A few questions for… Norbert Kettner

It is hardly an exaggeration claiming that Norbert Kettner is one of the busiest men in Vienna. Kettner heads WienTourismus, the immensely successful Viennese Tourist Board. In his reactions to the Austrian Culture Channel’s e-mailed questions, Kettner gives his opinion on the ongoing discussion about shopping on Sundays – and reveals his favourite Austrian dish.

(…) is my favourite sight in Vienna because …

… the view from St. Stephen’s Cathedral’s north tower. The north tower offers a great view over the city leaving a lasting impression both on visitors and inhabitants of the city.

(…) is my favourite other place in Austria but Vienna because …

Ausseerland. / … because you can experience the essence of rural Austria there.

Vienna’s tourism institutions can learn a lot from those of (name of a city) because …

Melbourne. / … because together with Vienna Melbourne is among the leaders in worldwide surveys focusing on quality of living. Like Vienna, Melbourne knows how to take advantage of this asset. The cities’ tourist boards can learn a lot from each other, that is why we recently implemented mutual exchange of expertise for the benefit of both cities.

The Sunday shopping debate is …

… a necessary one. A touristic hot spot like Vienna needs liberalisation of shopping hours to remain competitive amongst other destinations. It could be done in a moderate way and with regard to social issues: not everywhere in the city but in areas frequently used by visitors; not on every Sunday, but at times, when there is specially high demand (like weekends before Christmas, for example).

If you eat in a typical Viennese restaurant, you must try the …

… Tafelspitz, literally meaning tip (of meat) for the table. It is boiled beef, served with a dip of horseradish and apple and is considered a “national dish”.

I don’t think there are too many hotels in Vienna because …

… Vienna’s touristic figures are steadily growing. 2012 was the third record-breaking year in a row, with 5.6 million arrivals and 12.3 million overnight stays.

Prejudices about the people of Vienna are …1

… that Vienna as a city with great cultural heritage is a slightly dusty museum – and its inhabitants backward-looking and conservative.

… that Viennese have a funny-sounding dialect and a special kind of humour that is not easy to understand.

The following prejudices about Vienna and its residents are true / not true:

Vienna indeed is a city displaying its imperial heritage in many ways, combined with classical culture, music and arts flowing through Vienna’s veins, but it also offers a huge variety of contemporary culture and arts as well as a vibrant and glittering nightlife able to compete with other metropolises around the globe.

Especially for our German-speaking neighbours, the Viennese dialect may sound a little bit funny. Paired with this comes the Viennese humour, which sometimes is considered to be black and grumpy but also very quick-witted. Its essence fully opens only to real connoisseurs of Viennese culture.

Essl excites

Two extraordinary special exhibitions are now on in one of Austria’s most renowned museums.1

“ Vorspiegelung” features works by Martin Schnur, a contemporary Austrian artist. Schnur is not among the best-known Austrian painters. However, he is certainly one of the country’s most exciting ones, as the new exhibit – now on display at the Essl Museum – proves. This gallery is a prestigious name when it comes to places where contemporary art finds a home. Schnur brilliantly plays with the possibilities of reflexions and optical illusions. His paintings seem to convey pure and clear messages but are full of mysteries and unanswered questions.

While Günther Oberhollenzer is in charge of “Vorspiegelung”, the Essl Museum’s bosses asked Rene Block to curate an exhibition called “Eine kleine Machtmusik”. The exhibit underlines the importance of the museum’s own collection as some of the most influential Austrian artists of the 20th century are represented. The enormous spectrum features works by Hermann Nitsch, Maria Lassnig, Erwin Wurm and Christian Ludwig Attersee.

Rene Block is a German museum director and collector of art. Both the exhibit he compiled and “Vorspiegelung” are currently drawing the crowds at the museum located in Klosterneuburg. Its management offers a shuttle service bringing lovers of art from the city centre of Vienna to Klosterneuburg and back – several times a day and free of charge. Visit http://www.essl.museum for more information.

The number of Essl Museum fans has been up sharply in recent years thanks to the institution’s wonderful exhibitions. Its Georg Baselitz exhibit – which closed recently – is widely regarded as one of the cultural highlights in Austria so far this year. The exhibit consisted some of the German artist’s most important works, including a giant wooden sculpture.

