The steirischer herbst 99 festival programme

Under the title of RE-MAKE/RE-MODEL. Secret Histories of Art, Pop, Avantgarde, three work groups (artists, curators, theorists) in London, Chicago and Berlin are currently exploring the relevance of the concept of avant-garde in both art and society. During steirischer herbst 99, these groups will "describe" their positions through exhibitions (including one by Mike Kelley), performances, symposiums and music events, thus continuing their debate on the site of the festival. The project is programmed by Christoph Gurk in cooperation with Kodwo Eshun, David Grubbs and Diedrich Diederichsen.

Since last year, steirischer herbst has been developing the media-critical project Art and Global Media, curated by Peter Weibel, which features a complex range of approaches. For steirischer herbst 99, the exhibition NET_CONDITION is being planned: in cooperation with co-curators in Tokyo (Toshiharu Ito at the ICC), in Barcelona (Claudia Giannetti at MECAD) and in Karlsruhe (Jeffrey Shaw at ZKM), this exhibition will be taking place simultaneously in different geographical and institutional situations and will be electronically networked from each location.

J.N. Nestroy's early play Das Verlobungsfest im Feenreiche will be arranged for steirischer herbst 99 by film and theatre director Ulrike Ottinger, whose work brings together such seemingly contradictory aesthetic positions as meticulously researched documentary films and highly stylised and formalised modes of mise-en-scène. Based on the translation of parts of the play into Japanese (by the writer Yoko Tawada), Ottinger combines both traditional and contemporary Japanese and European or, more specifically, Alpine forms of language, music and theatre. The participating artists are from Japan and Austria, and the project is supported by The Japan Foundation, acting as a co-producer.

The literary project mundräume.

sendeflächen. dichtung aus den 90ern will bring together leading German-speaking poets and theorists, who in the past two decades, amidst the ongoing media-revolution, have worked towards a self-confident and relaxed relaunching of poetry's age-old communicative experience and competence. For four days, these writers and speakers will turn the city into an oral space by exploring and practicing poetry as a form of public speech in a number of different venues and through different types of presentation. In collaboration with Wilfried Prantner, the project is programmed by one of the stylistically most influential poets of the 90's, Thomas Kling.

These four projects are representative of more than thirty programmes envisaged by steirischer herbst 99: such focal points of the festival as musikprotokoll 99, curated by Christian Scheib and supported by ORF, which, in this year's edition, will be dealing with the topic of Form and will again facilitate the premieres of numerous commissioned works of contemporary music; such productions as the European premiere of Robert Ashley's opera DUST, presented by CCW and co-produced by The Kitchen, New York; such plays as Dea Loher's Manhattan Medea, a work commissioned by steirischer herbst and produced in cooperation with Stadttheater Schwerin under the direction of Ernst M. Binder, forum stadtpark theater.

For steirischer herbst 99, Michael Schuster was invited to design the posters and programme publications. His contribution to the festival will consist of a re-make - after 20 years' time - of his 1979 research project Dokumentarische Dialektstudie vom Fersental bis Garmisch-Partenkirchen, produced in collaboration with Norbert Brunner. The visual arts will be represented during this year's steirischer herbst by Telling Tales, an Australian exhibition at Neue Galerie (with a concomitant symposium on Trauma and Memory), and by William Kentridge (by way of a retrospective, also including his films) at the Künstlerhaus, but also by numerous other projects such as Bildung by Grazer Kunstverein, or the collaborative exhibition of South Korean artist Soo-Ja Kim with Jeannette Christensen for the Kunsthalle Feldbach (a new venue for steirischer herbst, which will be opened with this programme).

The making of a programme like this one amounts to a process of production (literally taking place over global distances), which involves artists, curators, theorists with their different thematic and aesthetic approaches into a "temporary intensity". Furthermore, this process reveals the roles and the commitment of co-producers, cultural politics, sponsors and public as well as private institutions, and those of the festival staff, all of which work together in providing the programme's financial and organisational basis.

I should like to understand this process as an essential part of the "festival event": It defines the festival as place of production, in which is made evident that art is a product based on the division of labour, that art does not take place in an hermetic space and does not only deal with questions inherent to art, but that artists and art producers confront the questions that arise from the changes in our society and that the public - the reader, the viewer, the listener - occupies a crucial position in this process. Art as a complex structure of attributed meanings will offer a variety of possible interpretations which need to be discussed in the public, the political sphere. This allows for carrying out conflicts in the course of which the rules, standard concepts and securities, with which we surround ourselves, as well as differences and free spaces are constantly re-negotiated.


Christine Frisinghelli