Back to the Future
Remains, traces and other testimonies


“Back to the Future”: steirischer herbst 2015 takes a hard look both back and forward. The fact that the future can prove dangerous without a profound analysis of the present and the past, is made evident by a whole array of science-fiction and time-travel films such as “Metropolis”, “Terminator” and the “Back to the Future” trilogy. Their futuristic and utopian film aesthetic cuts to the core of our modern reality of life with terrifying precision. However, our cars aren’t lifting off the ground just yet, as US director Robert Zemeckis predicted in 1985. Instead, former visions of a menacing future have become part and parcel of our everyday lives: the increasing pace of all spheres of life, social developments characterised by all kinds of violence and radicalisation or scenarios of global environmental disasters that we perceived as unrealistic and exaggerated as recently as the 1980s. One common feature of many of these films is time-travelling from the future to the past, setting the course in the present to change the future for the good.

Today, time-travels, like those of Marty McFly (forecast to land in the future on 21 October 2015), still derive from a futuristic idea lying ahead of us. Anyone who wants to look and think ahead, to make themselves, as it were, compatible with the future, and, at the same time, not letting heritage deteriorate into a sentimental apparatus, must rethink the past, scrutinise, review and critically interrogate the old.

steirischer herbst playfully picks up on this idea, focusing in many different ways on the notion of “inheritance” – our present is yesterday’s future. This not only involves reaching far back into the retro worlds of pop culture. Rather, current discussions concerning common cultural heritage – based on whatever definition – have long since become part of a discourse on the traditional values of western society in its dialogue with communities that work differently. What do we inherit and how do we handle this inheritance? What do we archive and what do we pass on to future generations? What must we say goodbye to? What criteria do we apply to the priorities of the future? Can we work on communication systems of a distant future in contemporary art?

A shift in the demographic plate tectonics reveals that we must tackle these questions with great urgency. For one thing, we are getting older and older and, for another, our places of work are moving. One specific phenomenon, both global and local in terms of geopolitics, is migration from rural areas, with a young generation relocating to the cities or peri-urban zones. How can we come to terms with rapid population growth and what will towns look like in fifty years’ time? How can we interpret concepts of reusing, redimensioning or recycling? Will nature reclaim its originalspace and grow wild? What is the ecological legacy beyond today’s short-sighted profit maximisation? How do we handle the burden of handed-down material and cultural values? And what physical traces will we leave behind?

Starting out from questions of property and capital, inheritance and inherited burden, transfer of knowledge and our handling of cultural heritage, steirischer herbst sets out to examine different positions of inheriting and passing on based on the leitmotif of “Back to the Future”.  As always, ambivalent considerations such as these form the starting point for various artistic processes, reflected in a wide variety of forms within the programme of steirischer herbst 2015.