Peter Vujica


The structure of steirischer herbst changed significantly in 1983 when the music journalist Peter Vujica, a cofounder of musikprotokoll and a member of the Program Directorate since 1974, became artistic director of the festival. For the first time, one person was responsible for the overall program. The Program Directorate, which consisted of Emil Breisach (the artistic director of the Styrian regional studio of the Austrian broadcaster ORF), Carl Nemeth (the artistic director of the Vereinigte Bühnen Graz [United Theaters Graz]), Alfred Kolleritsch (Forum Stadtpark), and Wilfried Skreiner (Neue Galerie Graz), continued to exist until 1986.

Mainly due to donations from private sponsors, the new artistic director was able to increase the budget by twenty-five to thirty percent: steirischer herbst ’83 had 2.5 million schillings (ca. 400,000 euros) more at its disposal than earlier editions of the festival. Vujica’s aim was to “open up” the program in order to address a broader audience while also being open to the local scene.1

The 1983 program booklet contains two new formats. The first was herbstpark in the Stadtpark, where, in 1983, the Opening Extravaganza HANSI (concept: Emil Breisach) took place, with performances by the brass band Jugendblaskapelle Mooskirchen, the folk music and dance group Volksmusik- und Volkstanzgruppe Josef Strunz, the band Westwind, the dance band Harry’s Tanzkapelle, and others, followed by the official opening with a video installation by Richard Kriesche and a concert titled Entfesselte Frauen mit Küchenmessern (Unfettered Women with Butcher Knives) by Diamanda Galás.

The other new format was studio avantgarde, which stood in stark contrast to herbstpark’s diverse, popular program (including a tango course, music videos, fire-eating, and Hansi’s Bar every evening). Studio avantgarde was a live program organized by the Styrian regional studio of the ORF in which listeners could request readings of contemporary literature. Vujica mixed underground and electronic culture in an almost subversive way, conjuring up, in particular with herbstpark and the Opening Extravaganza, a sort of Felliniesque amusement park full of surprises to entice the public at large in Graz.

open house, with its wide-ranging youth and education program, disappeared under Vujica’s term as artistic director. herbstpark and studio avantgarde were not continued in subsequent years; they were replaced with other formats or special projects such as falso loco (1984), smart art and open spoons (1985), Keine Gnade (No Mercy, 1986), Klar und Wahr (Clear and True, 1987), and Ohne Worte (Without Words, 1988). Vujica was clearly more interested in constant change and firework-like surprise effects than in continuity and conceptual stringency.

Vujica’s first edition of steirischer herbst once again had an overall theme: “Mythos, Kunst und Leben” (Myth, Art, and Life), which was particularly evident in the area of visual art. The extensive project Mythen der Zukunft (Myths of the Future; concept and organization: Horst Gerhard Haberl and Grita Insam) at various locations in Graz, for example, was listed in the program booklet not under exhibitions, but instead as an independent program item.

As a co-initiator of musikprotokoll, which he directed from 1968 to 1973, Vujica expanded the musical program beyond this series to include the avant-garde and contemporary conceptual pop, often with radical sound and performance artists. While musikprotokoll continued to focus on postwar modernism, which by that time was firmly established, and Neue Musik with performances of pieces by Olivier Messiaen, Ernst Krenek, György Ligeti, and Friedrich Cerha, in most of the concerts and special projects initiated by Vujica himself, post-punk and industrial groups such as The Fall, Laibach, and Fad Gadget performed. Under Vujica’s artistic direction, music left the elite halls of the “serious” European cultural sector, and the politicization of pop music in the 1980s led to reflections on the role of music, performance, the audience, society, and gender, as well as on the interdependencies between art, politics, and the individual.

In 1988, steirischer herbst took a position on the fiftieth anniversary of the annexation of Austria, under the motto “Schuld und Unschuld in der Kunst” (The Guilt and Innocence of Art), which included plays, visual art, film screenings, and symposia. In the exhibition Bezugspunkte 38/88 (Points of Reference 38/88; concept: Werner Fenz)—now legendary particularly due to the scandals that it provoked—site-specific projects that to various extents evoked Graz’s Nazi past were positioned at various historical locations around the city. Some of these kindled massive opposition, culminating in censorship and willful vandalism of artworks. The most famous example was the destruction of Hans Haacke’s reproduction of a Nazi victory column, causing damage to the 17th-century Marian column underneath.

Since this edition, the use of an overarching theme and the incorporation of public urban space have been a standard part of the festival. By focusing on interdisciplinarity and embracing the popular and the underground, Vujica set a new course for steirischer herbst. The motto of the final edition of steirischer herbst under his artistic direction, in 1989, was “Chaos,” and the festival was dedicated to chaos theory and digital architecture. An interview with Vilém Flusser in the festival newspaper provided a transition to the artistic direction of Horst Gerhard Haberl (1990‒95). The fruitful cooperation with the City of Cologne, which would continue until the late 1990s, also began in 1989.

Kurt Wimmer in conversation with Peter Vujica, “Der erste Herbst des neuen Intendanten,” Kleine Zeitung, 10 September, 1983, p. 2


Photo: Angelika Gradwohl

Peter Vujica
(1937, Graz; 2013, Eisbach, Austria)

Music critic, arts editor, composer, librettist, fiction writer (under the pseudonym Peter Daniel Wolfkind), scriptwriter, and essayist

Studied German, English, and music (piano, composition)

1963–66 Dramaturge at Vereinigte Bühnen Graz (United Theaters Graz; Oper Graz)
1966–82 Arts editor at Kleine Zeitung, Graz
1968–73 Cofounder and Organizer musikprotokoll
1980–82 Member of the steirischer herbst directorate
1983–89 Director of steirischer herbst
1989–2001 Head of the culture pages of Der Standard, Vienna

Publications (selection)
Mondnacht (short stories). Vienna: Europaverlag, 1972 (reedited under the title Das Fest der Kröten, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1985).
Der grüne Zuzumbest (novel). Vienna: Europaverlag, 1973.
Die Boten des Frühlings (short stories). Vienna: Europaverlag, 1975.
Graz (coffee-table book). Graz: Styria, 1978.
Sentimentale Geographie (travelogues). Graz: Styria, 1979.
Dächer (coffee-table book). Sankt Pölten: Niederösterreichisches Pressehaus, 1980.
Steiermark exklusiv (coffee-table book). Graz: Styria, 1995.

Festival editions