Book look: Heinz Strunk

Heinz Strunk, the author of a string of bestsellers, U1_XXX.inddhas written a new book. “Junge rettet Freund aus Teich”, a novel, comes shortly after the acclaimed releases “Fleckenteufel” and “Heinz Strunk in Afrika”.

The Hamburg-born author started out with Studio Braun, a collective of creative Germans producing a bizarre radio show featuring hilarious and often vulgar sketches. “Fleisch ist mein Gemüse”, his literary debut, was a critical and commercial sensation. Sold over 400,000 times, the book torpedoed Strunk into the hall of fame of contemporary German literature.

In “Fleisch ist meine Gemüse”, Strunk describes the many frustrating moments of a young man growing up in the countryside. “Die Zunge Europas”, his follow-up, deals with similarly depressing constellations. However, both books have immensely amusing moments too. This is why the press praises Strunk – who starred in the film “Immer nie am Meer” – for mastering the art of merging sad and uplifting situations.

It has to be seen whether “Junge rettet Freund aus Teich” will be as commercially successful as its predecessors. Come what may, Strunk is the new darling of Central Europe’s literature critics.

Junge rettet Freund aus Teich
By Heinz Strunk
Published by Rowohlt (www.rowohlt.de)

A few questions for… Stefan Fiedorowicz

Stefan Fiedorowicz is a Canadian artist who lives in Lower Austria. His work has been on display in various exhibitions in Vienna. The Austrian Culture Channel had a few questions for Stefan.

As a child, have you been more creative than your classmates?

Let me tell you a wonderful story I heard years ago. It goes something like this. An elementary school teacher was giving a drawing class to a group of seven-year-olds. At the back of the classroom sat a little boy who normally didn’t pay much attention in school. But in the drawing class he did. For about 30 minutes, the boy sat with his arms curled around his paper, totally involved in what he was doing. The teacher was very curious, so she approached him and asked what he was drawing.  Without looking up the boy said: “I am drawing a picture of God”.  Surprised, the teacher said: “But nobody knows what God looks like.” The boy said: “They will in a minute.”

The point of this story is to illustrate that all children are so wonderfully confident in their imagination. I was just like every other child in my class who had imagination and we all were good at expressing our creativity. So I was not any different. I loved to draw, I loved to paint, I loved to draw birds and then colour them. I was fascinated with birds and got so much pleasure colouring them. I felt I was in my element then.

Do you always paint at the same time of the day?

A creative moment comes and goes with me. I cannot explain it. My inspiration to paint though does sometimes come when I am alone, sitting in my studio, staring at a blank canvas.  These moments actually scare me. I feel intimidated but something internal then happens to me. I face my fear and overcome the anxiety. While painting I usually listen to music. Music moves me and stirs something inside of me. It hits me. When this happens I flow into my zone. The place where I enjoy to be. Where my passion lies. Music is for me one way, a nonverbal way of connecting that takes me deeper.  I sometimes go through periods of drought just like other artists and it takes me sometime to overcome this period. I feel though I am most prolific in my painting when I am in preparation for an exhibition. Some days I can do three to four pieces, one after the other.

What does it take to get you in the right mood for creative work?

As mentioned earlier, I prefer to paint with music playing, but at times I chose to get lost in silence – a silence that can be heard, and it is just the canvas and me with no distractions. Many pieces that I have done are based on human relationships. I have found that my best work is done when I am going through an emotional crisis or if I am experiencing emotional pain of some sort.

I do not believe in pre-planning a piece of work. Abstract art must be spontaneous: whatever comes out, comes out. This is the part of my work that is the most thrilling to me: What happens next? Lyrical abstractions require the viewer to contemplate, study and ask themselves: “What am I feeling?” I also enjoy being a part of the interactive experience with the person viewing a piece of my work that is why I believe it is important to be able to explain my work with real live people.

What attracts me most of all is the visual effect my work has on me. I also want the viewer to be moved emotionally by a finished piece, whether they go away with a positive or negative opinion, that does not really matter to me.
The act of painting is always ongoing for me. I am always discovering aspects about myself and others as well. And the goal for me as an artist is also to evoke some universal emotion.

How do you like the cultural offers of Vienna?

Vienna is an exciting, vibrant city that offers so many diverse cultural events, whether it is exhibitions by world famous artists, theatre, plays, film. You name it, Vienna’s got it.  Tourists come here in droves to discover Vienna’s charm and its historical perspective.

