Following on from Brugge and Salamanca in 2002, Graz took its turn as European Capital of Culture in 2003. Its unique geographic and socio-economic position gives the capital of the state of Styria undeniable advantages. Located between Hungary and Slovenia, Austria's second largest city serves as a link between the Balkans and Eastern Europe. It draws tourists from both sides, but also - of course - from throughout Europe and the United States. What is more, its three universities have some 28,000 students.
Graz offers its visitors a well-developed cultural infrastructure. Its centre boasts a wide range of contemporary architecture, a theatre, an opera, and numerous museums and galleries. A number of renowned festivals are also held in Graz, like the very avant-garde "Styrian Autumn" or "Diagonal", which pays tribute each year to Austrian cinema.
The 100 or so projects selected for Graz 2003 covered myriad aspects of art and culture. Among them, two gave more than their due to art and architecture in public places.
"The island in the Mur", created by the celebrated American artist and architect Vito Acconci, was based on the idea of creating an "artificial link" between the city and the Mur, a river flowing through Graz. The island is a pivoting construction composed of floating "shells", each of which has a specific function: a bar, an open-air theatre, a children's playground, etc. Faithful to his humanistic conception of town planning, the artist designed this new "urban culture area" as a lively and pleasant place, where people can meet each other and communicate, play or relax… In a similar vein, the "Latent Utopias" exhibition presented architectural projects that rethink town planning in terms of future changes and society's expectations.
During this event-filled year, the public was also be able to visit exhibitions on themes as varied and sundry as the development of languages ("The Tower of Babel"), art in the context of violence and war ("M_ARS"), sado-masochism ("Lust as passion", in reference to Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, who lived in Graz) and to contemplate contemporary works produced in the Balkans and Saint Petersburg. Music also played a prominent role in the festivities, with a longer version of "Styrian autumn," punctuated by performances - with works composed for the occasion by Gert Jonke, Anselm Gluck and Henning Mankell - and all sorts of artistic works. There was also an international writer's competition on the theme of "Unknown Neighbours"… to mention just a few of the many projects making up this rich and quality programme.
GRAZ 2003 Kulturhauptstadt Europas Organisations GmbH
A-8020 Graz, Austria
Internet site: http://www.graz03.at//
The idea of the project known as "spb.bildende.diskurs.film.rock" was to create an artistic artery between Graz and Saint Petersburg. During a five-week period, young artists from Saint Petersburg presented works from different disciplines - graphic arts, sculpture, music, literature and cinema. The latest trends in Russian graphic art - which has enjoyed a boom for some 20 years - were presented in different places in the city of Graz, but also through initiatives like the exhibition "Ten previews of modern art in Saint Petersburg". A film section was presented to elucidate the tie-in between the many art forms that reflect daily life in Russia.
The European Union has provided funding of some € 124,000 for the project under the Culture 2000 programme.
The Youth programme of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Education and Culture has also provided a subsidy for Graz 2003, amounting to around € 150,000.
Fifteen young people from Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, Czech Republic, Yugoslavia, Slovenia and Italy had the opportunity to spend 8 to 10 months with the European Voluntary Service contributing to the implementation of many different cultural and artistic activities of Graz 2003. In this way, they could develop the technical, social and intercultural skills they will need in their private and working life, actively participating to the construction of a common Europe characterised by solidarity.
Summary of the 25 year anniversary conference [2 MB] on the European Capitals of Culture
The brochure: the road to success from 1985 to 2010 [8 MB]
European Capital of Culture for the years 2007 to 2019