Department of Ultimology

What Where


What Where / Was Wo

20 September – 16 November 2018
Grazer Kunstverein
Co-commissioned by steirischer herbst‘18

This research project and installation emerged from the establishment of an Ultimology Working Group in collaboration with artists/researchers Nina Höchtl and Julia Wieger, the Secretariat for Ghosts, Archival Politics & Gaps.

The project applied a reflexive approach to knowledge production to the rituals, ceremonies, specialties, and seasonal traditions of Styria. It explored the construction, maintenance and preservation of Trachten, the so-called traditional clothing or folk costumes of Austria, which today see a resurgence in popularity.  The project comprised an installation including historical and contemporary visual documents along with a script and a questionnaire, as well as a lecture performance intervening in the closing discussion Conchita vs. Gabalier of steirischer herbst 2018.

The installation and the lecture performance emerge from the discovery of a travelling slide show of 1959, aimed at promoting and reigniting interest in women’s Dirndl throughout Styria. They highlight the Dirndl’s re-introduction as a pillar of Austrian identity, its relation to National Socialism, the structural hierarchies it had helped to establish between the countryside and the city, as well as its role in the construction of gender identities. The questionnaire invited the audience to “choose a specific tradition, ritual or speciality that you consider unique to your environment, region or calendar” and to reflect upon ambient culture, questioning how it is constructed, consumed, advanced, practiced and preserved, and how in doing so, it can evade extinction, intentionally or not.

Concept and organization: Department of Ultimology and Secretariate for Ghosts, Archival Politics and Gaps. Volksfronten, Grazer Kunstverein, steirischer herbst, Graz, 2018

Ultimology was applied to the cultural calendars of the people of Graz and Styria, Austria as a methodology for creative and critical analysis, in an attempt to measure the relationships individuals have with specific moments, events, traditions, rituals and practices unique to their environment.

As a case study, Nina Höchtl and Julia Wieger researched the maintenance of traditional Styrian costumes (Trachten). As part of the resulting research a visual essay was produced. This was on display alongside a questionnaire for visitors to respond to, asking respondents to reflect on folk or cultural elements specific to their own experience while enjoying a cup of Gingko leaf tea (said to have special memory enhancing properties).

Influenced by the structuring power of the seasons, What Where/ Was Wo took its title from the last known play by Samuel Beckett, commissioned by steirischer herbst in 1983.