EuroReview 5. Parallel Vienna
Recently, while going through my things in preparation for moving across the country, I uncovered a small series of performance reviews I wrote while in Europe in 2015. Being that somehow I happened to pair my timing perfectly with the end of summer/early fall season - when all of the slumbering arts were beginning to wake with a fury - I stumbled upon some of the most interesting installations, spoken word and theater nights, interactive gallery events and just plain ridiculous talent and complete openness to expression through the arts. This is the fifth of 10 stories which I will call reviews.
One of the best parts about the particular timing of my spontaneous detour in Vienna was that it was all perfectly synchronous with the Vienna Contemporary, Austria’s big international art fair. Four days of high level artists and galleries from all over the world together in one space – which is apparently quite attractive to rich, Russian art collectors. (Which seemed to be a running joke among the Austrians.)
Juxtaposed to this event is the just-as-popular but more underground and subversive Parallel Vienna. Think Paris Salon 1863 vs the Salon des Refuses, except bigger and spread out between hundreds of rooms in a mansion of a converted school house art land. With black light hallways.
Ok, so maybe not so underground anymore, but when it first began, Parallel Vienna was designed as a raw alternative to the fancy fair for visual/sound/installation artists to show their work, the poor artist’s comment to how snooty the Vienna Contemporary had become. Each year it grew and grew until it became the big beautiful week of installation and gallery goodness that it is now and a vital part of the pulsing Vienna art scene during that big week in September when the Contemporary and ALL the arts roll into town.
So what exactly did the Parallel Vienna look like?
[Besides the most epic art gallery party ever]
A GIANT multi-roomed art show within an enclosed, semi-converted nineteenth century University building (like the kind that is built in a fancy hollow square and has a courtyard in the middle) put on by the youth and artists from all over the city.
All of the classrooms and hallways on 2 of the five floors became galleries for every kind of art installation you could think of, filled to the brim with paintings, sculptures, installations, strange lights and interactive performance. You could find anything there – from a dirt pit dug out of the ground (oh-so casually in the middle of a 6” x 10” foot room) to scattered books and stacks of white, plastic chairs 20 feet high like columns in the massive rooms with high ceilings. Not to mention so many sound and video pieces – whether projected onto a wall or shown through a conglomerate mass of ten old television box screens.It would be impossible to capture the density and magnitude of this event (especially if you enjoy being present and not on your phone the whole time), but I did manage to snap a few quick photos.
One of my favorite rooms was that of Mike’s friend, Phillip, who created a space based on a dream he had in which he was selling ice cream at a stand, but before the customer received it, he would hand it to his large drag queen friend who licked it first. When the customer said “You can’t do that, the drag queen replied, “Sure I can – now it’s sculpture!” This was the premise upon which Phillip’s interactive performance/installation was built, cast in a hot glow of pink and white fluorescent lights and soft serve ice cream.
I had met Phillip a week prior at another the spoken word event/party I attended with Mike where he was telling us about his crazy idea for the Parallel. It was so fascinating and inspiring to see how well he carried out his detailed and very specific dream scene, and the raw, unbridled energy with which everyone I met in Vienna approached their art practice.
Ok; so I’m going to be super transparent: this blog write-up feels a little bit incomplete, and in so many ways that is how I feel about my Vienna experience. I know there will be more. The energy of the creativity in that city is incomparable to anywhere else I’ve experienced and maybe it just really vibrated with me, but isn’t that all that matters at the end of the day? Our personal alignment? If we are out of alignment, we cannot be our best selves for anyone. Who cares if “the scene” is in LA or NY if your soul totally dug the soul in Vienna more? So anyways, I’m just gonna leave this right here…
And I’ll say To Be Continued, because Vienna, baby, it’s not over yet.