Do you have a favourite museum in Austria / in the world?

Definitely the Albertina, Leopold Museum and Museum of Modern Art. These are the “biggies” here in Vienna. These are happening venues.  I also love the Tate Modern in London.

Attracting as many visitors as possible without overly commercial and superficial approaches – how should museum directors act in today’s increasingly intense competition?

Continue to bring in famous work and to begin to consider work by emerging artists.  Controversial work creates attention as well.  Like the Naked Men exhibition that was held sometime ago.

If you were given the chance to possess a priceless painting, which artist would you go for?

Definitely “Girl With A Pearl Earring” by Jan Vermeer. I have always been drawn to this work by him. It pulls me in. I believe that a piece of artwork should be “treated like a prince, let it speak to you first.”  This one definitely does.

>> http://www.stefanfiedorowicz.com

Book look: Elisabeth Sandmann and Eva Römer

Britain’s tragic princess Lady Diana, tennis star Steffi Graf and late Washington Post boss Katharine Graham – they are all lauded as heroines in a new book by Elisabeth Sandmann and Eva Römer. “Heldinnen – 45 Vorbilder fürs Leben” features 45 women who can be considered as role models.

The story of Rosa Parks is mentioned in the book – in which the facts are summarised in short texts – as well. The Afro-American woman famously refused to get up when a white man claimed the seat she occupied on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955. Back then, racial segregation still dominated people’s lives in many US states.heldinnen

Many readers might not have heard before of Edurne Pasaban. The mountain climber became the first women to reach the top of the 14 highest mountains in the world. The Spanish sport idol is a friend – and rival – of Austria’s number one climber Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner. The Upper Austrian is not part of “Heldinnen – 45 Vorbilder fürs Leben” but certainly a candidate for a second instalment.

A very nice aspect of the book is that it features several nicely designed pages at the end with space for its owner to write about one’s very own heroines.

The publication of “Heldinnen – 45 Vorbilder fürs Leben” comes just a few months after the release of “Legendäre Gastgeberinnen und ihre Feste”. Author Claudia Lafranconi portrays world-famous hosts of legendary parties like Frida Kahlo and Jacqueline Kennedy. The book’s wonderful photographs capture very special moments.

Heldinnen – 45 Vorbilder fürs Leben
By Elisabeth Sandmann and Eva Römer
Published by Elisabeth Sandmann Verlag (www.esverlag.de)

Book look: Thomas Lötz

Over the past decades, Peter Neururer has coached some of Germany’s most popular clubs. He was in charge at 1. FC Saarbrücken, Schalke 04 and 1. FC Köln (Cologne). Quite a few times, the Marl-born soccer manager was fired for being unsuccessful. However, he has also gained the reputation of a ‘football fire-fighter’ for rescuing struggling teams from being relegated.

Just a few weeks ago, Neururer was assigned to ensure that VfL Bochum stays in the 2. Bundesliga, the second-highest league in German football. Neururer worked in Bochum already between 2001 and 2005. Apart from his various management assignments, he is also active for Sport 1, a sports television company. At Sport 1, Neururer developed into one of the country’s most influential football pundits.1

“Peter Neururer. Aus dem Leben eines Bundesligatrainers” tells from difficult times and the many highlights of his career as coach. However, the book also includes information about his successes as a tennis player. Apart from tennis, Neururer was excellent at football as well when he was a teenager.

The author of “Peter Neururer. Aus dem Leben eines Bundesligatrainers” is Thomas Lötz. He previously worked for different football and golf publications but also for Spiegel Online, the website of renowned magazine Der Spiegel. Lötz looks back at how Neururer clashed with Germany’s infamous tabloid dailies, the leading media for the latest football gossip and the hottest rumours about players and managers. The journalist – who cooperated with Neururer about wiring the book – also captures the dramatic moments of Neururer’s heart attack last June.

Peter Neururer. Aus dem Leben eines Bundesligatrainers
By Thomas Lötz
Published by Delius Klasing (www.delius-klasing.de)

Book look: Amsterdam in WWII, scents and French

Attending sport competitions at the Olympic 1Stadium and Cabaret nights at bars – the residents of Amsterdam attempted to continue living a normal life when the Nazis occupied the city between May 1940 and May 1945. However, people’s habits changed when the situation worsened, starting with the isolation of the Jewish community from 1941. The translation of the title of Barbara Beuys’ new book is “Living with the enemy”. In it, the Cologne-based historian tells from diary entries and biographies to create a gripping image of life in the Dutch metropolis in World War Two (WWII). People had to endure hunger, hatred and the discriminations and deportation of the Netherlands’ Jewish community during the rule of the Third Reich’s army and police forces.

