“The word expired when that world awoke”

(Karl Kraus, 1933)

Special exhibition on the commemorative years 1918, 1933, 1938

“Don’t ask why all this time I never spoke”—Between Exile and Emigration 

Don’t ask why all this time I never spoke,
Wordless am I,
and won’t say why.
And silence reigns because the bedrock broke.
No word redeems;
one only spoke in dreams.
A smiling sun the sleeper’s images evoke.
Time marches on;
The final difference is none.
The word expired when that world awoke.

Karl Kraus, in: Die Fackel, no. 888, October 1933; trans. Max Knight, cited in Harry Zohn, Karl Kraus and the Critics, Martlesham/Suffolk 1997, 54

2018 brings a number of anniversaries that are themselves symbolic of the shifting nature of the passing age: the centenary of the end of the First World War, the formation of Austria’s First Republic and women’s suffrage; eighty-five years since the end of Austria’s first democratic Republic and the mass burning of books and musical scores of those who held different beliefs or were classified as Jews; eighty years since the annexation (“Anschluss”) of Austria to Nazi Germany and the November pogroms, thus ending Austria’s status as a country of refuge. The year 1938 marked the start of inclusion and exclusion that determined who would be murdered or persecuted because of their politics, religious confession or “race.”

The biographies of the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna’s teaching staff stand as stark testimony to these anniversaries. They represent the many identities and mutations within the twentieth century. What was understood as identity was itself dependent on the changing definitions of time and place, as made apparent by these individual life stories. Over the same period, the mdw itself has also undergone several changes of identity.