Letter from Austria

Kate Strain, CONNECT’s Curator in Residence, has just sent us this Letter from Austria…

Hello from Graz, Austria’s second city! I moved here in January 2017 around the same time that I became Curator in Residence for the Department of Ultimology at CONNECT. I haven’t yet figured out bi-location but it’s surprising how many things are possible to achieve in the non-body realm with the powers of digital space!

In Austria I am the artistic director of the Grazer Kunstverein, a contemporary art organisation that produces new artworks, runs artist residencies, conducts artistic research, and sets up all kinds of contexts for encountering and engaging with contemporary art. This year we are working to develop our programme under the (spirit) guidance of Ernst Fischer – a politician, writer, orator, journalist, philosopher, poet and playwright, who wrote a beautiful book in 1959 titled ‘The Necessity of Art – A Marxist Approach’.

He believed that the function of art was to allow people to see or understand the world, and to change it. He believed that art should not be instrumentalised, but that it should be embodied as a practice – a lived and living experience – that is necessary not only because of its power to inspire change, but also because of the magic inherent within it. That magic is the thing for which I am constantly searching.

At CONNECT I am curator in residence with the Department of Ultimology, where Ultimology is the study of things that are dead or dying. We try to unearth and research that which is endangered in a given field of knowledge production, in order to better understand the world as it currently is.

My two roles, though different, are complementary. Each informs the other. I find a lot of natural overlap in the world of research, science, art and communications.

I am lucky in that I am easily fascinated. Currently I am enjoying getting to know the Graz-based art audience a bit better. Having come from working mostly in an Irish context (with a bit of experience in the Netherlands and Italy too) I can say that the Austrian art audience is unlike any other I have encountered.

In my experience there is huge interest in the arts and strong engagement, particularly in visual culture. In general the conversation around art and its histories is extremely well informed, and people are interested in hearing about new developments in the field of art-making. In Ireland I would have encountered more of an uncertain attitude to contemporary art; so, finding a context in which there is an openness to new ideas is extremely encouraging for me!

Other observations about Graz include pumpkin seed ice cream, never crossing the road on a red man, the love of vereine (organisations set up for specific activities), public swimming pools and pools in parks, free public transport in the city centre, and of course, the fact that it is the birthplace and erstwhile home of body builder, film star, and politician Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

CONNECT is the world leading Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Future Networks and Communications. CONNECT is funded under the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centres Programme and is co-funded under the European Regional Development Fund. We engage with over 35 companies including large multinationals, SMEs and start-ups. CONNECT brings together world-class expertise from ten Irish academic institutes to create a one-stop-shop for telecommunications research, development and innovation.


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