A bicentennial is something like one of those decadal birthdays that mark milestones in our lives. We know about them, we see how those around us hectically plan for them with a mixture of joy and panic, and we’re pushed by the outside world to view these dates as something significant. But we don’t really feel them. Nothing’s different than it was before. After all, we haven’t been living in excited anticipation of this one day in particular; we’ve just been living our lives from day to day. At times cluelessly, carefully, hesitantly, and at times full of drive, joy, and energy. Some days go by quickly, busily, successfully. Others plod on unspectacularly and some last seemingly forever, being full of hurdles and nearly impossible challenges.
We’re reminded of all this on special birthdays like these. And even as we contemplate, we’re still in the here and now, celebrating, not feeling the years that we’ve supposedly now put behind us. When an institution celebrates an important jubilee, it’s much the same. In the USA, a university’s age is something that gets mentioned a lot, because it would seem to promise tradition, experience, and enlightenment. But in Vienna, where we’re surrounded by history everywhere we look and where some of our universities reside in positively ancient buildings, tradition goes without saying – all the more in the arts world. We can look back on centuries full of famous composers, musicians, and thespians. Their respective achievements are still taught in the mdw’s traditional fields of study at the mdw, while at the same time young artists in newer fields are taught right next door – young artists like filmmakers and cinematographers, editors and sound artists.
The mdw looks far younger than its 200 years. We know of the repeated battles centred on this institution that have been fought or still have to be fought in order to uphold the training of artists at this high level. One thinks of the past and simultaneously feels the present in the young students and teachers who now fill the university with their different stories and perspectives on the world. And again, it’s like a special birthday in our own lives: we’re aware of the past but entirely in the present, looking forward to all that which is still to come.