20th art-symposium of eu-art-network
from 26nd August to 4th September in the Cselley Mill, Oslip / Austria
Since 2000, eu-art-network (EAN) has organised annual symposia whose participants have been international artists from diverse fields of contemporary art.
The participants have used visual art in all its forms, music, performance and literature to express themselves when addressing the different central themes each symposium is dedicated to.
These themes always touch on issues relating to Europe and affect the people of Europe and beyond.
Title of this year:
»I … WE… & …the others… «
or, Nationalism as global narrow-mindedness
Our 2019 art symposium was titled »I am not what I am…« and engaged the participating artists in an exploration of the question one cannot help but ask in response: »…what am I then…?« Contemplating this question inevitably raises another: »Who are we…?«
Originally, this year’s symposium was supposed to address the central theme of identity, and consequently the issue of nationalism in our society. However, a certain virus has come to dominate headlines around the world, and has to this day put all our usual, familiar problems into perspective.
Due to the profound significance of these events, we have decided to broaden our symposium’s focus to include a more complex range of topics. The topic of nationalism, however, remains prominent, seeing as how it has become more relevant than ever in these crisis-ridden times. National unity is now the motto of the day, and comparing statistics on confirmed cases and deaths has become a tool in the battle to boost one’s political profile.
»Shutdown« is the magic word that accompanies us every day and leaves us in awe of what politics is capable of. Suddenly, we are confronted with regulations and drastic economic and social measures that nobody thought possible before. The fear and dread that was spread in the beginning led to a first phase of understanding and acceptance of these measures as they provided glimmers of hope, but gradually, doubt started to creep in as well. Based on the argument that crisis can be viewed as an opportunity, hope is apparently something politics knows how to use to its own advantage, while the population is left with doubt as to whether subtly placed regulations and measures might remain in effect even after the crisis.
It seems a legitimate question to ask whether the world isn’t currently being taught a lesson in abolishing fundamental rights and democracy, at a time when openly divergent opinions are avoided and the media display a striking conformity of opinion as they explain to us what the current state of the truth is, although even experts don’t agree with each other.
In open, liberal societies, discourse occupies a crucial role, but in what we call »post-factual« societies, »fake news« are obviously dominant. Terms such as liberalism and openness take on a different meaning. Nationalisms, as relics of a primal instinct governed by passion and prejudice, start to spread and result at best in conservative, possibly even restrictive, social constructs.
Time and again, burgeoning nationalisms have resulted in wars, destruction, annihilations and forced displacements, and in turn, crises and catastrophes have often led to a rise in nationalist ideologies.
In this context, it is interesting to pursue the question whether nationalism is just an attempt to escape from the future into the past, as Manfred Rommel puts it, or, as Ernst Ferstl calls it, »…narrow-mindedness on a global scale«…if not, coupled with the current crisis, a trial run for impending authoritarianism…?!