synoptic storytelling in a multidirectional Vienna

a research project @ the academy of fine arts in vienna

The project synoptic storytelling in a multidirectional Vienna represents an implementation of the “synoptic portraits” method developed by the artist Friedemann Derschmidt. The project proposes an evaluation of this method and its potential in relation to how we understand, learn and teach the politics of history and memory within Vienna’s diverse society. By using several examples of multilingual, transgenerational, video-based narratives of memory we intend to demonstrate how the artistic potentials of this method can be brought to bear on a reality in which exclusive sets of narrativized memories are competing against one another. The method’s potentials will be realized by bringing out the individual, diverse, global, and local dimensions of identities and their stories and by subsequently relating them to one another.

This project puts into practice concepts of multidirectional memory (Rothberg 2009) and postmemory (Hirsch 2002). These concepts, which rest upon discourse analyses within the realm of artistic and theoretical discourse, explore how diverse and sometimes conflicting narratives of memory and collective memories within families run through the positions of narrating subjects. Whereas Rothberg (2009) makes use of group discourses that are both charged with conflicts and yet show potential of being connected and interlinked, the setting of synoptic portraits locates these dynamics entirely within the different narratives of a single speaker. In doing so, we propose a method of artistic representation that allows to render visible the decentralization of the subject, in order to bring to the surface the non-identity related impulse of historico-political dynamics.

Video installations based on synoptic portraits will be put on display in museums and educational institutions with the aim of creating spaces of aesthetic possibilities that allow for detecting and experiencing cognitive dissonance (Festinger 1957) not only within what is perceived as “foreign” but also within the “self”. Ideally this will lead to show to what extent the menacing perception of the other emanates from one’s own false projection (Horkheimer, Adorno 1969). Thus the perception of difference within Vienna’s urban space will be considered as an opportunity to integrate also one’s own shares of foreignness and set into motion processes of forging solidarity with one another. These underlying theses will be evaluated and further developed through participatory research with visitors of our planned exhibitions, as well as in several school classes participating in the project.


Project leader:
Friedemann Derschmidt (IBK)

Project team:
Karin Schneider (gallery educator),
Anne Pritchard-Smith (history and German teacher),
Alaa Alkurdi (multi-media artist),
Nikolaus Wildner (linguist),
as well as co-researchers in temporary workshops;
Camera assistance: Laura Moldowan

2 years

Start date:

Funded by:
City of Vienna | Artistic Research Vienna

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