Eva Grubinger on Thu, 10 Feb 2000 20:08:56 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> turning Austria inside out

Most people who reacted to curator/critic Robert Fleck's email-initiative
disagreed with the suggested boycott of Austria's artworld and instead
asked for support of any cultural opposition to the new rightwing
government. But what can actually be done? 

An attempt to formulate some basics and conclusions. 

Haider's Austria should not be seen as an isolated national problem - it
is rather the monstrous symptom of a general turn to the right for the
last 15-20 years throughout Europe.Thus,the EU-members' decision to put
sanctions on Austria can be welcomed, but we should at the same time take
them by their word. From Fischer to Solanas - the authorities can be
reminded from now on of their own moral standards put up against the
Austrian rightwing government. Lets all, especially people in the media,
follow these anti-Haider statements and collect them, like the
nazi-statements by Haider or Prinzhorn have been. 

We believe that the move to the right in Austria and elsewhere in Europe
was amplified, if not co-triggered by the Social-Liberal parties who
adopted strict immigration laws and abondened any criticism of digitalized
capitalism, i.e mimiced what the rightwingers had wanted anyway, as a way
to gain or stay in power - while they left behind their clientele of lower
middle class/lower class. At the same time, leftwing cultural politics,
strangling itself in micropolitical distinction wars, vanished from the
broader public field. 

Leftist people in the artworld/cultural world in- and outside Austria are
now seeing more clearly than ever the need to overcome their partly
selfimposed marginalization in order to form strategic alliances and use
their "cultural capital" again on a broad sociopolitical level.  Austria
is a comparatively small country. People working in art institutions etc.,
the state curators for example, have been in direct contact with
SPOe-politicians on an administrative basis. There is a realistic,
pragmatic chance to try to trigger a discussion in Austria`s SPOe and/or
Green Party that they have to redefine and reform themselves with a strong
move to the left, to offer a true alternative, not least for the socalled

Elfriede Jelinek has declared a ban over her plays being performed in
Austria, Valie Export has rejected the Kokoschka-Prize, Robert Fleck
cancelled his future commitments in Austria etc. etc. There is a good deal
of symbolic power in these gestures, and we understand the motivation. 
However, we think there are options beyond a deadlock choice between
self-fullfilling exilation and opportunism. As the withdrawal of the
funding of the prestigious literary Ingeborg-Bachmann-Prize by Haider's
Corinthia/Kaernten-administration shows - in reaction to the
Bachmann-estate having withdrawn the right to use her name because of the
new government - the neo-fascists are all too happy to get rid of any
reminiscences of critical voices.  Concerning prizes, grants etc.: People
with high income should accept prizes (as long as they get them without
licking boots), but redirect the money to initiatives put up against the
current regime, e.g.: Get To Attack (http://www.t0.or.at/gettoattack) or
SOS-Mitmensch (sos-mitmensch@t0.or.at). For many younger artists in
Austria, state grants are an existential part of making a living as an
artist, since there is no relevant national art market. To fight for that
is a social, leftwing issue - otherwise, we would buy into the rightwing
rethorics of artists being "social parasites" who didn't really need
financial support anyway.  Concerning curatorial jobs, exhibitions etc.:
rather than cancelling and withdrawing and thus pave the way for the
bootlickers, use all available resources to support a climate of
free-thinking opposition - both with art and other means.  The cultural
adminstration in Austria had been taken care of by SPOe-members, who now
had to make way for people like the right wing OeVP Burgtheater-actor
Franz Morak, who as state secretary in the chancellor's office now is
responsible for art including the distribution of money. We should collect
and distribute information about these new people in charge (e.g.: via
http://bbs.thing.net and/or http://widerstand.netbase.org), while those of
us who know their predecessors from SPOe should try to involve them in a
fight against the new politics. 

What can we do outside Austria? Help to keep or get the issue in the media
and public (design poster campaigns, contact journalists, advertising
people you know etc.); check out the Austrian Cultural Institutes in
London, New York and cultural attachés elsewhere to find out wether the
predominantly OeVP-people working there are supporting the new government
or not. Exchange information about the people in these positions so we
know our enemy or possible 'renegates'.  Rather than frightening away from
working with Austrian artists and intellectuals who are engaged in the
Anti-Haider-fight, networking should be expanded. 

Eva Grubinger, Joerg Heiser (joerg@frieze.co.uk) 

grubi et orbi

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