A year of celebration

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1 Austrian CulturAL Forum NewYork A year of celebration ACFNY 1

2 Editorial The Powerful Women of Dance A Different Kind of Forum ACFNY Magazine of the Austrian Cultural Forum New York is published as a supplement at the daily newspaper "Der Standard". Publisher: ACFNY Magazine of the Austrian Cultural Forum New York. 11 East 52 Street, New York, NY Editors in Chief: Andreas Stadler & Kerstin Schuetz-Mueller. Translations: Georg Bauer. Images: Austrian Cultural Forum and with the respective copyright holders, all dates are subject to change. Cover: ACFNY gallery view of the exhibition opening of "Our Haus," photo by David Plakke Printed at Niederösterreichisches Pressehaus, Druck- und Verlagsgesellschaft m.b.h., Gutenbergstraße 12, 3100 St. Pölten Every year the New York Coil Festival features the most innovative dance and performance productions from all over the world. This year, the Austrian contribution was Anne Juren and Annie Dorsen s Magical, an homage to recent feminist cultural history of the female body, lauded by both the Village Voice and The New York Times. Magical quotes Valie Export s iconic Aktionshose: Genitalpanik from 1969 as well as Yoko Ono s performance, Cut Piece, in which she lets the audience cut the clothes from her body until she is naked. The piece also contains a nod to Marina Abramovic, who auto-aggressively cut her own flesh until she bled. The Austro-French performer Anne Juren, who lives and works in Vienna, developed this performance three years ago with the New York choreographer Annie Dorsen, for a production commissioned by Szene Salzburg and Impulstanzfestival and supported by the Austrian Cultural Forum. Magical has been performed more than 40 times around the world, providing further proof that the Austrian dance and performance scene has been able to draw international attention for quite some time. In 2012, the Cultural Forum invited Saskia Sassen, Anna Mendelssohn, and Doris Uhlich, among others, to perform in New York. All this traces back to a partnership with the dance platform Movement Research, which has enabled the ACFNY to present Austrian artists in the legendary Monday Series at NYC s Judson Memorial Church the holy grail of modern expressionist dance, as it were. Presenting dance and performance which is currently a focal point of Austrian cultural diplomacy is as much a part of the Austrian Cultural Forum s day-today endeavors as is organizing concerts, curating exhibitions, planning panel discussions, and maintaining the only Austriaca library in North America. The results are often wonderful and creative combinations in collaborative practice: We were, for instance, able to bring together Austrian composer Bernhard Lang and choreographer/ dancer Silke Grabinger. They created a nearly hour-long piece Moving Architecture, dedicated to our building, and premiered it on the occasion of our tenth anniversary. In the performance, Grabinger managed not only to be the soloist of the piece, but also to coax an entire musical ensemble to move to the sounds. She has since been invited to present her work at Movement Research as well. This short glimpse into dance is meant to present but a small excerpt of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Austrian Cultural Forum s dedicated work towards giving young emerging artists who are still unknown in the United States an opportunity to present themselves to an American audience. Andreas Stadler, Director Photo: David Plakke When I hear the word forum I think of Forum Romanum, Ancient Rome, Julius Ceasar But how can a forum be a forum in the real sense today? On 52nd Street in New York, just east of 5th Avenue there is such a place. It is the architectural pearl which is home to the Austrian Cultural Forum. It is neither particularly tall and certainly not wide. It cannot host thousands of people and still it is a forum in its very essence a place of free encounters which lead to creativity and innovation. In its gallery we find group exhibitions and installations of some of the most creative visual artists from both Austria and the U.S. The 75-seat auditorium has hosted great performers and is definitely the place to hear some of the most interesting music created today; it is the forum to discuss literature and to look for new ways to bring more quality literature in translation to the U.S. You can discuss politics, poetics, or, for that matter, the latest scientific discoveries. There are about 40 cultural centers in New York, presenting and representing that which is at the moment the best and the hottest in their respective countries all of them deeply rooted in their respective cultural traditions and serving as cultural ambassadors for their home-countries. The ACFNY does all of that and more. That to me as the Director of Performing and Literary Arts at 92Y the oldest cultural center in New York is the most interesting part it is the interactive, multicultural, creative part of its activity: The people in the Austrian Cultural Forum certainly make things happen. During the preparations of the Celebration of the Arts and Culture in Theresienstadt in which ACFNY took an active part, I mentioned Viktor Ullmann s last work, Der Kaiser von Atlantis, which is the most allegorical opera Ullmann wrote while never seeing its complete performance. In keeping with the creative spirit of the Theresienstadt artists, Andreas Stadler initiated the collaboration between American musicians, the Opera Moderne, Austrian stage director Markus Kupferblum, and the Czech Center in New York. As a result, New York audiences benefited from a young, energetic, and excellent production of the opera. It completed and complemented the performance of Ullmann s Cornet Rilke which took place a year earlier at 92Y. There too we enjoyed a wonderful collaboration between the great Austrian singer Wolfgang Holzmair (thanks to ACFNY) and the excellent Israeli pianist Shai Wosner (thanks to the Israeli Consulate). And this is just one of the more recent examples. One could hardly find a more open and more relevant forum of cultural exchange. Hanna Arie-Gaifman ACFNY Facts and figures: The Austrian Cultural Forum New York (ACFNY), is an agency of the Republic of Austria, and part of the Austrian Consulate General in New York. With its architectural landmark building in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, the Austrian Cultural Forum New York is the cultural embassy of Austria in the United States. It hosts more than 200 free events annually and showcases Austrian contemporary art, music, literature, and academic thought in New York. The Austrian Cultural Forum houses around 10,000 volumes in its state-of-the-art library, and enjoys long-standing and flourishing partnerships with many venerable cultural and academic institutions throughout New York and the United States. Located at: 11 East 52 Street, between Madison & 5th Avenues in Midtown Manhattan. Building Height: 278 feet, 26 floors (below grade 2, above grade 24). Building Width: 25 feet. Building Depth: 81 feet. First opened to the public: April 18, Number of surveillance cameras in the ACFNY building: 24. Number of people who visit the ACFNY per year: approx. 20,000. Average number of gallons of drinking water consumed at the ACFNY water dispensers per year: approx Number of airline tickets that the ACFNY organizes per year for artists, scholars and musicians traveling to New York: 156. Average number of pedestrians who walk past the ACFNY on any given weekday: approx. 4,000. Visits by location scouts who have considered the ACFNY as a film location and number of films actually shot here: 54/2. Number of permanent ACFNY employees: 11. Number of artists and scholars who have spent the night in the guest room since the ACFNY opened in 2002: 661. Average number of elevator rides per day at the ACFNY: 595. Number of stairs in the ACFNY building: 834. Number of exhibitions that have taken place at the ACFNY since its opening in 2002: 33. Number of electronic newsletters sent by the ACFNY Communications Department per year: approx. 70. Number of people who have completed an internship at the ACFNY since its opening in 2002: 291. Photo: Joshua-Bright The view from the 9th floor of the ACFNY. Photo: David Plakke 2 ACFNY

