The ceremonial opening of the Künstlerhaus in Graz on June 20, 1952 was preceded by decades of attempts to form the institution, and disputes about its funding, location, and administration. It was in the post-war and occupation period, as political actors met it with serious endeavours and positive reactions that the long anticipated project was finally realized. Positioned in Graz, the British troops pursued an extensive cultural project, which was supposed to newly define the consciousness for an Austrian identity and to eventually open up Austria and return it to democracy. In this regard, an “international modernity” faced a “down-to-earth modernity,” an opposition that often led to a cosmopolitan-progressive and a local-traditional interpretation of art, society and history.
In conversation with curator Birgit Johler (Folk Life Museum Graz) and cultural historian Johannes Feichtinger (Austrian Academy of Sciences), the historian Siegfried Beer will draw a historical and cultural-political purlieu of Styria and of Austria in the post-war period. Thus, they will also discuss the time of the Künstlerhaus’s formation, and the events that influenced its construction and development.
The steirischer herbst 2019 under the heading of “Grand Hotel Abyss“ and its reference to the Hungarian philosopher, Marxist interpreter and political activist Georg Lukács deals with the relationship of intellectuals – and their perplexity – to the visibly rising dangers of fascism in the time just before World War II. The Künstlerhaus, which was built during the de facto expiring British “occupation” in 1952 and its administration that empowered democracy, reconstruction and the creation of an Austrian identity, was commissioned by the federal state of Styria and was the first cultural building erected in Austria after World War II. It takes the thematic focus of the exhibiting artists Jasmina Cibic, Jeremy Deller and Ian Hamilton Finlay as a starting point to explore its own formation and architectural history as well as its exhibition history, thus extending the historical frame into the post-war period. For this purpose, the supporting program is made up of personalities from various disciplines who were invited to discuss from a variety of perspectives the founding and development of the Künstlerhaus up to its current form of a hall for art and media.
After his habilitation in Contemporary History at the University of Graz, Prof. Siegfried Beer (*1948 Scheibbs, lives in Graz) has been teaching there. He is a member of the Historische Landeskommission für Steiermark (HLK) and the European Academy of Sciences and Arts. Since 2008 he has been head of the Botstiber Institute for Austrian-American Studies (BIAAS) in Media, Pennsylvania. In 2004 Beer founded the Austrian Center for Intelligence, Propaganda and Security Studies (ACIPSS). He has published the book collections, “Die ‘britische’ Steiermark 1945–1955“ (Graz, 1995) und “Focus Austria. Vom Vielvölkerreich zum EU-Staat. Festschrift für Alfred Ableitinger zum 65. Geburtstag“ (Graz 2003) and has been the editor of the “Journal for Intelligence, Propaganda and Security Studies“ since 2007.
Prof. Johannes Feichtinger (*1967 Hartberg, lives in Vienna) habilitated at the University of Vienna, where he has been teaching at the Department of History since 2010. Since 2004, he has been working as research assistant at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna. His research focuses on global and regional scholarly history as well as postcolonial theory, memory and identity studies. His publications include “Die Kulturpolitik der Besatzungsmacht Großbritannien in Österreich“ (in: Alfred Ableitinger, Siegfried Beer, Eduard Staudinger (Hg.), Österreich unter alliierter Besatzung. 1945–1955, Wien 1998) and “’A Step towards Unification’. Großbritannien und die Anfänge der Konsolidierung von Währung und Wirtschaft in Österreich“ (in: Siegfried Beer (Hg.), Die „britische“ Steiermark 1945–1955, Graz 1995).
Mag.a Dr.in Birgit Johler (*1970 Dornbirn, lives in Graz and Vienna) studied European ethnology and Romance studies in Vienna. As a curator, she worked for the Jewish Museum Vienna, the Folk Life Museum Vienna, the State Museum Auschwitz Birkenau and the House of Austrian History. Since June 2019, she is a curator for European ethnology at Universalmuseum Joanneum. In her research she focuses on the history of museums, material culture, everyday story and National Socialism/Holocaust. She teaches at the University of Vienna and has taught at the University Graz and Innsbruck in the area museology. 2014 she was a fellow at the department of European ethnology at the University of Münster.