press release

20.09.2018 - 14.10.2018
Opening days: September 20–23, 2018
Various venues in Graz, Austria

steirischer herbst, an interdisciplinary contemporary arts festival with a tradition of reinventing itself with each new director, announces its new team and the theme for its 51th edition: Volksfronten.

Ekaterina Degot, a Russian-born visual arts curator, began her five-year tenure as Director and Chief Curator in January 2018. In its new iteration, steirischer herbst turns towards intense political and aesthetic debates, grounded in a dedicated site-specific approach and with a strong focus on Central and Eastern Europe in its relation to the global world.

steirischer herbst’s 51st edition, a prologue edition that introduces some of the themes and principles that will be relevant over the coming years, is entitled Volksfronten. It addresses current ideological battles that seem to challenge the old dichotomies of left/right, archaic/progressive, nationalist/cosmopolitan, and diffuse the good, old antifascist Popular Front into a scattered, fragmented “human landscape,” as 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 complex, more entangled way. The political constellation of cultural conservatives creating an avant-garde festival in order to oppose the fascists who remained in their midst—the actual scenario that brought steirischer herbst to life in 1968—strongly resonates with the bizarrerie of the current political landscape.

In a parcours of specially-commissioned performances, theater pieces, concerts, and art works, steirischer herbst 2018 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 appropriations of left-wing artistic strategies by the right wing; and the political potential of popular and vernacular art forms. As always, the core program intersects and overlaps with an diverse range of exhibitions and projects developed by local institutions. Together they present a map of multiple wishes and new proposals for how to consider and counteract the present political moment, and how to enter into crucial debates and confrontations about the intersection of the political and the aesthetic.

The core program of the 51th edition of steirischer herbst is curated by a curatorial collective that includes Ekaterina Degot, Director and Chief Curator; Henriette Gallus, Deputy Director; Christoph Platz, Head of Curatorial Affairs; Övül Dürmüsoglu, Katalin Erdödi, and Dominik Müller, Curators; David Riff, Curator for Discourse; Jill Winder, Editor-in-Chief; Birgit Pelzmann and Johanna Rainer, Assistant Curators; and Georg Schölhammer, General Advisor. The new visual identity is created by Grupa Ee, Ljubljana and a new reader series is designed by Mevis & Van Deursen, Amsterdam.