3 Philanthropist by Experience The Dietrich Botstiber Foundation does outstanding work in fostering relations between the United States and Austria and in fighting poverty thanks to a founder with an unusual life story. By Klaus Stimeder The Star Spangled Banner and Red-White- Red. Two countries which could not be more different in many respects, and seem so similar in many others. Not on the Mayflower (Xlibris) is the title of the Dietrich W. Botstiber biography published six years ago. His collaborator of many years, Terry Kline, wrote and designed the book, and its title is as programmatic as the flags that grace its cover. The Mayflower was the ship that, in 1620, brought hundreds of English Pilgrims to the New World, to which they fled from religious persecution in their old home. Botstiber arrived in America about three centuries later, because his life was in danger in the country where he was born and grew up. And this is where the parallels to the first European settlers end. Dietrich Botstiber came to the United States in His home country had become part of the German Reich; Hitler s henchmen with the diligent assistance of countless allies in the Ostmark had started persecuting Austria s Jews immediately after the Anschluss. Born in Vienna, Botstiber, who had just completed his master of science in engineering at the Technische Hochschule and whose family had until then been among the most wellrespected in the country s capital his father, Hugo, was the secretary general at the Wiener Konzerthausgesellschaft had to drop out of the doctoral program and leave the country practically overnight. An experience that would inform the rest of his life; one that did not make him bitter, but rather drove him to devote his life and work to sparing other people the same fate. The entrepreneur and inventor laid the foundation for this in his second life in the United States. Newly arrived, Botstiber eked out a living, at first in cigar manufacturing, in several engineering jobs, and in a helicopter company until he put his American Dream into practice by founding the Philadelphia-based Technical Development Company (TEDECO), which specialized in systems optimization and energy transfer in high speed networks, and was involved in consulting aviation companies. Rather than investing the fortune he made by selling TEDECO in the 1980s in castles, yachts, and jewelry, he used the money to establish a foundation, which in the USA is still unique in both its goals and its work not least because it still operates in the spirit of Dietrich Botstiber. Today, the Botstiber Foundation, founded in 1995, rests on three pillars: the Scholars Program, the Institute for Austrian-American Studies, and the Fund for Food Security. The Botstiber Scholars Program provides four-year undergraduate scholarships for study at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Established in 1865, the private university (4,700 students) ranks among the world s best in engineering, natural sciences, and technological research. His Legacy Continues The Foundation s second pillar is the Botstiber Institute for Austrian-American Studies (BIAAS), whose aim is to promote the relationship and mutual understanding between Austria and the United States. Its staff cooperates primarily with the Austrian Cultural Fora in New York and Washington D.C., the Center Austria at the University of New Orleans, and the Center for Austrian Studies at the University of Minnesota. (Once every year, the BIAAS hosts a series of talks in Washington D.C., with such luminary guest speakers as Wolfgang Petritsch, Othmar Karas, Alfred Gusenbauer, and Der Standard managing editor Eric Frey.) Concretely, the BIAAS and the Austrian-American Educational Commission jointly sponsor two Fulbright visiting professorships (currently, Germanist Primus Kucher from Klagenfurt is hosted by the University of Vermont, and the Californian musicologist Katherine Baber is teaching at the University of Vienna) and offer scholarships for academic projects in history, literature, economics, law, music, and translation studies. The third pillar, the Botstiber Fund for Food Security, works to reduce poverty and malnutrition. Its current focus is North Burma, where the Fund, in conjunction with the well-known NGO CARE, implements the Lashio Integrated Food Security Project, which aims to provide sustainable clean water and food supply systems in one of the poorest regions in the world. Dietrich Botstiber, who made all these programs possible, would have celebrated his 100th birthday last year. His legacy continues in every single student who, thanks to Botstiber s work, takes home the knowledge she gained in America, in every scientist who, thanks to Botstiber, is able to teach and do research in the United States, and in every child who will have enough food and water in the future. Find the Botstiber Foundation online: ACFNY 3

4 The ACFNY is a known force, a real player in the city From left: Agata Zubel, Markus Deuter, Gunde Jäch-Micko Cosmopolitan, Open-Minded, and Ready to Communicate Sven Hartberger, the director of Klangforum Wien, Austria's foremost contemporary ensemble, on the ACFNY's anniversary series. By Daniel Ender Photo: Hephzibah Druml Sven Hartberger Klangforum Wien has been accompanying the ACFNY since its opening in 2002, and has given several performances at the Needle over the past ten years. As the most important Austrian ensemble for New Music, they were also featured in the Forum s anniversary program, which offered substantial insight into the status of contemporary music. Daniel Ender spoke with Klangforum s director, Sven Hartberger, about the special atmosphere in the Big Apple and the ensemble s enthusiastic forays across geographical borders and towards new stylistic frontiers. The assortment of concerts, with which the ACFNY celebrated its ten-year anniversary musically, was extremely well-selected. Ten concerts between February and October, 2012, with U.S. and Austrian ensembles, and with contemporary music as the central focus. Prominent premieres and debut performances as well as essential works of musical modernism by composers such as Roman Haubenstock- Ramati, György Kurtág, and Salvatore Sciarrino got their turn as much as two Austrian composers who were forced to flee their country from the Nazis, and found new things to do and, at times, new joy in America: Erich (Eric) Zeisl and Erich Wolfgang Korngold. A total of six world premieres were commissioned for 4 ACFNY

