Vienna Humanities Festival, supported by Aksenov Family Foundation, debuted in September 2016 in the capital of Austria. The three-day event was organized by Vienna Institute for Human Sciences (das Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen – IWM), Wien Museum, and European Houses of Debate Time to Talk (TTT). Thanks to the organizers of both events sharing interests in the sphere of culture, history and art of Eastern European territory, and their massive contribution to cultural exchange between the East and the West, the festival joined forces with another cultural forum happening in the same time in Vienna – viennacontemporary international art fair.
Vienna Humanities Festival covered a wide range of topics united by the motto Andernorts/Out of Place, which has its origins in the current migration crisis. Over 40 speeches, presentations, and discussions took place in 4 venues in Vienna.
Discussions of the Andernorts/Out of Place theme went far and beyond the social aspect of present times to look at migration of things and ideas as the basis of cultural history
The festival opened on 23 September in Wien Museum with a public dialogue between Austrian journalist and publicist Barbara Coudenhove-Kalergi and Alexandra Föderl-Schmid, the Editor-in-Chief of Der Standard daily newspaper, on the problems of refugees and displacement.
In the following days Wien Museum, Vienna Technical University (TU Wien), Karlskirche church, and Brut bar hosted a variety of talks and presentations of the leading intellectuals from all over the world. Syrian philosopher, professor, long-standing critic of Islamic fundamentalism, an outlaw in his home country, Sadiq Jalal al-Azm offered his insider's perspective on the problems of Syria, advocating secularization and modernization of the Arab world. An overview on atomization of contemporary society was presented by Ágnes Heller, a Hungarian marxist philosopher of history and culture, student of György Lukács. American sociocultural anthropologist and philosopher Arjun Appadurai gave an update on his theory of global flows that define globalization, particularly against the background of ever so increasing populism.
Discussions of the Andernorts/Out of Place theme went far and beyond the social aspect of present times to look at migration of things and ideas as the basis of cultural history. Thus, the program of the festival featured a talk from Marko Lulić, an artist who works with architectural heritage of modernism, interpreting it through ideology and esthetics. He uses monuments both as visual references and as settings for his performances and photo and video art works.
The festival concluded on 25 September with an all-day readathon. 10 speakers were invited to choose and publicly read out excerpts from texts on migration, flight, displacement. The scope of cited authors included Alexander Solzhenitsyn, John Steinbeck, Jean Amèry, Bertolt Brecht, and many others.
Dessy Gavrilova, the founder of TTT and Director of the Centre for Culture and Debate The Red House in Bulgaria, has shared her impressions on the festival and its success, ‘We have managed to attract a huge audience (3,000 people in 2 days) to over 40 high-profile discussions, debates, readings, and speeches. Vienna Humanities Festival has instantly become something that the people of Vienna know and talk about, and take sincere interest in. Moreover, I was quite surprised to find out, when talking to my foreign colleagues at the International Institute for Applied System Analysis near Vienna just a few days after the festival, that all of them had heard about the festival and regretted not having been able to attend it due to their busy schedules. We had not dared to hope for such an exposure, since it was a premiere for us.’