claudia lutze, fremd

claudia lutze



Together with the province of Lower Austria and the Austrian daily paper STANDARD, the MEZ club launched a public art project based on the medium of the billboard. The background that inspired the theme of the project was the sociopolitical motto selected by the European Union for 1997: "Year Against Racism and Xenophobia". Six foreigns artists or artists’groups living in Austria each designed a billboard. The project has featured some 800 billboards scattered throughout the whole province of Lower Austria.
Since the organizers believed that the notion of racism in the more limited sense of word, i.e., racial ideology, hardly can be seen as a crucial social phenomenon and issue in Austria today, they expanded the theme of the project and asked the invited artists to create something alluding to FREMD (foreign/alien). This seemed to make sense also in view of the fact that ethnically motivated discrimination can be seen as only as an extreme pole of social and individual-psychological complex involving behavioral modes and attitudes that are certainly part of social reality in Austria. This has to do with a mix of motives ranging from harmless resentments felt towards German tourists to sporadic cases of real rasism, from jokes about foreign colleagues at work to the socalled "flood of foreigners" – a main attraction of political election campaigns, culminating in the government's present restrictive asylum policy and the policy of integrating foreigners that it endorses – a policy that has "ranked" Austria "last of all West European nations when it comes to integration policy." (Der Spiegel, 3. 10. 1997)

Claudia Lutze's three billboard motives related to a project that the artist already began some time ago and has yet to complete: the artist addressed people in various European cities and asked them to react in any way like to the three words "mental map Europe". The result were conversations she taped. A great diversity of material was assembled, answers were given in writing and "geographical" sketches made. Three small drawings that were attained in this way can be found in this billboard campaign, blown up now in large format and mounted in the Lower Austrian borderland region. At first glance one saw that the fragile sketsches in which Europe was depicted were based on other aspects than a recollection of a school atlas or the most recent political maps seen in news studios would lead us to believe. Europe presented itself here - in various manifestations - as a patchwork of graphic shorthand. The familiar boundary lines began to blur, demarcation lines assumed a new course. The drawings were created by persons from very different parts of Europe. On the lower edge of the picture there was a discrete reference to whom, when and where.
As documents the sketches spoke for themselves. As billboards in public space they assumed additional impact.