Dear steirischer herbst visitors,

One of the pleasures art provides to us is the pleasure of dressing up, going out, and attending some special event in a special place, be it an exhibition in a museum or a show in a theater. We all know how much we missed it lately!

This year, steirischer herbst invites you out again. But in a different way.

Going to a museum or a theater, we venture out of our everyday lives, into a sphere dedicated to high art. We are excited by the expectation of the new, thrilled by the unknown. But these clean museum rooms or comfortable chairs in a theater also belong to the sphere of the predictable and give us that feeling of safety we are missing in our own lives. White walls tell us that dirt we might meet in a gallery is not real dirt but art. And if we get too emotional with the story onstage, we can always remind ourselves that these people are actors and Desdemona is not dying for real.

This is why the historical European avant-garde always wanted to break out of this safety, to merge art and life, to reach a full existence where art is not a controlled alternative to life but part of it. Life is permeated with art and becomes more aesthetic, but art takes risks that only exist in real life where nothing is guaranteed. And nowadays, when the issue of safety all over the world becomes not only a political but also a hygienic obsession, it is time to remind ourselves that this lack of guarantees is life itself.

As a festival that descends from the historical avant-garde, steirischer herbst has often ventured into the outdoors, the real, the everyday, and the popular. Following this tradition, in many of this year’s projects we are asking you to experience art outside of its rigid frame.

At the train station, you will pass through an ornate gate into this world where art and life merge, and where you will have to tell one from the other. In a park or in the streets of Graz, you will see something that might or might not be a performance. You will stumble upon artists’ posters that you might not immediately recognize as posters. You might meet street wardens who really aren’t street wardens. You might get a letter from an artist, be surprised by a philosophical memorial surrounding a monument you saw many times but never really saw. You might taste a meal prepared through the instructions of someone far away. You might even become part of the project yourself. Because without you, none of it can happen. Even film and fashion nowadays are engaging with “real people” instead of actors or models. It’s the spirit of time.

As it is the rule of steirischer herbst lately, all this will be new works, happening only in Graz and Styria, in this city and region which are a beautiful stage in themselves, and only now, in this historical moment. It will be truly unique and memorable.

The festival will engage very directly with the current political moment, too. This year, we are producing online-TV “situation reports” with different artists, one per week. The Aufsteirern festival as well as the Graz elections on 26 September or the still unaddressed history of the city will be part of what artists comment on. Meet them in the streets and watch them online the next day!

There are many other things we prepared for you this year. At the Orpheum, three major new stage productions will confront you with video games, spiritist séances, and very serious conversations about our present and future. In different theater pieces shown both in Graz and Styria, directors will be led by questions real people—grown-ups and children—are asking themselves right now. There will be a fair of artists’ works on paper you can see, touch, and buy, as well as online and on-site talks with prominent thinkers. There is so much to think about in these strange days we are living through.

I am inviting you to experience an adventure of the everyday together with artists. And this might be The Way Out not just for all of us literally, but also, as a metaphor, for art that is looking for its place in society.

With warm regards,
Ekaterina Degot