Performing Salzburg's Intangible Heritage: Thomas Hörl's UNNESKO II


Association of Critical Heritage Studies
Second Biannual Conference
Australian National University
Canberra, Australia
2 - 4 December 2014

About the Conference

The Centre of Heritage and Museum Studies, The Australian National University, will be hosting the second Association of Critical Heritage Studies bi-annual conference. Over 300 papers, performances and roundtable discussions will be presented by scholars from around the world, exploring cutting edge research and innovative thinking in heritage and museum studies, and public history and memory studies. There is a strong focus on Asia in the papers being presented, and a significant contribution of papers on Intangible Cultural Heritage, as well as issues of multiculturalism, migration and diaspora.

Conference themes include:
1. Critical approaches to heritage in Asia            
2. Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH)                
3. Multiculturalism, migration and diaspora     
4. Conflict and destruction                                 
5. Memory, heritage and museums                    
6. Human rights and ethics                                 
7. Affect and emotion 
8. Urbanism, materiality and heritage
9. Digital heritage and social media   
10. Class and heritage       
11. Theorising cultural heritage studies       
12. Communities, museums and heritage
13. Critical heritage and critical tourism studies
14. Authenticity, aesthetics and value
15. Pedagogy of Critical Heritage Studies

Organising Committee

Laurajane Smith; Gary Campbell; Kylie Message; Tracy Ireland; Yujie Zhu; Kynan Gentry; John Giblin; Amy Clark (Australian Chapter); Michelle Stefano (US Chapter); Trudie Walters (New Zealand).

Keynote Speakers

Michael Herzfeld – Harvard University, USA
Zongjie Wu – Zhejiang University, China
Denis Byrne – University of Western Sydney, Australia
Margaret Wetherell – University of Auckland, New Zealand
Sherry Linkon – Georgetown University, USA

Performing Salzburg's Intangible Heritage: Thomas Hörl's UNNESKO II (abstract)

Session: Intangible Cultural Heritage, room COP GO50, Friday 4 December 2014, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.

The Austrian province of Salzburg is well known for its lively folklore customs. Anthropologists have depicted ephemeral folk culture [Volkskultur] as one of four major collective identifiers of Salzburg in present times (Kammerhofer-Aggermann 2010). Very recently, the UNESCO included seven Salzburg-based traditional associations in their Inventory of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in Austria, keen to safeguard these so-called endangered rites and practices.

UNESCO's particular concept of heritage has been criticized by numerous scholars for its sombre tone-such as an emphasis on stability, rootedness, pre-industrial layout, and its concept of culture as homogeneous and universal (Leimgruber 2010). In contrast, anthropologists bring forward the concept of heritage as "a process or a performance" (Smith 2011). Moreover, with regard to performance, intangible heritage marks a move from masterpiece to master, and from archive to repertoire (Taylor 2003). In this regard, taking the medium's fleeting character further (Phelan 1993), "intangibility and evanescence – the condition of all experience" (Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 2004) does not imply that intangible heritage per se disappears.

My paper considers the enlivening and funny tones that contemporary art practice offers by way of understanding heritage as a process. In particular, I look at the video performance UNNESKO II (2013) by the Austrian artist Thomas Hörl. The video lays out Salzburg's intangible heritage [immaterielles Kulturerbe] in a non-normative and hybrid tonality that embraces popular culture. Through an analysis of the rich visual material, I discuss how UNNESKO II offers a subversion of UNESCO's gatekeeping ideology. With regard to the concept of double-consciousness (Sartre 1943), I argue that the UNESCO Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage implies performing bad faith as it were. Does irony in Thomas Hörl's UNNESKO II allow to think of a double-conscious inheritor?

What if re/encountering self-reflexive agency in cultural heritage (Hafstein 2010) undermines the mummification of Salzburg's intangible heritage in an archive, by means of acknowledging ephemeral folk culture as a living practice?



© — Claudia Marion Stemberger 2019