“To make things understandable, we need to exaggerate, only exaggeration illustrates“, said Thomas Bernhard, who described himself as an exaggeration artist. He was also “intellectually explosive, cosmopolitan in a down-to-earth way, a charmer, Austria’s court jester, Bohemian, a linguistically-playful madman, a stimulating and thrilling friend, a philosophising perpetual-whinger“ (Martina Zschocke), and many more things besides. The question of what he would “do” today assumes, first of all, that his “philosophical laughing programme“, as he called it, is still relevant for the world’s agenda, because of its sustained ability to hold a mirror up to the world. Furthermore, the “Bernhard system“ (Heiner Müller) will continue to answer in new ways, if “we consult it in a careful, detached manner, because it is continuously taking in reality in novel ways …“ (Hermann Beil). How (and if) a multi-faceted and interdisciplinary ten-day festival can reflect on and transform the „Bernhard system“ will be discussed during the opening of the festival by the following people: a) a Serbian author who is also German scholar, club-goer and Thomas-Bernhard-fan (Barbara Marković); b) a German scholar who manages the Austrian literary archive in Salzburg and has written several books about Thomas Bernhard (Manfred Mittermayer); c) an art historian and curator who has been dramaturge at the Kunsthalle Wien since 2013 (Vanessa Joan Müller); and d) a controversial author and critic of the times, who is also an historian (Doron Rabinovici). Even if in this, and the following events, not much more will be ‘done’ other than thinking (linguistically, musically and/or visually), the festival “WWTBD – What Would Thomas Bernhard Do” promises to become, after the fashion of Thomas Bernhard, a thorn in the flesh of spiritual inertia: “The thinking person who is idle appears as the greatest threat to those for whom idleness is simply doing nothing, who actually do nothing when they are idle… for when they did nothing there was nothing going on in them.”
with DER STANDARD
Stefan Gmünder (*1965) is a journalist at Der Standard. He lives and works in Vienna.
Barbara Marković (*1980) is a writer. She lives and works in Vienna. In 2009 she published her book Ausgehen, which refers to Thomas Bernhard’s Walking. She recently completed another book, Graz, Alexanderplatz.
Manfred Mittermayer (*1959) is a literary scientist. He lives and works in Salzburg.
Vanessa Joan Müller (*1968) is head of dramaturgy at the Kunsthalle Wien. She lives and works in Vienna.
Doron Rabinovici (*1961) is a writer, essayist, and historian. He has lived and worked in Vienna since 1964. In 2010 he published his novel Andernorts, and was nominated for the Deutscher Buchpreis.