When it started in the 1950s, the Wiener Festwochen laid several important foundations for creating a new image for Vienna, both nationally and internationally. After Vienna and Austria had been isolated by Austrofasciscm and Nazism, it was necessary to reconnect with the world, to integrate the city and the country into the international discourse of art and culture, to promote life, openness, and the idea of a future. Throughout its subsequent history, the Wiener Festwochen has always taken on cultural and sociopolitical challenges.
For example, the large Wiener Festwochen exhibitions have contributed to the creation of the Kunsthalle. Out of a need for new understanding of opera, separate from the State Opera, the idea for the Theater an der Wien was developed. With “Töne und Gegentöne” and “Big Beat” important emphasis has been put on the grey area in experimental music between avantgarde, subculture, pop, and electronic, which inspired the further development of music in the city. With “Big Motion”, the Festwochen opened a world unknown to Vienna of new, postdramatic theatre forms. And with “Arena 70”, the Festwochen created its own counter-festival for new art and social forms.
Gathering these historical threads, the Wiener Festwochen today is positioned as a multidisciplinary art festival in the city. Among Vienna's varied and tightly-packed cultural offerings, the point is to present and allow things not yet seen and not yet heard, and to work as a content engine linking genres, thoughts, and ideas. The task of the Wiener Festwochen will therefore be to create frameworks for new alliances, rather than to build new borders and fences of art.
Historically, the Wiener Festwochen has defined itself as a festival for high culture, subculture, and counterculture, combining music theatre, theatre, fine arts, performance, dance, music, installation, discourse, participation, workshops, and new art forms that cannot yet be categorised. Thus, festival will not pause at genre boundaries.
Wiener Festwochen doesn’t aim to be a glossy festival. Rather, it seeks to understand art as a process that enables new solidarities by creating temporary Ground Zeros, thus becoming a field for experimentation for a future society.