Culture in the EU (1): Austria

As a solid supporter of the Remain campaign, in the 18 days from June 5th until the European Union Referendum on June 23rd, I am posting a selection of links and other information about music, literature, film, visual art, dance, architecture, etc., from each of the EU nations (I use the term EU to refer to all stages of the project, from the founding of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1952, then the European Economic Community in 1957, through to the European Community in 1993, until final subsumation in the European Union in 2009) . These selections are initially posted on Facebook, then blogged afterwards (including some suggestions from others). The eight nations with the largest populations (in descending order: Germany, France, UK, Italy, Spain, Poland, Rumania, the Netherlands) will get a whole day each, all others will get two days. Otherwise these will be in alphabetical order, as follows:

5/6 Austria, Belgium
6/6 Bulgaria, Croatia
7/6 Cyprus, Czech Republic
8/6 Denmark, Estonia
9/6 Finland, Greece
10/6 France
11/6 Germany
12/6 Hungary, Ireland
13/6 Italy
14/6 Latvia, Lithuania
15/6 Luxembourg, Malta
16/6 Netherlands
17/6 Portugal, Slovakia
18/6 Poland
19/6 Romania
20/6 Slovenia, Sweden
21/6 Spain
22/6 UK

I make no claims to be comprehensive in any case, and my choices undoubtedly will reflect my own aesthetic interests – but I believe that may be more interesting than a rather anonymous selection of simply the most prominent artists or art. All work comes from the post-1945 era, the period during which the EU has come to fruition, but may (and often will) include work which dates from before the nations in question joined the EU. As I am writing in English, where translations exist I will use these. Time does not allow for detailed commentaries, I just throw these selections out there in the hope others will be interested in the extraordinary range of culture which has emerged from citizens of the EU.



I will open with a site devoted to the work of writer Thomas Bernhard (1939-1989).

This novel in particular is a big personal favourite.

Bernhard Woodcutters

Another major Austrian writer (and equally misanthropic!) is the Nobel Prize winning Elfriede Jelinek (b. 1946), a site devoted to whom can be found here. Here is one of her most notorious books.

Jelinek - Wonderful Times

Anyone interested in experimental writing needs to look into the work of the Wiener Gruppe, not least this anthology.

Wiener Gruppe

Here is a short article about the group and in particular leading figure Konrad Bayer (1932-1964). Also, here is an interesting article about Gerhard Rühm (b. 1930), whilst a range of his poetry can be read and listened to here.

Another vital, but distinct, experimental Austrian poet was the Dada-ist Ernst Jandl (1925-2000), a site devoted to whom can be found here.

Here is an informative doctoral dissertation on the Austrian avant-garde in general. And here is an interesting article on concrete poetry in Austria.

A very different type of Austrian writer is Peter Handke (b. 1942), whose more lyrical and expressive, though highly refined, work is known in part after having been filmed by the German director Wim Wenders.

Few movements in the arts can be considered as extreme, violent, and politically motivated as Wiener Aktionismus . A range of films from leading figures in the movement can be found here, and an important article (in German) here. Here are a selection of key videos by leading figures. First by Otto Muehl (1925-2013):


Then by Günter Brus:

Then, by the figure arguably with the most lasting impact, feminist performance artist Valie Export (b. 1940) (see her site here):


While not directly part of this movement, the work of film-maker Kurt Kren (1929-1998) shares a related sensibility:


Many more videos can be located online of these figures, all of which I strongly recommend.

A different type of radical film can be found in the work of Peter Kubelka (b. 1934):


Another type of avant-garde cinema can be found here in the work of Peter Tscherkassky (b. 1958):


More familiar to international audiences is the director Michael Haneke (b. 1942). Here is his 1992 film Benny’s Video:

And here is his 2001 film La Pianiste/The Piano Teacher based upon Jelinek’s 1983 book Die Klavierspielerin:


To my mind, no other film has captured the terrifying potential for harm and abuse in the world of the conservatoire, when inhabited by disturbed people, as this.

I could choose any amount of interesting Austrian new music (and might perhaps have done so on another day); for now, first here is a moderately early work by leading composer Beat Furrer (b. 1954):


Somewhat linked to the movement known as ‘new complexity’ is the composer Wolfram Schurig (b. 1967):


A wholly different world is found in the work of Klaus Lang (b. 1971):


The work of Karlheinz Essl (b. 1960), moves between composition, sound art, performance art, and improvisation.


Whilst Wolfgang Mitterer (b. 1958) is involved with both composition and improvisation:


And here are the Vienna Improvisers’ Orchestra:


Not to mention the Vegetable Orchestra, who play only on fresh vegetables:

Amongst many interesting Austrian contemporary painters, I am drawn to the work of Xenia Hausner (b. 1951) (various of whose work can be seen here) :

Hausner Indigo

Xenia Hausner, Indigo (Yao) (2013)

Here is a short article devoted to the opening of a new Tanzquartier in Vienna for the study of contemporary dance.

Here is an example of the work of writer and theatre practitioner Wolfgang Bauer (1941-2005):


Whilst I also find captivating the landscape architecture of Maria Auböck (b. 1951) and János Kárász, the website for whose firm is here.



Next post will be on Belgium.

9 Comments on “Culture in the EU (1): Austria”

  1. Ian Pace says:

    Thanks – amended.

  2. Adam Hodgkins says:

    The first two films are documentations of the ‘actions’ by the listed artists, but they are recognised as works in themselves by Kurt Kren. Perhaps one of the least egotistical of filmmakers – thus I make the case for the inclusion of his name.

  3. Harry says:

    There are several books in English by both Artmann and Bayer of the Vienna Group available from Atlas Press and there’s an English-language Vienna Group Anthology: ed/tr. Rosmarie Waldrop and Harriett Watts, “The Vienna Group: 6 Major Austrian Poets” (Station Hill Press, 1985). All recommend, especially Bayer’s ‘Head of Vitus Bering’ from Atlas.

  4. Mike says:

    Don’t forget the legendary Drahdiwaberl:

    The first link has truly superb photos of Drahdiwaberl live performances. Highly recommended.

  5. Marko says:

    Hermann Nitsch

  6. […] Culture in the EU (1): Austria (6/6/16) […]

  7. Nicky Hamlyn says:

    I co-edited a book on Kurt Kren’s Structural Films, published by Intellect, isbn: 978-1783205516

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