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Cultural Midpoint in Austria

This unique artistic project transforms historical settings into vibrant, colourful attractions.

 
 

Author: Michael Freund


When visitors waiting in a ski lift station notice they are surrounded by exciting contemporary architecture, when they listen to jazz and modern classical music in a Renaissance castle, when they enjoy wine and regional specialities on a panoramic terrace and are transported just that little bit closer to heaven, that's when you know that they are right in the middle of Austria’s vibrant cultural life.

"Cultural midpoint" is the name of an artistic project that illlustrates just how many forms a cultural experience in Austria can take. The project consists of temporary body sculptures which are displayed in special and unusual settings throughout the country. Performers are “frozen” to form part of the environment, to blend into the surrounding architecture either in groups or as individuals, to complement it or to present a caricature. But as this can only be seen for a limited time, it has also been captured on the following video.

A cultural journey through Austria

  • Brand highlight culture: Always right in the middle. Tour of Austria / Graz © Österreich Werbung / BSX Schmölzer GmbH Brand highlight culture: Always right in the middle. Tour of Austria / Graz © Österreich Werbung / BSX Schmölzer GmbH

Marble meets trainers

“Bodies in urban spaces” was the idea of the choreographer Willi Dorner, who has gained an international reputation with his temporary living monuments. With the "cultural midpoint" project he has opened up fresh perspectives on Austria as a travel destination.

His interventions in special locations are like a pointer saying, look how the traditional, the solidly built, can be complemented by a young and versatile counterpart. Marble meets trainers so to speak. It’s well worth taking Dorner’s locations as the starting points of a journey to experience Austrian culture from a thoroughly new perspective.


Stage 1: Vorarlberg and modern wood architecture
So let’s begin our journey in the far west, in Vorarlberg. Like other regions of the country, the province is home to large, intact forests and so it is perhaps not surprising that the inhabitants have created truly astonishing things from wood. Alongside the many farmhouses, such as those in Bregenzerwald that have been preserved for generations, a modern, authentic style of timber architecture has established itself. It is manifested even in such everyday things as bus stops. Renowned international architectects were asked to design seven individual bus shelters for the community of Krumbach, featuring timber in a variety of forms alongside metal and glass. The architects were delighted to take part in the project – after all, they were given a holiday in Bregenzerwald as a reward.

Bregenzerwald

  • Bregenzerwald bus stop Japan © Österreich Werbung / BSX Schmölzer GmbH Bregenzerwald bus stop Japan © Österreich Werbung / BSX Schmölzer GmbH
  • Bregenzerwald © Österreich Werbung / Popp-Hackner Bregenzerwald © Österreich Werbung / Popp-Hackner
  • Bregenzerwald China bus stop © Österreich Werbung / BSX Schmölzer GmbH Bregenzerwald China bus stop © Österreich Werbung / BSX Schmölzer GmbH
  • Krumbach, Bregenzerwald, Japan bus stop © Österreich Werbung / BSX Schmölzer GmbH Krumbach, Bregenzerwald, Japan bus stop © Österreich Werbung / BSX Schmölzer GmbH
  • Bregenzerwald Spain bus stop © Österreich Werbung / BSX Schmölzer GmbH Bregenzerwald Spain bus stop © Österreich Werbung / BSX Schmölzer GmbH

Innsbruck

  • Innsbruck cable railway © Österreich Werbung / BSX Schmölzer GmbH Innsbruck cable railway © Österreich Werbung / BSX Schmölzer GmbH
  • Innsbruck cable railway © Österreich Werbung / BSX Schmölzer GmbH Innsbruck cable railway © Österreich Werbung / BSX Schmölzer GmbH
  • Ski jump, Innsbruck © TVB Innsbruck / Christof Lackner Ski jump, Innsbruck © TVB Innsbruck / Christof Lackner
  • cultural midpoint, Innsbruck © Österreich Werbung / BSX Schmölzer GmbH cultural midpoint, Innsbruck © Österreich Werbung / BSX Schmölzer GmbH
  • View of the "golden roof' in Innsbruck © TVB Innsbruck / Rainer Fehringer View of the "golden roof' in Innsbruck © TVB Innsbruck / Rainer Fehringer
  • Innsbruck Old Town © TVB Innsbruck / Christof Lackner Innsbruck Old Town © TVB Innsbruck / Christof Lackner

Innsbruck

  • Innsbruck cable railway © Österreich Werbung / BSX Schmölzer GmbH Innsbruck cable railway © Österreich Werbung / BSX Schmölzer GmbH
Stage 3: Salzburg's surprising sides
Salzburg! It’s understandable that music is the first thing that comes to mind here. Like a benevolent spirit, Mozart still rules the city of his birth on the Salzach, and this spirit also provided the inspiration for the world-famous festival – as well as for some things that go beyond the cultivation of classical music - after all, Mozart was himself a rebellious spirit.

