The show was curated by author and art-historian Mark Rappolt and combines historical with current references as well as local with global phenomena.
“Now Forever” is part of “Curated_by”, an annual festival gathering 21 Viennese galleries who invite 21 international curators to organise 21 exhibitions based on a common theme. This year’s motto, “Viennaline”, looks at the Austrian capital as a “permanent laboratory of modernity and destruction”.
Mark Rappolt addresses the topic through a wide variety of works from the past 120 years that epitomise two complementary facets of global modernity: the quest for cultural identity on the one hand, and fear and rejection of the stranger on the other.
The focus of the exhibition lies on Christoph Schlingensief’s political and artistic performance from 2000 titled “Bitte liebt Österreich!” (Please love Austria). This performance by the German theatre director, artist and lmmaker was a protest against xenophobia and racism. It took aim at the country’s government, a coalition of the conservative ÖVP and the national-liberal party FPÖ that marked the first time since 1945 that a right-wing populist party came to power in Austria. Taking his cue from reality TV shows such as “Big Brother”, Schlingensief locked up twelve refugees in a container in front of the Vienna Opera House and asked bystanders to vote for those they wanted to be freed. The winning “candidate” was rewarded with €2,500 and naturalisation through marriage with an Austrian.
The works of the other artists in this exhibition also touch upon the origins, patterns and mechanisms of traditional and new right-wing populism. Rappolt consciously places them in the larger context of Schlingensief’s performance, although – or perhaps because – they reach far beyond Austria or Europe to look at global North-South and East-West conflicts, underlining the fact that “Vienna is everywhere”.
At the same time, Rappolt deliberately avoids making direct references to the new right-wing government in Austria or to the current rise of national and populist movements throughout Europe, leaving it up to visitors to draw their own conclusions.
The title of the exhibition - "Now Forever" - has been lent by Mark Rappolt from the current campaign of the Vienna Tourist Board. He refers to the fact that Vienna is characterized by two "images": First, the friendly, cozy cultural metropolis, charming the "good" foreigners being tourists and rich permanent guests, on the other side the right-wing populist heartland, demonising and deporting the "evil" foreigners being refugees and „other strange people". Mark Rappolt is editor-in-chief of the art magazines “Art Review” and “Art Review Asia”. He is the author of numerous books and catalogues including monographies of Frank Gehry, Alex Katz, David Cronenberg and Slater Bradley. He recently co-curated (with Liam Gillick and Tom Eccles) the exhibition “Like a Moth to a Flame” for Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin.
For “Now Forever”, Rappolt has drawn on his own biography and family history. His text about the exhibition can be found overleaf. We thank the archive of the Akademie der Künste, Berlin, the Bezirksmuseum Neubau, Vienna and the Vienna Tourist Board for the kind support and the loans.