Arthur Bueno on Mon, 07 Feb 2000 16:15:11 +0100

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Syndicate: Re: Letter by Robert Fleck

From: buergel-noack <>
    Date: Sonntag, 6. Februar 2000 18:25
    Subject: Letter by Robert Fleck

    Robert Fleck, a former Austrian state curator, who, among other
things, tried to organise a state-financed exhibition of Austrian art in
Berlin in the beginning of the nineties (a highly nationalist venture,
which was ctritcized by parts of the Austrian art scene) wrote a letter,
urging the international art community to boycott the Austrian art
scene, asking people instead to phone individual Austrian artists
regularily to give moral support. He is painting a daily life in Austria
along stereotypical 3rd Reich-descriptions (terror against jews and
artists), totally neglecting, that the people who are suffering from
institutional and individual racism in the Austria of today (among other
EU countries), are migrants.

    Below is a commentary by Roger Buergel, an artist living in Austria,
as well as an addendum to this commentary, by Ruth Noack, an art
historian living in Austria.

    Addendum by Ruth Noack, Monday, 7th of February: Dear Friends, I
agree with most of the sentiments of Roger's letter below (which I
accidentally had him sign in my name yesterday, I'm sorry). The
reference to a banana republic, however, seems to me wrong. The fact is,
that the Austrian public is much more heterogeneous than it seems to be
portrayed by some of the international media; there is a lot of
publically voiced dissent against the new governement and we feel that
it is important to give this dissent a voice. The art scene is a small,
but nervertheless (and curiously widely heard) arena, which can function
as one of serveral platforms against the new governement. Even
conservative artists (painters!) like Arnulf Rainer and Attersee have
reacted immediately by withdrawing their pieces on loan to governemental
offices, and this has been reported in mainstream media. As long as
there is massive, and for this country astonishingly active dissent
within the country, it seems counterproductive to redraw boundaries from
the outside. This seems to me to be an act of "othering", which serves
to disguise the fact that the EU as a whole has an extreme
anti-migratory politics. In other words, though I wholeheartedly agree
with every form of boycott of the Austrian governement, I would hope
that there are possibilities to differentiate between the governement
and the hererogeneous public(s) located within the Austrian
nation-state. Ruth Noack

    Letter from the 6th of February:

    Dear Friends,

    in our view Fleck's idea of a boycott of Austria is highly
irresponsible. Its emphasis on the nationstate 96 AUSTRIA 96 as well
    its inside/outside-differentiation between the (allegedly)
endangered Eastern European countries and the civilized West is part of
the problem, not of the solution. The effect of cutting off the
discourse of the international art world would be same as the boycott of
any banana republic shunned by the West: the poor starve, in this case
the people who try to resist the implementation of an authoritarian
regime. For our resistance we need resources 96 art among other things.
We need solidarity, no moral gestures, no phone calls (because we are on
the streets and, while shouting, won't hear the cell phone ring). The
idea with Naziland is fine but far too easy. Maybe we have to invent
some new categories to grasp what's going on. People are quite right in
highlighting a profound continuity between the politics of the
Socialdemocrats and the new government. The FPD6 is a party elected by
a third of the young voters. They are quite plainly not
Nationalsocialists. Rather, they follow the appeal of a leader who
promises to keep privileges in times of change. We have to win back
these voters (or win them at all). Moral masochism, even though it
proves  entirely satisfying to some, offers no help.

    Roger M. Buergel

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