010210: Künstlerhaus Wien: Struggle for the city: politics, art and urban living around the 1930’s

Künstlerhaus Wien: Struggle for the city: politics, art and urban living around the 1930’s Interwar period: on the loss of the middle With the exhibition “Struggle for the city: politics, art and urban living around the 1930’s”, the director of the Wien Museum and curator of the show, Wolfgang Kos, attempts to illustrate the socio-political trends of this era. The exhibition tries to mediate the sensitivity and awareness of life of the 1920’s and 1930’s: urban Vienna and its illuminated advertisements, bars, and liberal scripts are set in contrast to the crude right-wing ideologies. Kos chose the year 1930 as a landmark, as it denotes the year in which Vienna was quasi seized by rightist conservative groups. To a large extent, and especially while exploring the sections on the top floor, the exhibition fails to deliver sufficient political facts. Vienna’s special status – federal province since 1921 and governed by Social Democrats, in contrast to the conservative Austrian state government - is merely mentioned. And one only learns about the polarisation and the increasing radicalisation - which is marked by setting fire to the Palace of Justice in 1927 - on a historic timetable positioned on the lower floor. On the day following the acquittal of the three Frontkämpfer (a paramilitary association affiliated with the conservatives), who had killed a child and a war-veteran in Schattendorf, Burgenland, socialist workers set fire to the Palace of Justice on July 15, 1927. As a result, Chancellor Seipel increased his authoritarian anti-socialist course with his Unity List. This was the beginning of the repression of left-wing groups, which eventually led to the civil war in February 1934 and its fatal consequences for Austrian democracy. One could wish for a stronger accentuation of these events and a more prominent positioning of the historic happenings in 1927. If one chooses to stick to 1930 as a landmark, one should at least mention that 1930 was the last year in which free elections were allowed - for a long time to come. Furthermore, the economic circumstances of the young republic, marred by immense inflation, supported by the Völkerbund (League of Nations), the world economic crisis in 1929, and the collapse of the banks, are all not accentuated strongly enough in the exhibit. After all, these facts formed the economic basis for the socio-political developments that followed. Works by artists of the Nötscher Kreis, Boeckl, or by Otto Rudolf Schatz, a fervent Social Democrat, with his idyllic images of life at Vienna’s amusement park, the Prater, are displayed on the lower floor. And there are also some rare discoveries to be made: such as “Interrogation” by Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, the artist murdered at Ausschwitz. Shoes, bags, and furniture from the 1930’s are also to be seen, but the exhibited objects give the impression of being souvenirs or trophies from another time. All in all, a very ambitious exhibit that definitely has a pedagogic character, but: less would have been more. Streamlining the topic would have been advantageous. By Susanne Rohringer Künstlerhaus Wien 1010 Vienna, Karlsplatz 5, until 28.03.10 http://www.k-haus.at

Wien Museum im Künstlerhaus
1010 Wien, Karlsplatz 5
Tel: +43.1.587.96.63, Fax: +43.1.587.87.36
Öffnungszeiten: täglich 10-18 h, Do bis 21 h

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