A War in the Distance

Prologue exhibition, 1.7.–1.8.22
​Festival, 22.9.–16.10.22, Opening days 22.9.–25.9.22

Wars are inscribed into the history of steirischer herbst. The Cold War overshadowed its early years while later editions took place with the Yugoslav Wars right next door. Painfully activating faded memories of World Wars I and II, Russia’s aggression in Ukraine is the newest entry to this long list of battles growling just around the corner.

Yet one still sometimes feels that in this cozy corner of Austria, like in many other snug places in Europe, wars and even conflicts are out of place. Outbursts of compassion towards individuals affected by wars happening “elsewhere” are sincere, no doubt, but at the same time, the world here is still safe and one simply “does not do war.” The frontline is put at a distance, unseen and unheard, until the repressed returns with a vengeance. This autumn, steirischer herbst’s dense program of exhibitions, performances, and discussions addresses this looming presence of battles mentally kept at bay.

As a prologue in July, we turn to Russia’s war in Ukraine—whose relevance and proximity are now impossible to ignore. In a special showing at Neue Galerie Graz, steirischer herbst presents historical and contemporary video art and films about the war in Ukraine, curated by Mirela Baciak and David Riff. Participating artists include Pavel Brăila, Oleksandr Dovzhenko, Dana Kavelina, Zoya Laktionova, Kateryna Lysovenko, Mykola Ridnyi, and Philip Sotnychenko. The opening on July 1 is accompanied by artists’ talks and discussions on the meaning of the war in Ukraine to Austria.

The festival in autumn is centered around an even bigger exhibition in both wings of the first floor of Neue Galerie Graz. The festival team has researched lesser-known and forgotten works from the gallery’s collection of 19th and 20th-century art, at times seemingly innocent and at times disturbingly political. These works are juxtaposed with contemporary artists’ projects, many of them newly commissioned. The exhibition challenges classical modernist narratives and offers a subjective and fragmented rereading of the collection, revealing traces of ignored wars, hidden histories, and repressed conflicts. Drawing a link between the past and the present, it explores the artistic reflection of an increasingly polarized world shaped by the dismantling of empires, ongoing colonialism, and mounting class struggles. Delving into these darker sides of modernity, it also engages in a self-reflection of the festival’s own deeper politics. This exhibition is a cooperation with Neue Galerie Graz / Universalmuseum Joanneum and remains open through February 12, 2023.

The performative program of the festival activates other themes and memories related to wars and conflicts with newly commissioned productions by Boris Charmatz, Boris Nikitin, Theater im Bahnhof, Giacomo Veronesi, Ming Wong, and Raed Yassin.

In Forum Stadtpark, steirischer herbst shows an exhibition of filmmaker Harun Farocki, directed against the wars of the 20th and 21st centuries. It includes his lesser-known works and is accompanied by discussions and talks, as well as the newly inaugurated herbst cabaret, featuring Verena Dengler, eSeL (Lorenz Seidler), and Les Trucs.

In a new collaboration with the literary magazine manuskripte, steirischer herbst contributes a special section with war diaries and poems from Ukraine on the occasion of the festival, selected by the poet Galina Rymbu.

Artists: Gabriel Abrantes, Friederike Anders, Boris Charmatz, Keti Chukhrov, Josef Dabernig, Harun Farocki, Jannik Franzen, Aslan Goisum, Assaf Gruber, Emil Gruber, Flaka Haliti, Yuriy Illienko, Iman Issa, Zhanna Kadyrova, Rajkamal Kahlon, Kateryna Lysovenko, Ekaterina Muromtseva, Henrike Naumann, Navaridas & Deutinger, Boris Nikitin, Igor Friedrich Petković, Nihad Nino Pušija, Mykola Ridnyi, Willem de Rooij, Augustas Serapinas, Theater im Bahnhof, Giacomo Veronesi, Ming Wong, Raed Yassin; herbst cabaret with Verena Dengler, eSeL (Lorenz Seidler), Les Trucs; Zvjezdana Fio, Franz Yang-Močnik, and other artists from the collection of Neue Galerie Graz

As ever, steirischer herbst embraces the varied Parallel Program by art institutions in Graz and Styria, its traditional festival-within-the-festival musikprotokoll and the literary festival Out of Joint, as well as collaborations with new partners.

The full festival program will be available online on September 1, 2022.

Online accreditation for press and professionals opens in August 2022. For prior registration and further information, please contact press@steirischerherbst.at.

The festival is curated by Ekaterina Degot, Mirela Baciak, Dominik Müller, Christoph Platz, David Riff, Gábor Thury and created by the whole team of steirischer herbst. With curatorial advice by Goran Injac.

Curators of the exhibition in Neue Galerie Graz: Ekaterina Degot with David Riff, Christoph Platz, Mirela Baciak, Barbara Seyerl (steirischer herbst), with curatorial advice by Gudrun Danzer and Günther Holler-Schuster (Universalmuseum Joanneum)