Archive, Retrospective website, and university programs

Archive, Retrospective website, and university programs

Steirischer Herbst

steirischer herbst ’79. Billboard, Graz, 1979. Photo: steirischer herbst archive/Philipp.

October 16, 2021
Archive, Retrospective website, and university programs
Steirischer Herbst
Sackstraße 17
8010 Graz

T +43 316 816070
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In October 2021, steirischer herbst, an interdisciplinary festival held annually since 1967, launches a new comprehensive website dedicated to its rich history and makes its reorganized and professionalized archive open to the public, students, and research fellows. With this, the current festival team is not just reflecting on steirischer herbst’s parcours but also advocating for the rethinking of the notion of typical “biennial curating,” expanding it towards festivals with a strong presence of performance, theater, music, popular formats, art in public space, and various local initiatives. 

steirischer herbst archive
Since 2018, the executive team has begun to adapt and restructure the festival’s physical as well as the digital archive to meet international standards. Thanks to a special grant from the State of Styria as well as exchanges with Steiermärkisches Landesbibliothek and the Universalmuseum Joanneum, valuable files could be cleaned, transferred, and reindexed. Hidden items were re-discovered, reassigned, and complemented, and additional rooms could be opened up.

The steirischer herbst Archive and Research Center serves to archive and document textual and visual sources related to modern and contemporary art and facilitates their scholarly treatment. The focus is on the history of steirischer herbst—an ongoing history with radical changes that is constantly reclassified and reinterpreted. 

Archival rooms hold a reference library (ca. 3,000 publications of the festival and its partner institutions), press archive, file archive (of documents, printed matter, and ephemera, currently in progress of archiving), and media archive (photo, sound, video, film—roughly 800 DVDs, 500 sound, video, and film recordings, and approximately 145 boxes of photos).

Retrospective website
steirischer herbst emerged in 1967 in the context of the postwar European neo-avant-garde and bears similarities to documenta, founded thirteen years earlier. Both were local initiatives located at the border to the East (which in Austria was more permeable than in Germany) and in the context of a Nazi past that hadn’t been completely accounted for. Unlike documenta, steirischer herbst was meant to be an interdisciplinary festival and did not have a single programmer at the beginning. The festival was run first by an Advisory Board and Program Directorate, then, from 1983, by directors who were not called curators although they played this role, and focused at times on such different fields as circus or graphic design, opera or new media. Perhaps that is why it is, unjustly, not yet included in the history of curating, which has become an important if not the foremost part of contemporary art studies in the last years.

The bilingual (English/German) Retrospective website aims at making progress in this regard and presents texts about different curatorial periods as well as overviews of individual editions, written by independent German curator and critic Eva Scharrer. Biographies of directors, information about various subprojects and festivals within the festival that were once parts of steirischer herbst, as well as rich annotated visual material (photos and videos) accompany the website. The database and search system, launched in 2017 in German only, was expanded for this endeavor. The website will be continued for future editions and will be enlarging its video library, a work in progress.

steirischer herbst university programs
The newly established steirischer herbst university programs, introduced with a workshop for students of Austrian universities, aims to close the gap between curatorial practice and academic theory. The program is conceived as a collaboration between steirischer herbst and departments of art and cultural theory at universities in Austria. The program includes discursive events planned and executed in conjunction with steirischer herbst, workshops with and by experts working for the festival, as well as lectures which will engage on a deeper level with the festival’s topics and art productions. The program runs throughout the year, beyond the festival’s key dates. In relation to this program, international fellowships for researchers and artists will be announced.

With Milan Hrbek, doctoral researcher at the Slovak Academy of Sciences, steirischer herbst welcomed its first fellow in autumn 2021. 

Universities and media wishing to access the physical archive may contact steirischer herbst Archive directly: Marlene Obermayer, obermayer [​at​]

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Steirischer Herbst
October 16, 2021

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