‘Nicht die Kunst darf sich vereinnahmen lassen’: Franzobel, Literature and Politics in the ‘New Austria’

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In the 1999 Austrian ‘Bundeswahl’, the FPÖ polled 27% of the vote, plunging Austria into political turmoil (Armin Thurnher). ‘Kulturpolitik’ assumed a pivotal role in the election, and continues to be an area of conflict in the ‘New Austria’, where there is evidence of the ‘aestheticisation of politics’ (Walter Benjamin). Benjamin argued that this could be countered only by the ‘politicisation of the aesthetic’. Political commentators have identified re-politicisation as a marker of life in the ‘New Austria’, and this extends to the literary sphere. A new generation of writers is emerging that has not been involved in the protracted lambasting of the Social Partnership seen in the work of established Austrian literary figures, such as Thomas Bernhard and Elfriede Jelinek. Franzobel, who came from avantgarde circles to win the Bachmann prize in 1995, is one such writer. He commands the respect of those involved in experimental literature, while also being acclaimed as a popular playwright and a novelist. Through an analysis of his political essays and literary works, this article discusses the role of the writer in the recently re-politicised Vienna within the context of the often controversial, often productive relationship between politics and literature in modern Austria.

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The aim of this paper is to explore (a vocabulary for) the potential effects of urban artistic interventions on the configuration of city space. It engages with a particular art project that took place in Vienna, Austria, in the summer of 2000. Through juxtaposing descriptions of the particular time space of the intervention with reflections on how the ensuing excess of spatial trajectories disrupts urban orders, I seek to illustrate the potential of art to reorganise what is visible and expressible, and ponder the question whether such ‘provocations in situ (…)’ can ‘recompose political spaces, or if they must be content to parody them’ (Rancière). Constructed as a dialogue between empirical narratives and conceptual reflections, the form and the style of this paper attempt to embrace the ambiguity and openness unleashed by the performance/installation in question and ‘to stay within the compass of [its] force and imagination’ (Taussig). Resisting interpretative closure and exacerbating spatial multiplicity, or so I will try to show, constitutes a powerful effect of politically engaged urban art.
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