A Pleasant Apocalypse: Notes from the Grand Hotel Abyss

Extensive reader on steirischer herbst ’19 forthcoming in May

The 52nd edition of steirischer herbst delved deep into the disruptive contradictions and uncanny charms of Hapsburgian Europe and their relevance for the rest of the world. In a three-week-long expanded exhibition of installations, performance works, and discursive events, the festival’s 2019 edition focused on the tension between pleasure and catastrophe in the culinary and aesthetic pleasure zones of our day. The phrase that provided the title and the agenda for steirischer herbst ’19—Grand Hotel Abyss came from the pen of the philosopher Georg Lukács. In the early 1930s he used this striking metaphor to describe the attitude of the European intellectual and cultural scene who continued to party in an uninhibited, hedonistic manner, despite the looming rise of fascism.

A Pleasant Apocalypse: Notes from the Grand Hotel Abyss is the title of the accompanying reader, published by Hatje Cantz in May. Richly illustrated with full-color images of artworks created for the festival, it gathers specially commissioned texts by philosophers, historians, writers, and artists, offering theoretical reflections and artistic insights into the structure of hedonism in ever-more apocalyptic times.

The book’s contributions tap into the unsettling histories and fascist substrates of seemingly idyllic settings and into the dialectical images of suffering and destruction consumed daily. They reveal how the neoliberal economy extracts surplus pleasure and trumpets the imperative to be happy, all the while generating images rehearsing the end of the world, images to be mistrusted, but never to be taken lightly. These are analyses, confessionals, polemics, and travelogues—contributions to an as-of-yet unwritten critical history of catastrophic pleasures and normalized transgressions.

Edited by Ekaterina Degot and David Riff

With contributions by Ariel Efraim Ashbel, Keti Chukhrov, Goran Ferčec, Riccardo Giacconi, Eva Illouz, Siegfried Kracauer, Stephan Lessenich, Daniel Mann, Marko Radmilovič, Aaron Schuster, Vladimir Sorokin, Hasso Spode, Michiel Vandevelde, Gernot Wieland, and Evan Calder Williams

Published in English in May 2020 by Hatje Cantz.

Available for pre-order in our shop.