5 the initial curiosity was no flash in the pan Photos: David Plakke Vera Fischer, Andreas Lindenbaum. the anniversary series: Kurt Schwertsik wrote a new piece for the aron quartett, Bernhard Lang for the Argento Chamber Ensemble, Clemens Gadenstätter for the JACK Quartet, Manuela Kerer for the Hugo Wolf Quartet, Thomas Larcher for cellist Nicolas Altstaedt and Nicolas Dautricourt, and Agata Zubel for Klangforum Wien. While Talea Ensemble and the International Contemporary Ensemble devoted their efforts wholly to contemporary Austrian music, Klangforum Wien built bridges from Austria into the world in its programming with compositions by Zubel, Haubenstock-Ramati, Kurtág, Sciarrino, and others. A move which befits the most important Austrian ensemble for New Music, whose musicians are deeply rooted in the Wiener Moderne and have, among other things, continued to give outstanding performances of music by the Viennese School, including works by Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern, and Alban Berg. Apart from considering, as they might be expected to do, current musical trends, Klangforum is keeping a sharp eye on the international scene. And although the ensemble always includes current Austrian approaches to music in its concerts abroad and thus helps shape the perception of Austria as a country of music in a considerable way, it also tends to turn inward for reflection. An argument for this can be found, for instance, in the ensemble s current season program in Vienna, where it is posing the question of globalization in New Music and that of the particularities of individual countries. The man at the helm of Klangforum has a personal relationship with New York and the ACFNY. His name is Sven Hartberger; he was born in Vienna in 1958 and studied law and philosophy. He was the director of the Wiener Operntheater until 1999 and has served as the director of Klangforum ever since. Let s assume you were in New York and had an entire day to yourself. Where would you go? Hartberger: To the Austrian Cultural Forum at 52nd Street, because they often show exhibitions that are among the best and politically and aesthetically most interesting in the city. To Central Park to catch some fresh air, to the Loeb Boathouse for lunch, to MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) and, at night, to Le Poisson Rouge, which offers the most refreshing musical mix in town. How would you personally describe the sound of the city? Hartberger: It varies, depending on the place, time, and weather but, in all, surprisingly calm and laid-back. Klangforum Wien has given concerts for both the ACFNY s opening and its ten-year anniversary. How did you experience the beginning of this institution, and what has changed in between? Hartberger: Only someone who has had the opportunity to accompany and follow the ACFNY s work on a continual basis could give a serious answer to that question. Unfortunately, I did not have that privilege. However, what I can tell you is what seems to me surprisingly enough to have remained the same over the years: the relevance and reputation that the cultural life of the city affords the ACFNY on 52nd Street. It did not really surprise me at the opening. The Needle was a new architectural landmark, and its novelty in and of itself was attractive enough to have the public and the media take notice. In the years to follow, I realized during my repeated visits that the initial curiosity was no flash in the pan. The ACFNY is a known force, a real player in the city. This is remarkable and attests to the great achievements of the people who have worked there over the years. All the more so if you know how limited the financial means are with which they make miracles happen something they succeed at time and again. How would you describe the atmosphere at the ACFNY; what do you personally appreciate about it? Hartberger: Bustling. A constant coming and going, a place that is cosmopolitan, open-minded, and ready to communicate. I particularly appreciate the diversity of its activities this ability to provide a space for such an enormous range of artistic talent. The ACFNY is not a Jack of three trades, but a Jack of fifty trades! How do you choose the concert programs of the Klangforum Wien? Do you accentuate different things in New York than you would in European performances? Hartberger: In our programs we wish to show Austria as a cosmopolitan country that is ready to learn and to exchange ideas, where people live who are interested in others and who are ready to accept and to learn new things, but who also have something to give in return. This is no different in New York than anywhere else. And the ACFNY is a good place for loosely subject-oriented programs. Though Austrian Cultural Fora are financed by Austrian taxpayers, the programs that are presented are not limited to showing Austrian art by Austrian artists. Klangforum is based in Vienna, but aims to be international with its repertoire and its concert activities. What role do New York and the United States play in contemporary music? Hartberger: New York and the United States play an incredibly important role in contemporary music. Just think of Minimal Music and Bang on a Can. However, the aesthetic, sonic, and musical interests of Klangforum Wien lie elsewhere and are very much shaped by Europe. I believe that American music culture hardly needs Klangforum Wien to help it spread throughout the world. Also, audiences in New York are, for obvious reasons, not interested in how the ensemble might interpret American music, but are, of course, interested in current European trends, which are by no means overrepresented in the Big Apple a city that is surprisingly conservative, by the way. ACFNY 5

6 CHRA a.k.a. Christina Nemec Dorian Concept Wolfgang Mitterer Bernhard Fleischmann 6 ACFNY

7 Photos: Comfortzone; Claudia Schabata; wm.com ; Morr Music New Yorkers Know What to Expect Austrian electronic music is slowly but surely gathering followers in the city, even though the competition is huge. By Martina Laab A As part of its tenth anniversary programming, and to cover a wide range of musical creation and performance, the Austrian Cultural Forum invited a number of Austrian electronic music artists to participate in a concert series supported by the Austrian Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture. It was the continuation of a longstanding tradition: After all, the Cultural Forum had celebrated its opening in 2002 with the electronic music festival Moving Patterns. When we began planning for the anniversary year 2012, it soon became clear that, along with our ten-year concert series with commissioned compositions from the contemporary classical genre, we also wanted to feature electronic music in our program, as it has been an integral part of the Austrian music scene, and an important export item, since the 1990s. We invited CHRA (a.k.a. Christina Nemec) and Irridiation. Wolfgang Mitterer, a prominent Austrian composer and musician working at the interface between composition and improvisation, joined the series, as did Dorian Concept, an important representative of the young generation. In addition, we commissioned Rupert Huber and Bernhard Fleischmann to create anniversary compositions for the Forum. To most Americans, Austrian music is synonymous with classical music or The Sound of Music, and this is exactly where Cultural Fora around the world come in. Over the years, the ACFNY has garnered a reputation for contemporary classical music and electronic music in the New York scene. Many Austrian artists have presented their work here: Olga Neuwirth, Georg Friedrich Haas, Bernhard Lang, as well as Christian Fennesz, Gustav, Elektro Guzzi, and Patrick Pulsinger, only to name a few. Quite often, a review in The New York Times followed. The ACFNY manages to reach genre-specific audiences who know what to expect. The Foreign Ministry which the Cultural Forum belongs to in cooperation with mica (Music Information Centre Austria), has launched a project titled New Austrian Sound of Music. The annual booklet offers a kind of pre-selection for Cultural Fora, and presents three or four artists or ensembles per genre that were selected by an expert advisory board. This is a good point of departure for the curatorial process, especially since we always strive to create a balanced and diverse program. Audiences in New York are generally very curious, but there is a great deal of competition. Your content has to be exciting and relevant, tackle current events and you have to promote it accordingly. The Austrian Cultural Forum does succeed at this quite well. Audiences are quite willing to try new things and new locations, but they do return for concerts in a given series if they particularly enjoyed the previous offering. The concerts at the ACFNY take place in a very intimate setting. People can chat with the artists before and after the shows, at small receptions, for instance, where audiences and artists get to meet. We frequently witness some very moving encounters. A few ACFNY regulars are Austrian Jews who had to flee from the Nazis as teenagers; some of them survived concentration camps. Encountering them is often both shocking and awe-inspiring for young Austrian musicians, first and foremost because the survivors have such a positive attitude and so much zest for life. Ultimately, the ACFNY can only provide impulses the first concert in New York! ; but it cannot provide artists with a guarantee that they will return to New York on a regular basis. The artists have to build their own reputation. Quite often, we host concerts which do not take place at the Cultural Forum, but in cooperation with clubs or concert halls of larger venues. This always helps reach new audiences. Austrian pop music is certainly underrepresented in New York, although this has changed in recent years, with performances by Gustav, Bensh, Teresa Rotschopf, and Soap&Skin. We try to book most of these acts in local clubs. Both the supply and the artistic quality of pop acts in New York are so enormous that it is difficult for Austrian musicians in this particular genre to be acknowledged or even noticed. Dorian Concept, for instance, corresponds to the American idea of an electronic musician. His music is beat-heavy, fast, and danceable, and he has already played a number of shows in New York. Bernhard Fleischmann is also no stranger to New York, but he is often associated with the music of the late 1990s, when his performances in the city were more frequent. Before his guest performance at the ACFNY, Fleischmann played an additional show at the Knitting Factory, which is an accomplishment in and of itself, since such venues rarely take the risk to bet on European artists. But that is exactly what is slowly but surely changing. Martina Laab was the Head of Music Programming at the Austrian Cultural Forum New York for two years. ACFNY 7

