Revisiting a recent panel discussion

The panel discussion Zukunftsmusik. Internationale künstlerische Karrieren trotz Klimakrise!? [Up in the Air – International Artistic Careers Despite the Climate Crisis!?], which saw film, music, and theatre professionals discuss the relationship between the global culture business, international careers, and climate change, itself nearly fell victim to the COVID-19 crisis. But despite the cancellation of all events—first at the mdw, followed by a nationwide ban on all events before a live audience—the decision was made to go forward with this discussion anyway. After all, the matters at issue appeared more urgent than ever in light of the pandemic’s effects on arts professionals and cultural institutions: the vulnerability of the global arts and cultural scene was rendered clear for all to see, and it was and still is being painfully felt across the board.

The future effects of the climate crisis can’t yet be foreseen in their entirety, but the research on possible consequences suggests that they’ll be considerably more wide-ranging and existentially threatening than those we’re now experiencing due to COVID-19.

Though the participants in this this panel discussion (moderated by Fred Luks) were keenly aware of the necessity of systemic change, with Vice Rector Johannes Meissl raising “the question of a radical paradigm shift”, Matthias Naske (artistic director of the Vienna Konzerthaus) held that the culture business at large still “lacks the courage necessary to begin grappling with climate change”. Alexandra Althoff, a dramaturge and the deputy artistic director of Vienna’s Burgtheater, brought up matters including the serious efforts being undertaken by theatres as well as the option of using productions to “question givens as well as shift perspectives and open up new ones.” Film Academy Vienna student Marie Luise Lehner, who represented film in this discussion, placed her hope in younger generations’ environmental activism and film’s effectiveness as a medium. An additional topic was, of course, the question as to the extent to which digital and hybrid formats, which saw increased use during the COVID-19 lockdown, might represent a sensible and satisfying alternative for the various artistic fields. And finally, social scientist and activist Brigitte Kratzwald mentioned universal basic income as a possible solution that could bring about the previously called-for decoupling of artistic careers from existential economic pressures.

All in all, this was a successful event on hot topics that was held as a livestream and green meeting in the mdw’s Joseph Haydn Saal. But is this sufficient to earn the appellation “sustainable event”? And don’t we need more than just a panel discussion in order to come up with “the good answers that we so urgently need to find”, as Bernhard König put it in his words of greeting?

Rather than being archived as an isolated flash in the pan amidst the University’s normally busy calendar of events, this discussion needs to be taken as an impulse for the necessary networking between the Austrian cultural scene, arts universities, and arts professionals. If this were to happen, individual attempts at a solution could give rise to collective activities and action that would open the way for the existentially necessary transformation towards sustainability in the cultural field, as well.

“After all, every individual step has an effect on the entire system,” noted Gerda Müller, Vice Rector for Organisational Development, Gender & Diversity at the mdw, in her greeting to participants and viewers.

The full event can be viewed at the mdwMediathek:

A Future Workshop given by Bernhard König is being planned by the mdw for 2021. König, a composer, dramaturge, and concert pedagogue, has been dealing with the interplay between music and the global environmental and climate crisis since 2019. Far beyond simply looking at artistic approaches to this theme, the primary focus will be to highlight possible effects on arts professionals and the global culture business and encourage those involved to take action.

Comments are closed.