Thus the avantgarde "Szene Salzburg" offers a second home to performance projects, ballet, dance and theatre. If guests visit the Salzburg Foundation, they can experience the city from yet another, surprising perspective with land art, sculpture gardens and art interventions in the public space. All in all, the cultural highlights here change faster than you can say “Eine kleine Nachtmusik”. And Mozart would have loved it.

Salzburg

  • Salzburg town © Österreich Werbung / Thomas Smetana Salzburg town © Österreich Werbung / Thomas Smetana
Stage 4: The future has already begun in Linz
The wonderful green, blue and turquoise lakes of the Salzkammergut link the provinces of Salzburg and Upper Austria. Just as Dorner’s ephemeral body sculptures soften up solid structures, so a lively high-tech art scene broadens the image of an industrial city, and nowhere more so than in Linz. It is against a background of advanced technology that the Ars Electronica Center has grown into one of the world’s leading media art festivals. Every year at the end of summer and at the interface of art, technology and society, it sounds out a future that has already begun here.

Opposite the Ars Electronica Center on the other side of the Danube, the Lentos Kunstmuseum shines bright both symbolically and literally. Its exhibitions of contemporary painting, photography and sculpture have catapulted Linz into the premiere league of European galleries.

Linz

  • Schloss Museum Linz © Österreich Werbung / BSX Schmölzer GmbH Schloss Museum Linz © Österreich Werbung / BSX Schmölzer GmbH
Stage 5: Graz - A cultural town with many performance stages
So now on to Styria. There’s more than enough to inspire curious spirits in this province. Anyone with an interest in history, scientists, lovers of literature, amateur explorers, art lovers and coin collectors will get their money’s worth at the Universal Museum, which consists, in fact, of two dozen places of cultural interest scattered throughout the entire province and concentrated in the capital, Graz.

One of the most interesting parts of the Joanneum is the biomorphous Kunsthaus on the banks of the river Mur that was designed by Sir Peter Cook. Dubbed the “friendly alien” by locals, it has become a modern architectural landmark in this ancient university city and stands out both by virtue of its controversial exterior and the inner values of its exhibitions, such as "Stories from the Edge" (subjects from the Adriatic Coast) "Bittersweet Transformation", showcasing pop and feminist themed art and giving a provocative look at new refinements in ceramics.

Anyone who has taken the time to explore this monumental bubble will always be rewarded with fresh insights into contemporary culture. Just like everywhere in Austria, the perfect way to end to a delightful afternoon of culture is to enjoy a coffee in the café.

Graz

  • Graz Landhaus stately home © Österreich Werbung / BSX Schmölzer GmbH Graz Landhaus stately home © Österreich Werbung / BSX Schmölzer GmbH
Stage 6: Vienna - The young cultural scene's meeting point
And nowhere is this truer than in Vienna, the final destination on our tour. Don’t be fooled by the many traditional images - Vienna is very different indeed. The city does avantgarde just as well as it does venerability, and is at least as post-modern as it is baroque. And there’s no better place to experience this than in the Museumsquartier.

The MQ is where many of the threads of contemporary culture come together in a colourful ball that each person can unravel for themselves. The Museum der Moderne, specialising in post-war art (Dorner might have found the inspiration for his body installations here), is opposite the Leopold Museum, a treasure trove of the fascinating fin-de-siècle era, between them lies  the Kunsthalle with its regularly changing programme, and also nearby are the Zoom Kindermuseum, the Architekturzentrum, the Design Forum, several galleries for digital and experimental art as well as bookshops and of course cafés, lounges and restaurants.

Is that enough? Certainly not. It is the way in which cultural interest can be combined with a lazy stroll, how music alternates with open-air performances, how the in-crowd chills on the curious seating and relaxation areas – that’s what give the quarter its distinctive charm. But there are plenty of new things going on everywhere else in the city too and indeed throughout the entire country. So it’s hardly surprising that Willi Dorner discovered stages for “cultural midpoint” all over the place. He is appreciative that tourism managers approached him and his team. “They invited us to do it. Austria is a very modern country and it needs to present such an image to the global public.”
 
Although his performers sometimes had to squeeze and contort themselves to fit into nooks and crannies, “my work did not have to contort itself. It can remain what it is. The bodies reflect back on to the architecture and the head begins to spin.” We want to spin too - to the rhythm of the waltz and a digital beat.

Vienna

  • Museumsquartier, Vienna © Österreich Werbung / Thomas Smetana Museumsquartier, Vienna © Österreich Werbung / Thomas Smetana

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Cultural Midpoint in Austria

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