Christine Frisinghelli


The art historian and curator Christine Frisinghelli stepped up as Horst Gerhard Haberl’s successor—as artistic director and executive manager—in 1996. A radical break and a new beginning, as had been demanded by various individuals, did not, however, take place. Frisinghelli also took over from Haberl various theater and opera productions (Wolfgang Bauer, Anselm Glück, and Mayako Kubo), the project Made in Hong Kong, and the herbst-Bar. Like her predecessor, Frisinghelli had been connected to the festival for many years in her role as the deputy chairperson of Forum Stadtpark, where she had already mounted several exhibitions within the framework of the Symposium on Photography.

The first female artistic director of the festival felt that art could only be viewed as an integral part of the cultural, political, social, and economic conditions in which it was created. She subjected the institution of the festival to critical reflection in its function as an event that takes place in a temporally and geographically concentrated form of positing content. Particular attention was given to emphasizing the festival as a production site and to questioning hegemonic, Western concepts of art. In the program booklet for steirischer herbst ’96, which was published in a more compact form with a technoid 3-D plastic cover, she distanced herself more clearly than her predecessor from the concept of the avant-garde:

When steirischer herbst ’96 … sets out in search of a culture of difference and challenges the complicity of Western/European concepts of art in postcolonial and neocolonial interests, this search is to be understood not simply as an intervention in current debates on identity (be it on a national or European level)—the approaches of many artists in the diaspora or working from former colonies and the postcolonial critique of European modernity demand that we also review the position of what is still called the avant-garde.

She observed that due to its myth of progress and desire for territorial conquest, the avant-garde was almost diametrically opposed to the hybridizations and repetitions of a culture of difference. In the spirit of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, she felt that the minoritarian should be sought in one’s own culture. Frisinghelli improved art education at steirischer herbst, rejected a populist simplification of language, and nevertheless found clear words for standing up to the “scandalization and defamation” of contemporary art by the media in the Austrian cultural landscape.1

During Frisinghelli’s period as artistic director, the breakdown of events into performing and visual art, music, literature, and film, and so forth frequently changed in the program booklet. Collaborating with numerous institutions, she also emphasized the cooperative foundation of the festival. The existing series such as the Symposium on Photography, the Hör-Fest Steinach, the Music Symposium, musikprotokoll, the youth music festival Deutschlandsberg, and the muerz werkstatt were listed alongside individual projects and program items. The focus was clearly on works commissioned for the festival. The trigon biennial, which had taken place in its original format for the last time in 1991, and the Steirische Akademie (Styrian Academy), which had been established by Hanns Koren, the founding father of the festival, now disappeared from the program. Following a rather conflict-ridden restructuring of the Forum Stadtpark, the Literature Symposium was discontinued, as was the Symposium on Photography in 1998.

It can generally be said that as the curated programs under the artistic directors became increasingly discursive in their orientation, the importance of the original series decreased for steirischer herbst. The overarching themes of the first editions of steirischer herbst under Frisinghelli were Remix (1996) and Körper in Gesellschaft (Bodies in Society, 1997), and the artists’ posters were designed by Jörg Schlick, Martin Kippenberger, Cosima von Bonin, and Michael Schuster. It was also Jörg Schlick who took over the festival’s communication and contributed to a significant rejuvenation of its audience through numerous projects in collaboration with young artists and activists.

steirischer herbst ’96 started with the one-week-long Jamaican dance hall All Fruits Ripe Soundbash (concept and idea: Hartmut Skerbisch and Michael Schuster) at the Thalia theater. The official opening was held on the Reininghaus site, which had been newly developed for steirischer herbst. This was also the venue of one part of the much-noticed exhibition curated by Peter Weibel Inklusion : Exklusion—Kunst im Zeitalter von Postkolonialismus und globaler Migration (Inclusion : Exclusion—Art in the Age of Postcolonialism and Global Migration), the concert/DJ series Phutureworld, as well as the film series Ici et ailleurs / Hier und anderswo (Here and Elsewhere), curated by Catherine David.

From an artistic and musical perspective, the editions of steirischer herbst in the second half of the 1990s became younger and more global, and pop culture was supplemented with crossover, techno, and digital media. Current sociopolitical and cultural policy topics were addressed in interdisciplinary exhibition complexes: Inklusion : Exklusion (1996), Endoscape Technoscope (1997), Zonen der Ver-Störung (Zones of Disturbance, 1997), curated by Silvia Eiblmayr, Kunst und globale Medien (Art and Global Media, 1998), and Re-Make/Re-Model (1999). In 1998, the first steirischer herbst website also went online. In addition, Christoph Schlingensief’s performance Künstler gegen Menschenrechte—Chance 2000 für Graz(Artists against Human Rights—Chance 2000 for Graz) also caused a sensation in 1998. Finally, in 1999, the commission Das Verlobungsfest im Feenreiche by Ulrike Ottinger was produced, a Nestroy play in Japanese translation by Yoko Tawada, realized in collaboration with Japanese musicians and actors.

During the relatively short four-year period that Christine Frisinghelli spent as artistic director, the “peculiar relationship between Cologne and Graz as two cities in the shadow of larger and more important cities” was developed further and entered its final and most successful phase.2 In addition to Frisinghelli, the participants from Graz in this exchange were Wolfgang Bauer, Jörg Schlick, and the gallerist Aky Bleich-Rossi; the participants from Cologne were Martin Kippenberger, Christian Nagel, Jutta Koether, Cosima von Bonin, and the team of the music magazine Spex.