Leben mit dem Feind. Amsterdam unter deutscher Besatzung 1940-1945.
By Barbara Beuys
Published by Hanser (www.hanser-literaturverlage.de)

A renowned cell biologist has teamed up with a journalist to write a rough guide to the power of fragrances. In “Das kleine Buch vom Riechen und Schmecken” Hanns Hatt and Regine Dee explain the influence of scents on our lives. They analyse the role of salt and sugar in foodstuff and investigate whether it is true that love corrupts the sense of smell. On 220 pages, Hatt and Dee manage to create a scientific book which never becomes boring or too complex to enjoy.

Das kleine Buch vom Riechen und Schmecken
By Hanns Hatt and Regine Dee
Published by Knaus (www.knaus-verlag.de)

Cornelsen, a German publishing house, has added another great language-learning package to its range of products. “Sprachkurs Premium Französisch” by Bernard Moro helps practicing one’s reading skills by featuring a book packed with dialogues from real life situations. People chat about beauty ideals of today, a football match on live television but also about topics such as prejudices which are still prevalent in French-German friendships. A CD with listening exercises is also part of the kit. However, its most important content is a book with exercises and grammatical explanations. No part of the French grammar is left out by this publication which targets advanced learners.

Sprachkurs Premium Französisch
By Bernard Moro
Published by Cornelsen (www.cornelsen.de)

Sportfreunde Stiller are back

Excellent bands are set to rock Austria this month to ensure a appropriate kickoff of the upcoming summer of live music.
German rapper Kool Savas will perform in Dornbirn this Saturday (4 May). Only one day later, rock icons Uriah Heep will shake up Graz.

After taking a lengthy hiatus, German indie rockers Sportfreunde Stiller are back. The trio are at the ready to fire up Vienna (8 May).

Violinist David Garret’s current tour includes performances in Linz (12 May) and Vienna (13 May). Joe Cocker (“With a Little Help From My Friends”, “Unchain My Heart”) is also lined up for two gigs in the country. He will perform in Salzburg on 17 May. Only three days later, the charismatic entertainer will hit the stage in Vienna.

The concerts of Italian pop star Gianna Nannini (12 May) and punk heroes Green Day are just two highlights of Vienna’s 2013 open air live music season.

Book look: Hanni Hüsch

Over the past few years, Germany has strengthened its position as Europe’s economic and political leader. While some adore the country for taking a leading position in decision-making procedures during the crisis, others treat it with hostility for exactly the same reason. Politicians all around the world attempt to introduce German principles to push their countries up in international business rankings. However, a considerable number of influential lawmakers stress that their nations must not copy the economic principles of Germany’s conservatives.

Now a new book confirms the wide spectrum of opinions when it comes to judging Germans’ decisions in politics and business. Over a dozen foreign correspondents have contributed articles for “So sieht uns die Welt. Ansichten über Deutschland”. Hanni Hüsch – who headed German broadcasting company ARD’s studio in Washington, D.C., between 2008 and 2012 – garnered and compiled the texts.

Among the authors are Michael Strempel who covers France for the station. Tim Neshitov is based in Russian capital Moscow. He writes for the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Neshitov contributed an article 1for Hüsch’s book as well. Not only Robert Misik – who explains the difficult relationship between Austrians and Germans – links sociological aspects with football issues. The articles reveal that many people acknowledge Germany’s successes in global business and sports while they are angered by their arrogance.

A majority of Austrians might label Germans as people with a bad sense of humour. At the same time, the residents of France wonder whether Germany experiences few difficulties in doing business with China than with French companies. “So sieht uns die Welt. Ansichten über Deutschland” has a broad range of theories and analyses to offer. Furthermore, it features portraits of members of the middle class across the globe. The variety of topics and points of view ensure that boredom is ruled out while reading this book.

So sieht uns die Welt. Ansichten über Deutschland
By Hanni Hüsch, Richard C. Schneider and many others
Published by Westend (www.westendverlag.de)