From March 5-7, 2020, Dürnstein Abbey in Lower Austria was once again the venue for the Symposium Dürnstein, which brings national and international experts from the fields of politics, business, religion and philosophy to the Wachau every March. This year, the focus was on the broad topic of "Human Heritage." The Prelate's Hall in Dürnstein Abbey once again provided the atmospheric setting for the 3-day discourse format for current socio-political topics, which has established itself as an important anchor in Lower Austria's cultural landscape. The symposium is organized by the Niederösterreichische Forschungs- und Bildungsges.m.b.H (NFB) and curated annually by Ursula Baatz.
For curator Ursula Baatz, the starting point for this year's theme "Heritages: Culture Nature Identity" was the symposium's venue, the Wachau Heritage Region, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary as a World Heritage Site. For Baatz, the idea that "inheritance is an obligation" is essential, because "only from the knowledge of the past can the future be thought." However, who decides what should be forgotten and what should be preserved? Experts from a wide range of disciplines shed light on the topic of 'heritages' over 3 days. "There are no easy answers to these questions," Baatz said, but it is important to "live awakened responsibility now."
In his opening speech, State Councilor Martin Eichtinger also pointed out the importance of responsible handling and reflective passing on of cultural and political heritage – especially in the context of a common European identity.
On the opening evening, a three-generation discussion was held between the former Vice-Chancellor Erhard Busek, Forum Alpbach Managing Director Philippe Narval and the young representative of the Fridays for Future movement, Franziska Marhold, on the central issue:
How do we want and have to shape our lives in the future so that our living space can be sustainably preserved? Franziska Marhold called for politicians to act quickly and for the younger generations to be heard. "We only have a decade to act in a climate-friendly way, then it will be too late." Erhard Busek sees a complicated legacy ahead for the next generations and referred to a new age of resource-saving self-restraint. Philippe Narval stressed that it is time to break up old patterns, both in the orientation of education policy and, more specifically, in the processes of representative democracy. All three generations agreed: "We need the courage to think big."
On the two following days, intensive discussions took place around the topics of "Art and Heritage," "Religion and Heritage" and "Designing Heritage." As every year, the Symposium Dürnstein was attended by an international audience, and this year, too, it opened up exciting and diverse approaches to the topic.
For example, the British business psychologist Michael Muthukrishna inspired the auditorium with his presentation on the various evolutionary forms of cooperation and patterns of the human species.
Matthias Naske, artistic director of the Wiener Konzerthaus, and Kurt Farasin, artistic director of Schallaburg, gave practical accounts of their approaches to cultural heritage from the perspective of artistic programming. Both agreed "that cultural venues must be meeting spaces and that the intergenerational dialogue with the audience must be in the foreground."
Shahidha Bari, professor of fashion history at the University of Arts London, questioned in her lecture the collection policy of not only British national museums with regard to the representation of the exhibited and collected objects. One of the critical points in this context is the call of some activists in England "Decolonize the museums!" Nadja Haumberger, curator at the Weltmuseum Vienna, also called for a redefinition of museums in terms of the history of objects.
Religious aspects of our cultural heritage were analyzed in a stimulating way by the theologian and art historian Johannes Rauchenberger, as well as Stefan Weidner, Islamic scholar, and Frederic Lion, director of the Theater Nestroyhof Wien Hamakom. While Weidner used Islam to explain different ways of looking at the world, Frederic Lion addressed "Jewish Culture as a Projection Surface." Rauchenberger reported on the relics of Christian pictorial traditions in contemporary art.
The landscape architect Maria Auböck brought in the aspect of sensitive design and conscious inheritance of natural and cultural landscapes. Renate Breuss gave a unique insight into the association of craft enterprises in the Werkraum Bregenzerwald, which also makes it its business to pass on knowledge to future generations, to keep the tried and tested and to supplement it with necessary new things. This also showed the importance of intangible cultural heritage.
A high-caliber panel of speakers concluded the symposium: German sociologist Michael Hartmann made it very clear that poverty and wealth are inherited, i.e., that these conditions are primarily determined and not in the responsibility of individuals. Florian Werner, a well-known German writer, talked very personally about his fears of the effects of climate change for the next generations and pleaded to listen more to the young and to share their anger and immediate concerns. Barbara van Melle, a well-known author and slow food activist, closed the circle with her plea for healthy eating: nutrition and the climate are directly related. It is high time to again recognize the heritage of a healthy and resource-conserving food culture and to pass it on to the next generations!
"With this year's topic 'Heritages,' we have tried to enable as broad a discourse as possible at the intersections of politics/religion/philosophy and to show different approaches. In the best case, the Symposium Dürnstein should trigger impulses to think about topics differently, and I hope that people leave the venue with many questions in their minds. We have certainly succeeded in doing so this year. Taking on legacies is a challenge for every individual. It's always about finding creative solutions together," says curator Ursula Baatz.
Barbara Schwarz, Managing Director of NÖ Forschungs- und Bildungsges.m.b.H. (NFB), also draws a very positive conclusion: "We are pleased that the Symposium Dürnstein is attended by many regular guests and is also known beyond the borders of Lower Austria. The theme 'Heritages' has brought together many interesting people and perspectives in Dürnstein Abbey and has once again lived up to its reputation: As a biotope for open and controversial discussions!"
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Veranstalter: NÖ Forschungs- und Bildungsges.m.b.H. (NFB)
Aufgabe der NÖ Forschungs- und Bildungsges.m.b.H. (NFB) ist die Förderung und Weiterentwicklung der Forschungslandschaft und des tertiären Bildungswesens in Niederösterreich. Diese Aufgabe erfüllt sie u.a. durch die Abwicklung der Förderung der Fachhochschulen des Landes, die Organisation des Symposion Dürnstein, die jährlichen Ausschreibungen des Life Science Calls und des Science Calls sowie die Durchführung von diversen Projekten. Die NFB ist eine 100%ige Tochter des Landes Niederösterreich und verfolgt ausschließlich gemeinnützige Ziele. Weitere Informationen: www.nfb.at
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