steirischer herbst ’21: The Way Out

steirischer herbst, a festival that has always had a strong history of engaging with public space, is venturing radically out this year—outdoors, out of lockdown, but also out of the safe institutional bubble. In a time when art is searching for a way to become essential again, the festival explores ways in which artworks can infiltrate the new adventure of the everyday, be it in chance encounters, local workshops or public gatherings.

The engagement with the local—its contexts, its stories, its people—is related to the urgency of reducing unnecessary travel, but not just that. It resonates with the strangely painful and sometimes clumsy rediscovery of the outside world after a year of lockdown life and online culture—itself an invaluable tool for providing equal access to audiences no matter who or where they are.

As meeting strangers is slowly starting to become a regular occurrence again, it is time for contemporary art to meet its own invisible and long-neglected stranger—the non-initiated audience. The avant-garde translates into a vivid, explicit, and at times contemptuous rejection of populism, often demanding radical change. However, its art frequently addresses an elite group of viewers and remains inaccessible to most audiences. Today, with the future similarily uncertain as hitherto only in postwar times, the capacity to effect radical change may well lie in the hands of previously excluded audiences from places not yet permeated by contemporary art or who turn elsewhere to find answers to political issues. Can the popular be political without slipping into a populist trap?

All works shown at the 54th edition of steirischer herbst are new commissions. Participating artists and collectives include:

Yael Bartana, Uriel Barthélémi with Sophie Bernado and Salomon Baneck-Asaro, Sophia Brous with Faye Driscoll, Samara Hersch, and Lara Thoms, CLIO—Heimo Halbrainer and Joachim Hainzl, Lars Cuzner, Žiga Divjak, Nicholas Grafia & Mikołaj Sobczak, G.R.A.M., Emil Gruber, Nilbar Güreş, Hans Haacke, Horst Gerhard Haberl, Felix Hafner, Pia Hierzegger, Thomas Hirschhorn, Hiwa K, Dejan Kaludjerović in collaboration with Marija Balubžić, Bojan Djordjev, and Tanja Šljivar, Flo Kasearu, Li Ran, Boris Mikhailov, Amanullah Mojadidi, Paul B. Preciado, Die Rabtaldirndln, Tim Radya, Reverend Billy and The Church of Stop Shopping, Stefanie Sargnagel, Peter Schloss with Grupa Ee, Tino Sehgal, Marinella Senatore, Dana Sherwood, Mounira Al Solh, Hito Steyerl and Mark Waschke, Piotr Szyhalski, Theater im Bahnhof, and Rosemarie Trockel.

This edition of steirischer herbst is created by all participating artists, partners, thinkers, and philosophers, as well as Ekaterina Degot, Director and Chief Curator, Henriette Gallus, Deputy Director, Christoph Platz, Head of Curatorial Affairs, David Riff, Senior Curator, Dominik Müller, Curator, Mirela Baciak, Curator, and steirischer herbst team.

The full artist list and program schedule is published in September.