strongly resonates with the bizarrerie of the current political landscape.
In a parcours of specially-commissioned performances, theater pieces, concerts, installations, films, and works-in-progress, steirischer herbst ’18 asks questions about the new soft fascism that does not exclude hedonistic individualism and consumerist spirit; the roots of the unlikely alliance of fascism and liberalism; current (mis)use and appropriation of left-wing artistic strategies by the right wing; and the political potential of popular and vernacular art forms.
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Haus der Architektur
Institut für Kunst im Öffentlichen Raum
Institut für Zeitgenössische Kunst
Künstlerhaus – Halle für Kunst & Medien
ORF Landesstudio Steiermark
Project Arts Center Dublin
The full list of partners for this year's steirischer herbst will be announced in mid-July.