8 Against the Specialist The Austrian Cultural Forum dedicated an exhibition of contemporary art to the legacy of the composer and multidisciplinarian artist Arnold Schoenberg. By Mark Rifkin Photos by David Plakke In 2003/2004, the Jewish Museum hosted the revelatory exhibition Schoenberg, Kandinsky, and the Blue Rider, which, among others, cast legendary Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg ( ) as a multidisciplinary experimental artist and theoretician. His work and philosophy have had a profound impact on several generations, including the artists featured in the splendid exhibit Against the Specialist: Contemporary References to Arnold Schoenberg in Image and Sound, which ran at the Austrian Cultural Forum through January 6. The show is accompanied by a free newspaper filled with quotes from the eminently quotable Schoenberg, including this beauty: That which is new and unusual about a new harmony occurs to the true composer only for such reasons: he must give expression to something that moves him, something new, something previously unheard of. His successors, who continue working with it, think of it as merely a new sound, a technical device; but it is far more than that: a new sound is a symbol, discovered involuntarily, a symbol proclaiming the new man who so asserts his individuality. Against the Specialist features numerous works by contemporary artists that combine sound and image in ways directly and indirectly referencing Schoenberg, who wrote in 1940, I am opposed to the specialist. Robert Howsare s Drawing Apparatus features pieces of wood connected at one end to two spinning records and the other to a pen that creates a colorful drawing based on movement. The duo known as Depart (Leonhard Lass and Gregor Ladenhauf) have created the two-channel video installation Cloud Chamber Diaries, in which the viewer stands between two vertical monitors that are almost but not quite mirror images of themselves, as a scientist in a painted face attempts to make and control cloud formations (inspired by Schoenberg s War-Clouds Diary ). Kurt Kren s 11/65 Bild Helga Philipp is a silent black-and-white video that plays with optical illusions from an Op art work by Helga Philipp, while Vergence Framed combines colorful projections by Tina Frank with experimental sound by Florian Hecker. Rainer Kohlberger s video Col uses deliberate randomness in creating an endless visual loop based on Schoenberg s Five Pieces for Orchestra Op. 16. And in the lower level, Gerald Moser s immersive a question of space a time to question consists of light projections on ten thousand square feet of nylon string hanging from the ceiling in the darkness, as an eerie soundtrack plays; visitors are encouraged to carefully walk through the installation and lie down on the floor, where the images both comfort and energize, at times making it feel as if you ve just shifted into warp speed and are roaming through space. Nothing in culture is definitive; everything is just a preparation for a higher stage of development, Schoenberg wrote, for a future which at the moment can only be imagined, conjectured. Some of the imagined, conjectured future, influenced by one of the world s most eclectic and influential composers, can be found at the Austrian Cultural Forum as another new year arrives. This article originally appeared in This Week in New York ( on December 26, 2012 Behind Tina Frank's piece, "Vergence Framed" Curator Eva Fischer... Gerald Moser's installation "A question of space a time to question" On Schoenberg s interdisciplinarianism: Schoenberg was interested in multimedia, in this way of thinking in different directions. He said he drew and painted so much because he was mainly interested in the fact that different emotionalities can be portrayed in different media and different contexts. An image, for instance, can be absorbed much faster you can understand it within seconds. On collaborative efforts within the show: I was mainly interested in showing that audiovisual art frequently occurs in the collective, that it isn t so much the individual artist at work anymore. This is an exciting approach: that everyone in the collective is in their own way a specialist, but, as far as the final product is concerned, the collective reigns supreme. On working with the ACFNY: We were lucky enough to work with several Cultural Fora, which I think is really important. Of course it is not the MoMA. But for its scale, the Cultural Forum can do a great deal of intermediary work. What is particularly important to me as a curator, and also for the sound:frame Festival, is that it provides opportunities for networking. I discovered two acts in New York that I have since invited to come to Vienna for our festival. An exhibition visitor viewing the double-screen installation by DEPART, "Cloud Chamber Diaries" 8 ACFNY

