Professor Spivak was invited to inaugurate this year’s Vienna Festival Week. The festival has been a significant part of Austria’s cultural life in the European context since 1950 and has been rewritten in terms of the contemporary migrant crisis.

What Time is it on the Clock of the World?

In her speech, Professor Spivak will present her reflections on the simultaneity of social and political transformations in a global context beyond the explanatory patterns of Western hegemony. The title question What Time is it on the Clock of the World? goes back to a formulation by the American civil rights activist, philosopher and feminist Grace Lee Boggs (1915-2015), who was committed to social change, the workers’ movement, and the rights of the African-American population.

It links the awareness of the historical situatedness of recent developments with the activistic moment for changing existing conditions: What is the time on the world clock? And, at the same time: What would be the right thing to do right now?

“When it started in the 1950s, the Wiener Festwochen laid several important foundations for creating a new image for Vienna, both nationally and internationally. After Vienna and Austria had been isolated by Austrofasciscm and Nazism, it was necessary to reconnect with the world, to integrate the city and the country into the international discourse of art and culture, to promote life, openness, and the idea of a future. Throughout its subsequent history, the Wiener Festwochen has always taken on cultural and sociopolitical challenges.

For example, the large Wiener Festwochen exhibitions have contributed to the creation of the Kunsthalle. Out of a need for new understanding of opera, separate from the State Opera, the idea for the Theater an der Wien was developed. With “Töne und Gegentöne” and “Big Beat” important emphasis has been put on the grey area in experimental music between avantgarde, subculture, pop, and electronic, which inspired the further development of music in the city. With “Big Motion”, the Festwochen opened a world unknown to Vienna of new, postdramatic theatre forms. And with “Arena 70”, the Festwochen created its own counter-festival for new art and social forms.

Gathering these historical threads, the Wiener Festwochen today is positioned as a multidisciplinary art festival in the city. Among Vienna’s varied and tightly-packed cultural offerings, the point is to present and allow things not yet seen and not yet heard, and to work as a content engine linking genres, thoughts, and ideas. The task of the Wiener Festwochen will therefore be to create frameworks for new alliances, rather than to build new borders and fences of art.

Historically, the Wiener Festwochen has defined itself as a festival for high culture, subculture, and counterculture, combining music theatre, theatre, fine arts, performance, dance, music, installation, discourse, participation, workshops, and new art forms that cannot yet be categorised. Thus, festival will not pause at genre boundaries.

Wiener Festwochen doesn’t aim to be a glossy festival. Rather, it seeks to understand art as a process that enables new solidarities by creating temporary Ground Zeros, thus becoming a field for experimentation for a future society.”