Our review tour to Austria, which became home to many important figures and movements of culture and art movements throughout the history extended to over 20 events in Graz and Vienna.
I was selected with three other art writers for the invitation of Verein K, a culture, arts and communications event headquartered in Austria, for a visit to Graz and Vienna. (1) This was my first long trip to Austria. Managed by Jenela Kaludjerovic and Dejan, her spouse, whose works we visited in Istanbul (2), Verein K also invited Danish Kristian Madsen from Berlin and English Louisa Elderton from Berlin and Hindu Rahel Aima from Dubai for the “Visiting Art Critics” programme. These writers are also important figures who were authors of important discourses in international art publications such as Artforum, Art in America and Elepant. Verein K created a similar organization for international curators.
With its population approaching nine million, Graz breathes new life with the traditional and thematic “Steirischerherbst” culture and art festival between 18 and 28 September. This year’s theme was the almost-provocative concept of “Grand Hotel Abyss” by the pioneering Marxist philosopher of the 20th century, Hungarian Georg Lukacs, and the festival was on between 19 September and 13 October with exhibitions, performances, panels and concerts dotted at almost 40 locations in the city.
In the opening of the festival many artists gathered in the Congress Graz square for simultaneous performances and concerts, it was a complete razzmatazz! Curated by Ekateria Degot, the festival brought us about 45 important figures, among whom there were the English artist Jeremy Deller, his Bulgarian colleague Nedko Solakov, the duo Elmgreen & Dragset who curated the Istanbul Biennial, Alexander Brener and Barbara Schurz also important figures in Turkey.
The festival brought many interesting works too. For example, Solakov’s arrangement dotted around the reception of a hotel, designed by Slava Nakovska, titled “Lost Cold War Spies” were founded in the book “Third Man” by John La Carre, who was an ex intelligence agent and was having his first experiences in the city as an author during the days of the Cold War. For the exhibition, Solakov hid these figures in six historical hotels in the city. (3) Jeremy Deller, (4) who was the second time visitor to the memories of the once-English-invaded country, and the long deceased avant-garde painter and philosopher Hamilton Finlay (5) painted the totalitarian, racist and eclectic character of England through unique aesthetic approaches. Viennese Eduard Freudmann (6) was remembered with his alternative monument which he deployed at a hill in a big park, and his critical works he placed in the city’s pond. Let’s also remind that Graz is the hometown of world-renowned movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger, and that he lived in the Thal village which is close by, and that the only museum in the world, opened in the name of Schwarzenegger, is in Graz. (7)
We shouldn’t say goodbye to Graz without mentioning Nazim Hikmet though. Graz’s Jukus Foundation for activities for the young generation, culture and sports also carries out activities led by Ali Ozbas, aimed at preventing and mitigating anti-Semitist, racist, discriminatory and anti-human behaviours. The foundation is welcoming this year’s festival in Graz with the project titled “Spring in Haydarpasa”. In this project, choreographer Michiel Vandevelde’s theatrical production based on Nazim Hikmet’s classic work “Human Landscapes from my Country” is accompanied by Jukus Foundation’s very comprehensive arrangement, in which they picture the clients of the nine barbers in the city with this book and historical photographs. (8)
On our next stop Vienna, we are almost “chased” by a giant agenda of culture and art. The “Curated By” festival, organized in cooperation with international curators in Vienna, is spread over 22 galleries of the capital, while a very important collection (9) titled “Vienna 1900” in Museumsquartier’s Leopold Museum awaits us in the city centre. The exhibition has been displaying an eclectic atmosphere of science, design, culture and art through masterpieces, crowning the birth of modernism with excellent works from artists and designers such as Gustav Klimt, Auguste Rodin, Egon Schiele, Max Oppenheimer, Josef Koffmann, Kolomon Moser and Max Hoffmann.
Secession, a beacon of Art-Nouveau and the temple of early modernism, is even still an unavoidable centre of attraction which combines the classics of contemporary art and modern art. The venue in Vienna brings together Gustav Klimt, Kolo Moser and Carl Moll among its founders, and also recently Tillman Kaiser and Alexandra Bircken, as well as Korakrit Arunanondchai, whose works were displayed in the 16th Istanbul Biennial. (10)
On the other hand, the MUMOK (Museum of Modern Art), which is another attraction with its gigantic black post-modern posture, was displaying the “Op Art”, the mysterious movement of the art history and the “Vertigo” exhibition for kinetic art, which are on until October 26. The event is highly satisfactory with its scale of works and content dated all the way back from 1520s to 1970s, and hosts over 45 artists among whom there are Bridget Riley, Giovanni Batista Piranesi, Victory Vasarely, whose works we had the chance to behold at Arkas Art Center and Istanbul Tophane, as well as Francois Morellet and Marcel Duchamp. (11)
There is also the Kunsthalle Wien, just below Mumok, had the “Hysterical Mining” exhibition (12) which works the relationship among digital technology, cyber culture and modern art in a critical setting. Meanwhile the Belvedere Museum was displaying the “Material” exhibition, which presents the history of why we paint, at a scale that includes the geographical, social and political roots of the materials concerned, and in a setting of art-history. (13)
You can see Sigmund Freud’s personal effects and documents displayed in the museum dedicated to Freud. But the most striking activity was the “Red Vienna” exhibition in the Vienna Museum, which is also known as “Moses”. This exhibition (14) dates back to the first independent local elections held in the city between 1919 and 1934 and were dominated by the then Social Democrat Party and focuses on the areas rehabilitation, architecture, public area planning and education policies which were the main concerns in the process of democratizing the society.
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