9 Winning Hearts A conference about the tasks of modern cultural diplomacy. By Michael Freund Exhibition visitors with Tina Frank's "Vergence framed" Robert Howsare's piece, "Drawing Apparatus" Top to bottom: Maria-Regina Kecht, Michael Rössner, Franz-Otto Hofecker, Wolfgang Petritsch, Monika Mokre. Photos: Rudolf Handl Diplomacy is the professionally organized search for peaceful compromise. Arts and culture, on the other hand, ought to be radical, to strike a nerve, to be uncompromising. How, then, are we to understand cultural diplomacy? Wolfgang Petritsch, a longtime diplomat (currently working for the OECD in Paris) and chair of the European Cultural Foundation, asked this question in a conference in Vienna last November, a conference which attempted to reconcile the two fields, at least in its title: Cultural Diplomacy Today. It was to find a middle ground between representation, soft power, and transversal networks, as its subtitle prescribed. Institutions that directly or indirectly, academically or practically dealt with cultural exchanges, organized the conference: the University of Music and Performing Arts, which also accommodated the conference, the University of Applied Arts, the Academy of Sciences and its Institute of Culture Studies and Theatre History, and Webster University Vienna. The Austrian Cultural Forum New York served as a point of departure and case study for the conference. As a department of the Austrian Foreign Ministry, the Forum was not directly affiliated with any of the organizers. Its challenging programming, its nevertheless considerable media response and audience, and the question, what an official agency is allowed to do and has to do all these items were up for discussion, as the conference announcement stated. Such an agency should be able and allowed to do a great deal much more, for one, than officials might allow; that was the consensus among participants such as Eva Fischer, the curator of sound:frame, and art professor Barbara Putz- Plecko. At the same time, this publicly and handsomely financed work is seen as a soft power, as a continuation of strong politics with gentle means. As Lonnie Johnson, Director of the Fulbright Commission, put it: it ought to capture the hearts and minds of people. If and how this will take place, depends on various factors. Whose hearts does one want to capture? Does one act in the name of the Republic, as a reservoir of diverging local initiative, or as part of the European Union? What is the cultural climate one encounters in the host country? How much money is available? In response to the last two questions, Webster University s Maria-Regina Kecht recounted a development in the United States: Opening the labor market for Eastern European countries and the new opportunities this created led to a reduction of Goethe-Institutes in America and as a consequence, interest in all things German waned considerably. Needless to say, these kinds of changes also affect the Austrian Cultural Forum New York, which is already in constant and seemingly hopeless competition with other venues in the media and cultural metropolis that is New York. ACFNY director Andreas Stadler, who joined the discussion via Skype, emphasized that only unusual topics stood a chance of being noticed. That is why, over the past few years, he has increasingly addressed civil society issues. Ideally, diplomacy ought to serve culture, and not the other way around. Pius Knüsel had a similar opinion. As the longtime director of the Swiss foundation Pro Helvetia, Knüsel was in a comparable position. He also focused on collaborations with other organizers and on how to use the notoriously scarce financial means to achieve the maximum effect. He asked the Austrian participants whether their Cultural Forum in New York would not be better served in a different location than in Midtown, Manhattan s commercial center. The ACFNY s director, however, saw no reason to tamper with the location, which had been carved in stone many decades ago with a propitious real estate purchase. Besides, he also needed to make do with a smaller budget. At least Knüsel s interjection showed what might still be left to consider, if one were to think about cultural diplomacy in a more radical fashion. For instance: whether diplomats are really the best representatives for this job, or whether it should be carried out by people with a professional cultural background. This suggestion seemed too radical for some participants. Moving from representation to putting cultural achievement itself at the center with the media occupying a critical role as ambivalent actors and transmission belt, amplifiers and influential agents in one : these were the words with which Petritsch was able to sum up the conference with relatively broad consensus. Then again, everyone agreed that this discussion was far from over. ACFNY 9

10 Lenin for Bankers The exhibition It s the Political Economy, Stupid at the ACFNY Von Andrea Heinz Guests at the exhibition opening participate in Rainer Prohaska's performance "Kitchen on Every Floor" Photo: David Plakke The Recipe Dictates the Space For the exhibition opening of Our Haus at the ACFNY, Austrian artist Rainer Prohaska s performance Kitchen on Every Floor made for some unusual catering: Visitors cooked their meals at workstations set up all over the gallery. By Andrea Heinz The cooking performance you staged for the ACFNY s anniversary exhibition has existed for quite some time. How did this project come about? Prohaska: Its impetus was actually the Theory of Interpassivity developed by Robert Pfaller and others. Back in the day, there was a veritable hype surrounding video recorders, and Pfaller found that people taped an incredible amount of TV shows without ever watching them, having the VCR essentially watch the show or movie for them. And there are similarities to cooking? Prohaska: Cooking is booming right now; a massive amount of cookbooks are being published, there are countless cooking shows and, at the same time, studies show that people are increasingly forgetting how to cook. They believe that if they consume cooking shows or cookbooks, the know-how will somehow transfer to them. They overlook that one actually has to cook in order for this to work. And that is why you get people to cook again with your performance? Prohaska: There are many installations, images, or actions in art which aim to criticize. But that s exactly what my project doesn t want to do. Much rather, it wants to create an alternative. I want to put people back in the kitchen and wish to get as many of them as possible involved in the cooking process again. That s why you distribute the individual steps across the gallery space like an assembly line? Prohaska: I am interested in the idea of interaction, of a social platform. Furthermore, by fragmenting the recipe into small, simple steps and by customizing the individual work stations, it is as if the recipe dictated the space. If you change the recipe, the installation would be completely different. Which recipes did you have the ACFNY cook? Prohaska: We made Liptauer cheese and Pas,a Mezze. Liptauer is a typical Austrian dish; you won t get it in North America. The Mezze requires many of the same ingredients, but it s Turkish a culture that has a strong presence in Central Europe. After all, you can only separate Vienna from Turkish culture if you turn a blind eye. I find it absolutely fascinating, especially in terms of cuisine. What role did the building of the ACFNY play in the performance? Prohaska: When you enter the building of the ACFNY, you are overwhelmed by its extreme architecture, its narrowness and the height of its rooms. My installation embraced this architecture; I designed it especially for these rooms. I like doing that, especially when the spaces are that demanding. So you particularly like this Haus? Prohaska: What 95% of all artists find appalling, I find extremely cool, because I like to experiment a great deal with interior architecture. Apart from this, the ACFNY is just a great place for communication. It s an institution many people in New York are familiar with. Your food performance was a big success at the opening. What do you think excites people about it? Prohaska: Well, I myself don t just make art, I also like looking at it. And I am often bored. I don t believe that art has to measure up to the whole entertainment culture, but I do think that many artists could make more of an effort to approach their audience instead of just letting it stand there. What I managed to do here, I think, is to convey a sense of fun using a very simple setting. The feeling I have when I go someplace and really enjoy myself I want people to have that same feeling with my performance. Money is like a fish. At some point the fish grows legs, steps out of the water, and, eventually, says about himself: I think, therefore I am. This is the crude comparison which the employees of an investment bank come up with in Melanie Gilligan s four-part drama series, Crisis in the Credit System. Their firm has instructed them to find strategies for dealing with the precarious economic situation with the help of role-play and brainstorming exercises in a picturesque rural retreat. The television drama aired in 2008, two weeks after the collapse of Lehman Brothers. According to Gilligan, everybody could have known that the financial crisis was imminent. At least it seemed as if the artists who, along with Gilligan, showed their work in the spring of 2012 in the ACFNY s exhibition It s the Political Economy, Stupid, saw the danger coming. Virtually all the pieces, which take a critical, mostly actionist and performative approach to corporate finance, came about before the Occupy Wall Street movement. It is hard to overlook a certain ideological kinship with this new protest culture in the works selected by the Austrian American curatorial duo of Oliver Ressler and Gregory Sholette. The video Money to Burn, for instance, shows the U.S.- performance artist Dread Scott burning a dollar bill in front of the New York Stock Exchange. In June, 2010, he wanted this performance to raise awareness of the bizarre excesses of the financial system. Some stock brokers seemed to have missed the point. Scott states that one of them said, This guy is burning money! They should arrest him! The artists Yevgeniy Fiks, Olga Kopenkina, and Alexandra Lerman made even more direct contact with Wall Street bankers: They discussed texts by Lenin with them in a reading group ( Reading Lenin with Corporations, 2011/2012). The Spanish collective, flo6x8, takes a more physical approach to the subject: They storm the cash offices of banks on a regular basis to stage and candidly film flamenco-dancing flashmobs ( Body Versus Capital, 2011). Videos dominated the exhibition, since video lends itself to presenting complex connections in an adequate manner. Isa Rosenberger, for instance, showed the link between war, destruction, and capital in a performance documented in film and photography and alluding to performative role models of the 1930s. Other approaches were shown as well. The Austrian artist Linda Bilda tackled greed, competition, and corruption in the financial world in her mural, The Future and End of the Golden World (2011). In it, a wolf dressed in a checkered suit says to a young woman, Modern Architecture is a wonderful thing, and thinks: It will make me rich. The Aaron Burr Society distributed altered Dollar bills in a performance at the exhibition opening. Photo: David Plakke 10 ACFNY

