20 October, 17

Revolution! Vienna Humanities Festival 2017

For the second year, the Aksenov Family Foundation has supported the Vienna Humanities Festival.

The theme for 2017 was "Revolution!". The festival celebrated the 100th Russian Revolution anniversary, which had so radically changed Europe and world history. The festival studied the February Revolution of 1917 as the starting point for understanding the transformative power of a revolution as a whole. What survives today of the ideas of the Prague Spring of 1968? Have the promises of the Velvet Revolution of 1989 come true? Have the Arab Spring and the recent Euromaidan changed society? And these are just some of the historical revolutions whose legacy was examined in the program of the Vienna Humanities Festival.

The festival's approach is broader and not limited to a review of purely historical events. Other upheavals that defined entire eras were analyzed: from the scientific revolution to the industrial and digital ones. In three days the festival was attended by more than 3,600 people. Forty discussions occurred featuring science, art, and culture representatives. The festival was officially opened by Heinz Fischer, former federal president of Austria and a current president of the The Institute for Human Sciences (IWM). The main partners of the festival were the Vienna Museum, the IWM and The European Network of Houses for Debate “Time To Talk”.

Supported by the Aksenov Family Foundation, a discussion took place between the Swiss-Dutch propagandist artist Jonas Staal and the director of the European network of discussion houses “Time to Talk” Dessy Gavrilova. Staal's work focuses on the relationship between art, democracy and propaganda. He is the founder of the creative and political organization New World Summit, which develops alternative parliaments for stateless political unions, autonomous groups and political organizations from the global blacklist. His organization explores at what level art can act as a tool for creating "alternative political space".

On September 23, 2017, as part of the Borderline discussion program at the viennacontemporary art fair, Jonas Staal, along with writer Kimberly Bradley, writer and curator Sohrab Mohebi, and curator Alessandro Vincentelli, talked about the structure of artistic and political institutions in the context of possible change. When expressing political opinions, artistic spaces can be much more flexible than other public institutions. However, flexibility does not always equal sensitivity, and especially not efficiency. This panel examined the various subtleties and ethical complexities that arise when dealing with acute social issues (such as nationalism, racism, or war) within an institution. The discussion at viennacontemporary was also supported by the Aksenov Family Foundation.

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