Steirischer Herbst Festival, Truth is Concrete grant holder, Graz, Austria

“Art is a left-wing hobby.”

– Geert Wilders

The Netherlands, Hungary, Spain, Great Britain, Greece, Tunis, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Japan… A list in progress of countries as synonyms for crises, hopes, disasters that are changing the world so fast, we can’t keep track: Financial devastations threatening the whole European project, the rise of the populist right, fundamental destruction of economical, educational and cultural structures, democratic uprisings, Islamic fundamentalism, threats of technological and ecological catastrophes – where to start, where to end?

What is the role of art in this race of events that we can barely follow, let alone properly understand? At a time when theory and practice are constantly running behind reality? When art is seen rather as a mere leftist hobby than a foundation of humanity?

We have learned that there are no easy answers anymore. We don’t trust ideologies, even though we follow the ideology of capitalism. We know everything is contingent and relative. We replace critique with criticality, the political with the post-political, modernity with post-modernity, and capitalism with added value. But where the answers get too complicated, the desire for simple solutions is growing. And we – perhaps indeed leftist hobbyists – seem to have lost contact with a larger base. The constant awareness of the complexity of the notions of truth, reality or politics seems to have manoeuvred us into a dead-end road: either we are too simple, or we are too complex, too populist or too stuck in hermetic eremitism. Either we include too much or we exclude too many.

So what is to be done? Should art help in solving problems that politics and society themselves have ignored for so long? Should art be a social or political tool, can it be useful? And why should it know what to do when nobody else does?

“Truth is concrete” is the sentence written in big letters over Bertolt Brecht’s working desk in his Danish exile – quoting Lenin quoting Hegel quoting Augustin. We take the possibility of truth as a working hypothesis and look for direct action, for concrete change and knowledge. Big or small scale, loud and aggressive, or intimate and careful. Obscure or obvious. An art that not only presents and documents but that engages in specific political and social situations – and an activism that not only acts for the sake of acting but searches for intelligent, creative means of self-empowerment: artistic strategies and tactics in politics, political strategies and tactics in art.

“Truth is concrete” is a 24-hour, 7-day marathon camp: 150 artists, activists and theorists lecture, perform, play, produce, discuss, collect artistic strategies in politics and political strategies in art. All day long, all night long. It is a platform, a toolbox as well as a performative statement, an extreme effort at a time that seems to need some extreme efforts. The marathon is a machine, running in the centre, inspiring and frustrating. Surrounded by a camp-like living and working environment as a social space, that defines its own needs and demands. Having to miss is part of having to make choices.

“Truth is concrete” creates a one-week community, mixing day and night, developing its own jet lag towards the surrounding world – at the same time being confronted non-stop with an outside audience passing by, joining in, leaving and returning. Lectures, discussion, performances, films and concerts will be accompanied by one-day-workshops, open spaces and an exhibition. A full grant program invites additionally 100 students, artists, activists and theorists and from all over the world. In an attempt to not create just another event about politics, but a political event itself, the festival also investigates its own format and its own everyday decision making.