11 Displaced and Returned The book and the interactive application heim.at.home introduce readers to New York Holocaust survivors and their memories. By Diana Gregor Photos by David Plakke Kurt Sonnenfeld, photographed in his home in Forest Hills, Queens. Among his many activities, Mr. Sonnenfeld is a protagonist of the weekly "Stammtisch" where he often prepares his famous "Palatschinken ". Hans Weiss, also known as Hawei, on the rooftop of the apartment building he has lived in for many years, overlooking Central Park. Mr. Weiss regularly volunteers at the Park information booth across the street. Renée Wiener and Gerda Lederer at Mrs. Lederer's home in White Plains, New York. Mrs. Wiener often makes the long trip from Great Neck, Long Island, to visit her friend of many years. Author Diana Gregor with Walter Feiden, in the kitchen of his apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens. Mr. Feiden survived three concentration camps, and the Lodz ghetto in Poland. Like Mr. Sonnenfeld, he is also frequently to be found in the audience at ACFNY events. His regular seat is the front row aisle seat. Always armed with the latest issue of The New York Times and his oversized glasses. It takes him about 45 minutes to get from Queens to Midtown Manhattan. And yet, he is always there. For every single event, whatever the weather. Front row aisle seat. That is Kurt Sonnenfeld s seat. Kurt Sonnenfeld is 86 years old and a personality to whom the attribute extraordinary definitely applies. He is an exceptional networker, a loveable Jack of all trades. The aisle seat in the front row is located in the auditorium of the Austrian Cultural Forum New York. And that is exactly where our friendship began and the idea for the project heim.at.home had its origin. Sonnenfeld and I couldn t be more different not least because of our age difference. And yet, something The German storyteller Jean Paul once said, "Memory is the only Paradise we cannot be displaced from." essential connects us: we are Jews. One commonality sharpens our awareness in a way which shakes the core of our Jewish being unlike anything else: the Holocaust. Horror, darkness, empty souls the greatest of all crimes. Kurt Sonnenfeld did not wish to be silent about it. He wished to share his experiences of humiliation, persecution, dehumanization, disappropriation, and displacement. And I, being the same age as his grandchildren, wanted to process what he told me. That is how the project heim.at.home came about. Sonnenfeld has been living in New York for more than sixty years. He eats American food, dreams in English, and is a New York Mets fan. And still, this enthusiastic conversationalist with an eternally positive attitude has remained an Austrian. Not only according to his recently reissued document of citizenship, but in the core of his heart. I m Kurt from Brigittenau. When he introduced himself to me with these words in 2010, one thing was clear: here is a real Viennese man in New York. The more stories and anecdotes he told me about his former home, the greater his treasure trove of memories seemed to become. No bitterness there. These were simply words of love, of dedication, and of goodwill, with which Kurt Sonnenfeld reminisces. The German storyteller Jean Paul once said, Memory is the only Paradise we cannot be displaced from. Kurt Sonnenfeld s retrospection is proof of the truth that underlies this thought. Without the love for his home, Sonnenfeld would not be at home anywhere. He never closed the door to his origin; he left it wide open. He took them with him, all these images and childhood experiences wrapped up tightly. In order to fill them gently unfurled with new life and passion from afar. Apart from Kurt Sonnenfeld, heim.at.home introduces nine other Austrian Holocaust survivors who live in New York. But this project was not only about preserving memories. heim.at.home is a project which for the first time uses a variety of media to cover this topic using the entire range of modern communication. As mobile apps are the most attractive media format today and the subject of the Holocaust has never before been approached in this way, this digital tool provides an ideal opportunity to raise awareness. This is why the project offers apps for ios and Android devices, available for free download through the respective online portals. The app, developed in English and German and in close collaboration with the agency NOUS, includes essays, short videos and interviews as well as interactive maps to retrace the journeys of the Holocaust survivors. In addition, heim. at.home has been released as a book that portrays the protagonists with words and with the help of tender images by New York-based photographer David Plakke. The book was published in September 2012 by Metroverlag and is also available in German and English. More information is available at heimathome.com ACFNY 11