The Spex team included Diedrich Diederichsen and the author and dramaturg Christoph Gurk, who came to steirischer herbst in 1998 as a curator. Among the projects conceived by Gurk and Spex were 4 Plattenläden für Graz & Musik aus Köln im Reininghaus (Four Record Stores for Graz and Music from Cologne at the Reininghaus; 1998) and the complex Re-Make/Re-Model: Secret Histories of Art, Pop, Life, and the Avant-Garde (1999), with the video installation Cross Gender/Cross Genre by Mike Kelley, a high-profile symposium, and the first complete retrospective on the restored films of Jack Smith.

Establishing photography in the context of contemporary art, at a point in time when it received only marginal notice, was Frisinghelli’s most important achievement. She had developed the photography program of the Forum Stadtpark with Manfred Willmann starting in 1976. Based on an “interest in photography against the backdrop of its being situated in the context of theoretical, historical, and social debates,” she also initiated the first Symposium on Photography there in 1979.3 The symposia provided one of the first platforms for discourse on the history and theory of photography in the 1970s and attracted numerous world-famous scholars and photographers until 1997. This lively exchange culminated in 1980 in the founding of the bilingual magazine Camera Austria International, which is still published four times a year. Frisinghelli served as its editor-in-chief until 2010. Camera Austria, which began organizing exhibitions of international contemporary photography in 1975, has had its own exhibition space at the Kunsthaus Graz since 2003, including a library that is open to the public.

Against the backdrop of the discipline of photography and Camera Austria—since 2003, the association, which has been organizing international exhibitions of contemporary photography since 1975, also runs its own exhibition space including a public library inside Kunsthaus Graz—Frisinghelli and her team initiated a wide range of experimental formats that influenced the contents and form of festivals and theaters in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland over the next two decades, including the HAU Hebbel am Ufer (Berlin), the Kampnagel (Hamburg), the Künstlerhaus Mousonturm (Frankfurt am Main), the Tanzquartier (Vienna), the Schauspielhaus (Zurich), and the new Volksbühne (Berlin). Frisinghelli’s time as artistic director was trailblazing. particularly in her equal treatment of theater, visual art, experimental film, and pop.

See, for example, Frisinghelli’s response to the reactions to the planned action by Christoph Schlingensief: Christine Frisinghelli, “Vorwort,” in steirischer herbst 98 (Graz: steirischer herbst, 1998), pp. 2‒5.
Diedrich Diederichsen, cited in herbstbuch: 1968–2017, ed. Martin Behr et al. (Vienna: Styria, 2017), p. 248.
“Christine Frisinghelli,” Pionierinnengalerie. Frauen ins Grazer Rathaus,, accessed 1 August, 2021.


Photo: Heimo Binder

Christine Frisinghelli
(1949, Graz)

Curator, art historian, editor, and lecturer

Studied at Pädagogische Akademie Graz, language studies in Paris 1972–74

1975–85 Administration and program coordination at Forum Stadtpark
1977–95 Collaborator of the exhibition program of Forum Stadtpark, in particular for the conception and organization of exhibitions of contemporary photography (director: Manfred Willmann)
1979–97 Conception and realization (together with Manfred Willmann) of the Forum Stadtpark series Symposium on Photography and Editor-in-Chief of its publications (Camera Austria International)
1980 Cofounder and until 2010 Editor-in-Chief of the magazine Camera Austria International
1987–95 Deputy Director of Forum Stadtpark
1996–99 Director of steirischer herbst

1992 Hanns-Koren-Kulturpreis des Landes Steiermark
1994 Cultural Prize of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie (together with Manfred Willmann)

1991–92 Guest Professor at University of Applied Arts Vienna
1993–2004 Lecturer at School of Art and Design, Zurich
2002–07 Lecturer Information Design at FH Joanneum, Graz
2012–18 Lecturer, Master of Photography, Fondazione Modena di Arti Visive, Modena

Exhibitions (selection)
1993 WAR: Österreichische Triennale zur Fotografie (with Werner Fenz). Graz.
1994 Another Continent. Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography.
2003 Pierre Bourdieu. In Algerien. Zeugnisse der Entwurzelung (with Franz Schultheis). Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris / Camera Austria, Graz (2005 Bibliothèque Nationale d’Algérie; 2012 Jeu de Paume – Château de Tours).
2007 I am not afraid: The Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg (with Walter Seidl). Camera Austria, Graz (2008 Langhans Gallery, Prague; 2010 Johannesburg Art Gallery).
2016 Peter Dressler: Wiener Gold (with Rainer Iglar and Michael Mauracher). Kunst Haus Wien.
2018 Guest Curator at Museum der Moderne Salzburg for the exhibition Camera Austria. Labor für Fotografie und Theorie.

Publications (selection)
Ed. with Franz Schultheis: Pierre Bourdieu: In Algerien. Zeugnisse der Entwurzelung. Graz: Camera Austria, 2003 (French:Actes Sud, 2003; English: Columbia University Press, 2011; Greek: Alexandria, 2017).
Ed. with Diedrich Diederichsen et al.: Golden Years: Materialien und Positionen zu queerer Subkultur und Avantgarde zwischen 1959 und 1974. Graz: Camera Austria, 2006.
Ed. with Koko Okano: Seiichi Furuya: Mémoires. 1984–1987. Graz: Camera Austria, 2010.
Time, Place, and the Camera: Photographs at Work. Pristina: Kosovo Art Gallery, 2012.

Festival editions