I went out to explore the city. Exploring an area that is already inhabited is essentially getting lost and locating oneself. Seeing things that many people have seen before, but vibrate with novelty to your eyes.
The southeast side of the city of Graz becomes Euro-suburban very fast: houses, some farm plots, automotive-dependent with islands of megastructures, inconsistent sidewalks, fences and driveways. It's quaint in size and aesthetic. It's tidy. It's sparsely populated by structures and I saw just enough people to not notice that it was abandoned.
I visited the Puch Museum, which is essentially a large garage of the myriad of the Puch products–mopeds, trucks, cars, bicycles–jammed into the center of the space, with little narrative consideration of how visitors actually see the works. This was a collector's museum, not a curator's museum. When Hitler annexed Austria, industry such as Puch was a primary motivation. That may explain the absence of narrative. Just imagine the third wall sign: "And here is when we made Nazi trucks." Not exactly a heart warmer. I was the only visitor, so maybe I was over-thinking the institution's rationale to obscure their past. The sole attendant occupied himself by spray painting something at the far north end of the garage. The fumes made their way to the middle of the garage around the time I decided to leave.
I stopped by Schaumbad to look at Eva's studio as a possible site for interviewing Steve Weiss or Martin and Romana. The studio was filled with layers of art projects, research, production and life. It was hard to believe that Eva had been there less than a decade. A large light with the word "over" sat perfectly in the corner. From what I'd gathered about the protest against the Murkraftwerk, "over" continued to bitterly loom over Romana and Martin.
I made haste to another art event. The event in the Schlossberg was described to me as an artist who was going to bring together a descendant of the Archduke Ferdinand and the descendant of the Archduke's assassin, Gavrilo Princip, for a handshake. The location was a room in the Dom im Berg, a mountain that was hollowed out to serve as a bomb shelter during World War I. It was too fitting, too perfect to not attend.
The event began with trio band playing Serbian music followed by other musicians playing a royal Habsburg melody.The stage was set with the Austrian musicians stage left and the Serbian musicians stage right. In the center were two black leather, Scandi-chic couches. Igor F. Petković, the artist, sat in the center. After the music conclude he gave a long, contextualizing speech, of which I could only understand him mentioning the two songs, and made several references to "Kultur." It felt almost like he was giving a benediction of the music. He then invited to interlocutors on stage to discuss Kultur, immigration and how Central Europe is a mixing pot of cultures. By the time the third person had answered a question, it began to feel like a talk show. There was so much talking, lecturing, that I wondered how this would be different as an "art event" in the U.S., or even if this was billed as an art event. Was this the performance? What introduction did such a symbolically-loaded gesture need? Austrian art events, I would learn, are usually predicated with a long, verbal introduction.
Part of the event included the ceremonial recognition of winners of the The Alfred Fried Photography Award 2018, which had a theme of "What does peace look like?" The presenter, Lois Lammherhuber expounded on the topic of photography and peace at length, before a ceremonial lecturer, spot lit, reading from a clear acrylic podium, announced the winner with pomp. The ceremony went on and on and I was running out abstract footage to film; I had thought the event may be visually interesting. Ultimately, I couldn't take it anymore. I had to leave before seeing what I thought would be money shot–the descendants shaking hands.
More interesting than the symbolic act was the intentional production of history-making–as opposed to placemaking, or (thing)making–which may be indicative of the kulturzeitgeist. There is so much talk about "Europe" here, which I've taken as a juxtaposition or affront to what is "Austrian," given the Chancellor's politicking. Compounded with Brexit, Hungary, Poland, the perpetual and near concern of Russia, Crimea, and the Ukraine, striving for a critical distance, a point from which this whole messy–in its wholeness and messiness–can be seen is comforting. As the liberal left–artists–contend against the populist (mostly non-creatives)–the importance of holding onto the production of history increases. The creation or recreation of historical events, the mode of producing history–texts, online archives, photos, video and social media can be a strategy to not only moralize about a historical past, but situate a historical present and predict a historic future. History is written by hands trembling to be shook by the infirm memory of an Alzheimer future.