12 Soldate Jeannette Independent Film in the Rocky Mountain Winter Sun This year, the Austrian feature Soldate Jeannette made it into the acclaimed Sundance Film Festival. By Andreas Stadler Each year in mid-january, the international and American film world convenes at the 10-day Sundance Festival in the mostly sunny, but icy cold and snow-frozen Park City, near the Mormon town of Salt Lake City, Utah. For the first time in a very long while, an Austrian film competed, in the category World Cinema Dramatic Competition. Soldate Jeannette, Daniel Hoesl s feature-length debut, was able to stand its ground in the preselection process against hundreds of competitors in this, the most important independent film festival, founded by Robert Redford in Each year, a team of programming associates screens, evaluates, selects, and ranks a total of 12,000 films. Ultimately, only twelve international films are shown. The programming process takes months and this year, The New York Times published an article about all those who remained in the Salon des Refusées. Soldate Jeannette, tells the story of two strong women whose paths cross on a rural Austrian farm at a time when both of them want something new out of their lives. The film is less about the story than it is about the impressive images which Gerald Kerkletz captured of Johanna Orsini-Rosenberg and Christina Reichsthaler, from the forest, the darkness, and the landscape, to the abrupt slaughter of a cow. Critics also praised the way the film plays with silences as well as its long takes and Bettina Köster and Gustav s wonderful music. This antimaterialist cinematic punk poem created by the European Film Conspiracy as the production team, led by Katharina Posch, calls itself earned both the approval of trade audiences as well as that of what appeared to be non-cineastes, sitting in the theater with their cowboy hats on. In a Q&A session after a screening, for instance, one woman wanted to know whether the various Euro bills the main character burns also produce various degrees of heat. Scoring with Contemporary Art Austrian Cultural Fora are vital to showing the world what an innovative, creative, and vibrant country Austria is today By Michael Spindelegger Andreas Stadler and Michael Spindelegger at the ACFNY. Photo: ACFNY The origins of the Austrian Cultural Forum New York go back to a group of Austrian refugees including writer Mimi Grossberg, pianist Paul Wittgenstein, former Federal Minister Guido Zernatto, and writer Irene Harand, a Catholic champion against anti-semitism and National Socialism. In 1942, at a time when Austria did not exist on the political map, they founded the Austrian Institute. The mission of today s Austrian Cultural Forum New York has changed and developed over the years. This former meeting place for Austrian emigrants, where arts and culture played a major role as a matter of course, has turned into a place of encounters and for representing a modern European nation. Particularly contemporary arts and sciences are presented to an American audience, and young creative Austrians are given the opportunity to venture into the American (cultural) market. Mozart, Mahler, Freud, Klimt, and Zweig are Austria s poster children in the United States. As mainstays of world culture, they generally do not require promotion from Austria. Our mission is to show that our country produces extraordinary artists, intellectuals, and scientists to this day. Hailed as an architectural masterpiece, the Austrian Cultural Forum in the heart of New York City provides the ideal conditions for this enterprise. The exterior of the spectacular building designed by Raimund Abraham, who died in 2010, promises innovative and exciting cultural debate and delivers on its promise on the inside: in the form of acclaimed and inspiring exhibitions, concerts, premieres, performances, conferences, and readings, where we present our foremost talent in the American cultural metropolis. An important part of this work is, of course, networking and collaborating with local cultural and academic institutions. The projects and contacts that result from these efforts contribute to successful cultural work, rendering ideas into projects that emit positive social impulses. Innovative, creative, and incredibly vibrant, Austria continues to develop its reputation as a cultural nation in New York as well as in the 29 other Austrian Cultural Fora in the global network of Austrian culture abroad. 12 ACFNY

13 "An Island in New York" Born in Russia in 1970, the Austrian writer Julya Rabinowich was invited by the ACFNY in 2012 to participate in the PEN World Voices Festival, where the author took part in a panel discussion about Reviewing Translations. By Andrea Heinz Was the PEN World Voices Festival a literary festival like any other to you, or was it a special experience? Rabinowich: Based on its intensity and size alone, this festival was something quite unique. So many great authors had been invited. After all, it is not every day that you hear someone like Salman Rushdie speak. It is important for writers to create new networks, to find inspiration. The festival provided so many different points of view and, at the same time, so much common ground. You are a translator and participated in the panel discussion about Reviewing Translations. That must have been doubly exciting for you! Rabinowich: I felt as if I was part of both sides. Critics, translators, and writers sharing the stage and even the people in the audience got very involved, as most of them were translators themselves. Compared to European audiences, how was this one different? Rabinowich: The visitors were very open and involved in a way I rarely see in Vienna. When they felt they had something to say, they usually had something really substantial to contribute! I wasn t used to that, since here in Austria, people mostly react like deer in the headlights, whereas in New York, they were more like car-crushing killer-deer in the headlights. Did you witness any other such clear cultural differences? Rabinowich: I also encountered the American Way of Life in a negative sense. The event organizer let you know in no uncertain terms if he thought you were important or unimportant. There was one person who was really important and had a rather humble approach to everything. It was embarrassing that she was not treated accordingly based simply on her behavior, which made people think she wasn t all that important. Although she was, in fact, a superstar. How would you compare this to your experiences at the Austrian Cultural Forum New York? Rabinowich: I want to go back there! The entire building has such a nice ambience, a very particular atmosphere that I appreciate tremendously. It is sort of in-between; a kind of island in New York which is not to say, an Austrian island. Much rather, it is a place where two pieces of a puzzle interlock, linking the cultural life of New York with that of Austria. In its own way, it provides a unique opportunity for Austrian artists particularly the young ones, who are not yet well-known to venture out on a cultural exchange. Julya Rabinowich Photo: Margit Marnul Ten Films for Ten Years For its ten year anniversary, the Austrian Cultural Forum New York showed ten Austrian films released between 2002 and By Barbara Pichler In the last few years, Austrian cinema has enjoyed extraordinary international success. As a festival of Austrian cinema, Diagonale is frequently asked to introduce films and to provide an overview of domestic cinema. We see ourselves as a platform for Austrian cinema not only during the festival week, but throughout the year, be it via domestic events or with a number of partners abroad. Diagonale and Anthology Film Archives New York were asked by the Austrian Cultural Forum to collaborate and offer a selection which would connect our own perception of Austrian cinema with an outside perspective. Anthology Film Archives was a perfect partner for this project. Conceived as a center for the preservation, study, and exhibition of film and video in 1969, the Archives are a place where film is taken seriously and regarded as an artform. There were other links: Peter Kubelka, a prominent figure who helped shape Austrian avantgarde cinema, was a co-founder of the Archives, and Raimund Abraham was not only the architect of the ACFNY, but also designed the current home of the Anthology Film Archives at the Second Avenue Courthouse, which opened in We did not want to assemble the film series according to the conventional patterns of a top-ten list, which have always seemed dubious to us in their canonical approach. Instead, we saw it as a dialogue and, despite the unavoidable incompleteness, as an attempt to emphasize important moments and defining attitudes of Austrian film between 2002 and Upon the ACFNY s suggestion, we narrowed our selection down by limiting ourselves to feature films which had already been shown in the United States, either in theaters or at festivals. Despite this specification, we still had a rather expansive list of about 100 titles to work with, which attests to the enormous international perception of Austrian film. The explicit stances of auteur cinema were to stand on equal footing with documentary features, various formal and aesthetic forms of expression had to be represented as much as experimental films, which play such an important role in cinema. The first step was thus to condense the list of titles to 30 a task that fell to Diagonale and to subsequently have it cut in half by the two curators, Jed Rapfogel and John Mhiripiri. All films and the series overall concept were discussed again via and in personal meetings, before the Anthology Film Archives made the final selection. At the end of this highly interesting discursive process were ten extraordinary films, each of which spoke for itself, but, at the same time, provided an impression of how diverse Austrian cinema can be and how many possibilities of cinematic story-telling there are: 1. Film Ist (Gustav Deutsch, 2002), 2. Wolff von Amerongen: Did He Commit Bankruptcy Offences? (Gerhard Friedl, 2004), 3. Babooska (Tizza Covi & Rainer Frimmel, 2005), 4. Our Daily Bread (Nikolaus Geyrhalter, 2005), 5. Workingman s Death (Michael Glawogger, 2005), 6. Zorros Bar Mizwa (Ruth Beckermann, 2006), 7. Import/Export (Ulrich Seidl, 2007), 8. Revanche (Götz Spielmann, 2008), 9. White Ribbon (Michael Haneke, 2009), 10. Lourdes (Jessica Hausner, 2009) ACFNY 13

