Alexander Brener and Barbara Schurz

The Speech (2019)

The hedonism of contemporary art is the main polemic target of Alexander Brener’s speech, read for the Opening Extravaganza of steirischer herbst by Alexander E. Fennon. Performed in English and German translations of the Russian original, it takes a good, hard look at the widespread claim that contemporary art is heir to the legacy of poètes maudits such as Arthur Rimbaud or Paul Verlaine due to its bold breaks with convention. Brener feels that nothing could be further from the truth: the real ancestors of today’s artists are Peter Paul Rubens, with his immense carnal appetites and his love of power, or Pablo Picasso, with his senile eroticism and his servile mutability of style. Brener’s indictment of contemporary practices is the logical extension of his attacks on icons of the modernist canon as consumer commodities during his days as a radical performance artist. Its melancholic diagnosis is complemented by an exuberantly extravagant costume designed by Barbara Schurz, Brener’s longtime partner and collaborator. The actor reading Brener’s speech becomes a sad Pierrot, jokingly announcing the reasons why it is becoming more and more impossible to enjoy art at all.

19.9.19, 19:00–21:00

Opening Extravaganza

Duration: ca. 10 min., performed several times throughout the evening

Congress Graz, Kammermusiksaal
Albrechtgasse 1
8010 Graz
♿ Venue accessible for wheelchairs

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Alternating in English and German

Free admission with Festival Pass
No single tickets, exit and reentry anytime 

Commissioned and produced by steirischer herbst ’19

Text: Alexander Brener
Costume design: Barbara Schurz
Costume production: Isabel Toccafondi
Performance: Alexander E. Fennon
Translation Russian to German: Erich Klein
Translation Russian to English: David Riff

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Alexander Brener (1957, Almaty) is a writer and performance artist, one of the main protagonists of Moscow Actionism of the 1990s. His radical and often iconoclastic interventions challenge the canonical history of art and the habits and rules of spectatorship. He is also the author of numerous volumes of poetry and several novels, often written in collaboration with Barbara Schurz.

Barbara Schurz (1973, Klagenfurt, Austria) is an artist whose performances and drawings, often made in collaboration with Alexander Brener, address the boundary between art and politics. Brener and Schurz are constantly on the move and currently live in Zurich.