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☰ Edwin Stolk

Conversation Pieces
Supergau Festival - 26/5 until 4/6 2023

As an artist I am interested in social themes. In Lungau I have focused on the 'rural flight'. That's what it's called when young people exchange the countryside for the big city. This beautiful region in Austria has a rich cultural past but how about its future? During the Supergau Festival I initiated site specific 'Conversation Pieces' to imagine and debate the future.

Below is a mind map of my research.

In an early stage of my exploration I became fascinated by the phenomenon of 'rural flight'. Young people move for their studies to cities like Salzburg, Wien or Graz and often do not return. Due to the lack of efficient public transport, moving is the only option for these youngsters. As a result, local amenities come under pressure. This rural brain drain is a worldwide problem and related to globalization and the competition for talent. Can Lungau still turn the tide?

"The most powerful engine for change is the evocation of desire for change. Imagination is essential to this. It is not the world that determines who we are, but the other way round - we shape the world with our stories."
Floris Alkemade.

In 2022 and 2023, I stayed in Lungau several times. I corresponded with youngsters and exchanged views on the spot about the possible causes of this flight towards the city. Although the main emphasis in this area is on tourism, agriculture and forestry, career opportunities for educated women are particularly lacking. Visually, this region exudes a rich cultural past, but what does its future look like?

Lungauer BurgermeisterInnen 2030

"The places that will be most able to absorb new energies will be those that are both open to diversity and also capable of internalizing the externalities that the creative economy gives rise to."
The flight of the creative class by Richard Florida.

From a brain drain to a brain gain? I am convinced that art can lead to new perspectives. This is why, in dialogue with many different people in Lungau, I developed site-specific 'Conversation Pieces'. Documentation you can find here below. These examples made it possible to imagine and discuss a future perspective during the Supergau Festival that was held between 26 May and 4 June 2023.

'Lungauer Bürgermeister*innen 2030'

In the study 'Land without daughters' by Isabel Stumfol (spatial planner), I read that land flight is predominantly female. Rural areas lack jobs for these highly educated women. The research of Stumfol also points out that many mayors are male. In Lungau's 15 municipalities, there is only one female mayor. This raises the question of how the women's interests are being represented? A recent study by Plan International shows that girls and young women around the world do not feel represented in politics, they consider the "political arena" as male-dominated.

'St. Leonhard Universität – St. Michael im Lungau 2023 – 2025'

While most young people leave to study in the city, it is interesting to imagene how this migration can be reversed? After all, Sankt Michael im Lungau has all the elements for a good learning environment. Clean air, silence and concentration, space to study and, in addition, new sports facilities are under construction. Imagine if studying in the countryside wins out over the city? Perhaps then, nightlife could also be revived here.

'Bahnhof Zederhaus 2023 – 2025'

In Lungau, everyone is dependend on a car for their mobility. If you are too young to drive, or the breadwinner uses the car to go to work, it is difficult to get around in this region. Studying in the city almost always means moving, while Salzburg by car is just 1 hour away. The lack of adequate public transport also deprives tourism of an environmental friendly opportunity for a holiday in Lungau. What does it mean when Zederhaus becomes the green gateway to Lungau with a high-speed train line?

'Tauernbahn Mauterndorf 2030'

"Construction took only 316 days and then 76 kilometres of railway line from Unzmarkt to Mauterndorf, including tunnels and bridges, was completed: on 8 October 1894, the Murtalbahn was officially opened. That pleased the people of Lungau, but they were not entirely satisfied. The rail link only took them to Styria. Plans to connect the Murtalbahn with the Giselabahn to create a link to the capital failed due to lack of money. Even the variant of opening up the Lungau with the Tauernbahn was not heard."
Iris Butscher, Salzburger Nachrichten. [link]

'Conversation Pieces' consisted of several components and was made possible by the passionate team of the Supergau Festival 2023 under the direction of Tina Heine, with financial support of Land Salzburg. I want to thank the municipality Tamsweg for their warm welcome and for offering Schloss Kuenburg for our photoshoot! Mayor Manfred Sampl from St. Michael, Mayor Herbert Eßl from Mauterndorf & Mayor Thomas Kößler from Zederhaus thank you for hosting a billboard in your municipality. Thank you Theresa Santner for your help and also for organizing the Supergau pop-up kitchen, Doris Berchthaler, Barbara Macheiner, Maria Pfeifenberger and all other participants who made the Lungauer Bürgermeister*innen 2030 poster possible merci! Thank you Nataliya Oberhummer from the Lungauer Frauennetzwerk, Christina Zitz from Akzente, Thomas Frauenschuh from Epamedia, Andreas Allerstorfer from aWs Media Group, Felix Ganzer for drawing and building the billboards, Gerald Bogensperger from Power Page, ÖBB, Club 760, the land owners that gave place to the billboards and last but not least my wife the artist Hristina Tasheva for her support, documenting the work and making the Lungauer Bürgermeister*innen 2030 photo!

Cocreation starts with a theme that concerns us. In Lungau I have met several lovely people who care about the Lungau region and its future. I would like to thank everyone for their trust and participation. Thank you for sharing your stories. Without you this artwork was not possible. I hope this initiative will be an open invitation to stay in touch with each other and work collaboratively on societal goals.

Please, also read my contributions to the Supergau Magazin! The text 'Conversation Pieces: Let's talk' and 'The Way the Water Flows'.

Best regards, Edwin Stolk.


Land Salzburg

Your (company) name here? Do not hesitate to contact me when you are interested to collaborate!

'Conversation Pieces' was mentioned in the following media: RTS Regional TV Salzburg, Salzburger Nachrichten, Dreh Punkt Kultur, SIM's Kultur.

'Conversation Pieces' follows the concept behind #theorganisation

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