14 snapshots Photos: : David Plakke (3, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 16), Tom Pryor (7), Anna Mautner-Markhof (4, 12), Katharina Roehle (6), Marlene Rutzendorfer (1), Claudia Schabata (2), Julia Bonomeo (15), ACFNY (5, 14) 1. Actor John Malkovich visits the ACFNY's "Beauty Contest" exhibition. 2. Actor Karl Markovics with Fellows of the ACFNY Student Advisory Board. 3. The Jewish Museum's chief curator, Norman Kleeblatt, with Andreas Stadler. 4. G.rizo and Patrick Pulsinger perform at Santos' Party House. 5. Singer Harald Serafin with ACFNY interns. 6. Composers Bernhard Lang, George Lewis, and Bernhard Gander. 7. Attwenger, aka Markus Binder and Hans-Peter Falkner perform at the 2012 SXSW in Austin, Texas. 8. Nobel laureate Eric Kandel and Austrian President Heinz Fischer at a ceremony at the ACFNY. 9. Austrian Chef Edi Fraueneder at a special ACFNY event. 10. Eric Kandel and the First Lady of Austria, Margit Fischer. 11. President Heinz Fischer visits the exhibition "Against the Specialist". 12. Patrick Pulsinger and Teresa Rotschof. 13. Austrian Minister for Education, the Arts and Culture, Claudia Schmied, at the opening of "Our Haus." 14. Photographer David Plakke and composer/musician John Zorn. 15. Producer Eric Pleskow and Journalist Ari Rath. 16. Curator Oliver Ressler and Barbara Prammer at the opening of "It's the Political Economy, Stupid." 14 ACFNY

15 Photo: Sara L Gamarro From left: Vince Vincent (Kaiser Overall), Brian Downen (Harlekin), Elspeth Davis (Der Trommler) These Performances Give You Courage Austrian director Markus Kupferblum helms a new New York City-production of the opera The Emperor of Atlantis (Der Kaiser von Atlantis), written by Viktor Ullmann in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. A conversation about the creation and impact of this special opera. By Stefan Ender Rarely has a piece of musical theater been as influenced by its time and place of creation as Viktor Ullmann s The Emperor of Atlantis. What do you know about the conditions in which Ullmann had to work in Theresienstadt? Kupferblum: Although, as an inmate, he was forced to do physical labor, he still had time to compose. He wrote 23 pieces in Theresienstadt, three of them his major works. The artists there certainly gained strength from their work with him. I m certain he was further encouraged by the fact that he was able to do something for the other inmates, to give them hope and courage with these performances. Ullmann writes in his diary that he was able in Theresienstadt to work on his compositions without inhibition. Our will for culture was equal to our will to live. Kupferblum: Even when you ignore the story its creation, The Emperor of Atlantis is an outstanding work of art. The music echoes famous composers throughout history, and yet, it remains an independent piece. For me, it was important to emphasize its stylistic contrasts. The opera is fragmental; certain situations were left incomplete; they end abruptly. We amplified these passages with caesurae and silences, and brought them to their scenic conclusions. Death is inscribed into the work, as Ullmann wrote parts of it on the back of deportation records. Kupferblum: Harlekin has a line in the opera: People cannot laugh any longer, we are the living dead. And then Death comes along and sings in his aria: I am not pain, I am the redemption from pain. I am not terror, I am the redemption from terror. This is exactly what Viktor Ullmann and the other prisoners felt. Photo: Gianmaria Gava In his 1987 production at the Viennese Chamber Opera, George Tabori reconstructed the original preparations for the performance in Theresienstadt. You chose a different path why? Kupferblum: I think what Tabori did was great and important. But to repeat what has been done before, that wasn t my thing. I wanted to render a version of the piece for modern-day New York. To show the Dictator as Hitler or Gadaffi seemed too blatant. I wanted to show him as a human being who clings to power. My version s look is influenced by Steam Punk, an early form of Futurism which emerged at the end of the 19 th century, with industrialization coming to the fore. How would you describe the situation of opera in the United States? Kupferblum: If I may be cynical in my summary: Opera in the U.S. is run by 20 millionaires who, with their money and, ultimately, with the taxpayer s money, buy and pay for the operatic theater of their childhoods. In total, the U.S. does more to promote art than the European states, " I am not pain, I am the redemption from pain. This is exactly what Viktor Ullmann and the other prisoners felt." but they do so in an indirect fashion, with the tax-deductibility of sponsorship contributions. They delegate decisions over which kind of art is being made, to the country s superrich. Does the conservative nature of the great operatic theater rub off on the free groups in the USA? Kupferblum: I have the feeling that they just don t know any better. But Rebecca Greenstein of Opera Moderne, who produced The Emperor of Atlantis, is a brave and inquisitive woman. She delves into the genre and looks beyond US-borders for inspiration. You immediately notice this in her productions. And the singers are fantastic! Very able Julliard and Yale graduates, precise and quick. They all have their day jobs, come in at 7 PM, and rehearse with great commitment and concentration until 10 PM. Have you worked with the Austrian Cultural Forum New York prior to this project? Kupferblum: A year ago, I participated in a fireside chat about the future of opera. Seven people from the Metropolitan Opera were there, two from the New York City Opera, and concert managers and singers And I found myself in the unexpected role of the rambunctious rebel. Why? Kupferblum: I told them that I used to graft poems by Hertha Kräftner into La Traviata, and that I had Violetta die in the middle of the word Gioia. With this, the opera was done, no more final orchestra chords, nothing. The Met people were appalled! They asked me if I thought I was better than Verdi. ACFNY 15

16 Photo: David Plakke ACFNY is as much a forum for artistic exploration as it is a center for cultural advocacy. Citysearch THE AUSTRIAN CULTURAL Forum has published a series of catalogues documenting the exhibitions shown in its gallery space. Information on ordering and purchasing is available on the ACFNY's website. For more information, please visit 16 ACFNY

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