press release

steirischer herbst ’19: opening days program
Grand Hotel Abyss
September 19–22, 2019

2019’s edition of steirischer herbst, one of Europe’s oldest interdisciplinary art festivals, opens to the public in Graz and Styria on September 19. The title of the festival’s 52nd iteration is Grand Hotel Abyss, after a striking metaphor used by philosopher Georg Lukács. The opening days (September 19–22) will feature installations, performances, and events presenting a far-reaching meditation on hedonism in troubled times. During its run, steirischer herbst ’19 will explore the evermore sophisticated search for pleasure against the backdrop of the impending apocalypse.

For the Opening Extravaganza on September 19, the festival has assembled a diverse roster of artists who present their newest works in a one-evening exhibition of performances and performative installations. The Opening Extravaganza starts at 5pm in Landhaushof with a political oration by Zorka Wollny, and then moves to the sumptuous ballroom interior of Congress Graz with an immersive installation by Cibelle Cavalli Bastos, presented alongside tableaux vivants by Vienna-based artists Jakob Lena Knebl and Markus Pires Mata. The program unfolds with several surprise interventions by Jule Flierl, Manuel Pelmuș, Das Planetenparty Prinzip, and Alexander Brener and Barbara Schurz, while the artistic duo Elmgreen & Dragset make an ironic contribution to Austria’s confectionary landscape. The evening culminates with a lecture performance by Gernot Wieland and a playfully apocalyptic show by the flamboyant Icelandic duo Erna Ómarsdóttir & Valdimar Jóhannsson. A concert by Fatima Spar & The Freedom Fries completes the evening.

Friday, September 20 opens with a performance at Schloßbergplatz conceived by Riccardo Giacconi, vaguely resembling the work of young newspaper vendors crying out daily headlines. Jule Flierl reinterprets a 1972 propaganda poem by Werner Kunz at Kunsthaus Graz. In the evening, Georgian director Guram Matskhonashvili stages the newest piece by author and philosopher Keti Chukhrov, a biting satire of the faux internationalism of cultural theory today.

On September 21, Theater im Bahnhof from Graz invites the audience to Bauernmarkt Eggenberg and join actors in a game that entails trying to escape the vicious circle of poverty. For his adaption of Nâzım Hikmet’s second book, Human Landscapes—Book II, Michiel Vandevelde builds on his participation in steirischer herbst ’18, this time focusing on the luxuries of the elite. Vandevelde’s performance takes place at Großer Minoritensaal.

Installation projects at various locations transcend many historical contexts, unveiling buried conflicts. An installative work in Palais Attems comments on the grandiose decay of Counter Reformation aesthetics with contributions by Oscar Murillo and Giorgi Gago Gagoshidze, among others. An installation in Graz’s Künstlerhaus includes new films by Jasmina Cibic and Jeremy Deller, as well as works by the late British maverick Ian Hamilton Finlay. Artist Nedko Solakov returns to the Cold War and its spy stories with interventions in various local hotel lobbies.

At Grazer Kunstverein, Riccardo Giacconi looks at the abysmal “option” between fascism and fascism in 1940s Southern Tyrol. A curatorial fantasy on the life and times of Georg Lukács is on view at Graz’s Literaturhaus, examining Thomas Mann’s novel The Magic Mountain; a theme it shares with a filmic installation by Daniel Mann and Eitan Efrat at Forum Stadtpark. Artur Żmijewski is looking for a place to hide from current political disaster in his own country as well as in others. Michael Portnoy deploys tongue-in-cheek optimism to show us the rather bizarre future of sex in his new monumental video work at Helmut List Halle.

Grand Hotel Abyss also features installations and performances in public space. In the municipality of Puch bei Weiz, Jaśmina Wójcik’s tower of empty apple crates pays tribute to the seasonal workers from Hungary, Poland, and Romania. At Griesplatz in Graz, Andreas Siekmann, presents his version of Albrecht Dürer’s never-realized victory column Monument to the Vanquished Peasants. Counterpositions, developed with publishing house CLIO and the Institute for Art in Public Space Styria, is a cluster of performative as well as installative interventions around political monuments taking place in Graz and beyond. On September 21, Counterpositions’ Eduard Freudmann unveils an installation at the Befreiungsdenkmal at the Burggarten of Grazer Burg. Fellow Counterpositions members Elizabeth Ward and Thomas Geiger contribute performative interventions at the Jahn-Denkmal in Stadtpark (September 21, 2019) and the Dr. Hans-Kloepfer-Büste near Türkenbrunnen (September 22, 2019), respectively.

The program of steirischer herbst continues until October 13 with further performances and discursive events, including a rich Parallel Program by Graz’s cultural institutions, as well as musikprotokol and STUBENrein, two festivals within the larger festival. The full program of steirischer herbst ’19, as well as its online magazine Vorherbst, can be found at

Artists of Grand Hotel Abyss:
Ariel Efraim Ashbel and friends, Cibelle Cavalli Bastos, Alexander Brener and Barbara Schurz, Keti Chukhrov / Guram Matskhonashvili, Jasmina Cibic, Counterpositions (Eduard Freudmann, Thomas Geiger, and Elizabeth Ward), Das Planetenparty Prinzip, Jeremy Deller, Bojan Djordjev / Goran Ferčec, Elmgreen & Dragset, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Jule Flierl, Giorgi Gago Gagoshidze, Riccardo Giacconi, Grupa Ee, Jakob Lena Knebl and Markus Pires Mata, The Life and Adventures of GL, Daniel Mann and Eitan Efrat, Oscar Murillo, Erna Ómarsdóttir & Valdimar Jóhannsson, Boris Ondreička, Manuel Pelmuș, Michael Portnoy, Blanka Rádóczy / Vladimir Sorokin, Hanna Rohn, Andreas Siekmann, Nedko Solakov, Andrei Stadnikov with Vanya Bowden, Shifra Kazhdan and Dmitry Vlasik, Theater im Bahnhof, Michiel Vandevelde, Gernot Wieland, Jaśmina Wójcik, Zorka Wollny, Artur Żmijewski

The Festival Pass provides admission to all events and installations of the Grand Hotel Abyss program and allows repeated visits. The recently published guidebook offers running curatorial commentary on connections one might draw and suggests some routes through the exhibition and the festival.