Conversation pieces: Let’s talk
Supergau artist Edwin Stolk introduces himself and his project and calls for participation.
I am a Dutch artist living near Rotterdam. The beauty of art is that it has many forms and possibilities. I am especially interested in the social insights that art can offer when we work together. In order to create meaning, I try to get to know the Lungau region and the people who live there.
Therefore I felt excited that I was invited in June by curator Tina Heine to come to this beautiful environment. We stayed at Hotel Post with a large group of artists. After a two-day car trip with my wife Hristina we were welcomed by the Mayr family in Mauterndorf.1
It was an impressive weekend with many special encounters and conversations. We were warmly welcomed by Tina Heine, as well as Matthias Ais and Martina Berger-Klingler from Land Salzburg.
Afterwards we were shown around by Mayor Georg Gappmayer of Tamsweg and enjoyed a wonderful dinner in the Kuenburg Castle.2 It promised to be an inspiring weekend.
During my first online research I had read about ‘Landflucht’.3 That’s what it’s called when young people exchange the countryside for the big city. This theme intrigues me because it says something about the preferences we have. Where do we want to live and under what circumstances? During my stay in the area I spoke about this theme with a variety of people.
I saw that local traditions and rituals have an important place in daily life. At the same time, I noticed that these old traditions are announced today as events in the tourist agenda. It got me thinking. In the Netherlands there is little left of the old traditions outside the famous touristic sites and villages.
It strikes me that ‘Landflucht’ is often seen as something negative. Empty shops can be witnessed here and there. Due to globalization there is a worldwide tendency in which people, knowledge and resources are mainly concentrated in and around the large cities. But new technologies offer also the opportunity to attract people from abroad and to revitalize shrinking communities.
The youngsters I speak to or read about go to study in Saltzburg, Graz, Wien or Linz, for example. One of them pointed out the long traveling time from Vienna to get back ‘home’. The qualities of the countryside are slowly fading into the background it seems. I wonder whether climate change and the corona crisis might shed a different light on this?
Among the people I spoke to were also youngsters who came to this region to work from outside Austria. The question that arises from these conversations is how accessible the local community is to newcomers? I read on the internet that you can even feel an outsider if your parents come from Graz.4 So how do you maintain the rich local traditions when your own population is shrinking?5
We attended a presentation from Georg Macheiner about Lungau as the largest biosphere park in Austria. On the website of this model region for sustainable development, I see the future vision presented of a boy and a girl on an alpine meadow, dressed in traditional clothing.6 Heike Posch of the Supergau organization explained to me that this clothing is passed on from generation to generation and is therefore very sustainable. I wonder how do I relate to this image if I would like to
come and live in the Lungau region?
The Lungau region has a rich cultural past and that past is visible wherever you look, but what about the picture of the future? This billboard near Tamsweg with ‘We protect Austria’ makes clear that the future must be above all a safe future. But how do you bind young people to this region and invite them from abroad to contribute and built a future in Lungau?
In the line of this question I am collecting ideas for the development of this area. I’m curious what do you think? For example, someone told me, “why don’t we create flexible workspaces in the empty shops of Mauterndorf?” By placing construction boards at various locations during the festival in 2023, I want to expose these ideas in their environment and offer ‘windows of opportunity’. What possible developments in your town or village make the Lungau region attractive for youngsters?
Let me know if you want to contribute with your ideas to ‘Conversation pieces’ or if you want to help realizing this art project: info[at]edwinstolk.nl
I will return to Lungau in September and would love to meet with you in person. The beautiful photographs of this article were made by my wife Hristina Tasheva.
All the best, Edwin