On Monday some friends and I got together at the Loft in the Vienna Sofitel Hotel, located in the second district right on the water. This hotel is extremely fancy, to the extent that I had to put on my "pretending to shop in Beverly Hills bored face" so I didn't stick out. The loft is on the top floor and has amazing panoramic views of the city and a very colorful ceiling. We were there to celebrate a few November birthdays and drink overpriced cocktails; needless to say, mine was small and kind of expensive and ultimately not super great, but it felt very glamorous to sit there in my old prom dress and take in that view.
It's a really great ceiling.
Tuesday and Wednesday I conducted my interviews with two more artists. On Tuesday, I met with Oz Almog in a cafe in the 16th district and we got to chatting, while on Wednesday Lilly Habelsberger welcomed me to her lovely apartment and served me tea and cookies! I spent about an hour with each artist, and the conversations were very different--Oz talked more about his own life and artistic philosophies, while Lilly showed me some of her works she had hung in her living room and also some pretty cool archival documents related to her practice and her family history as Sinti affected by the Holocaust.
Thursday I celebrated Thanksgiving by not celebrating Thanksgiving on Thursday. Instead I talked to my students about Thanksgiving traditions, with a focus on the Macy's Parade, turduckens (which fascinated and horrified them in equal measure), and Black Friday. On Friday I actually celebrated Thanksgiving proper; some USTAs and Fulbrighters got together in what I think was the rec room of a church in the 2nd district and had a massive dinner with all the classics: turkey, stuffing, gravy, etc. There were roughly 20-30 people all at a long, narrow table, and it was just nice to be able to meet up with Fulbrighters I hadn't seen in a while because we're all really busy. I decided to walk home, which took about an hour, and saw a lot of magical light displays and charming markets for Christmas. It was another one of those moments where Vienna didn't feel totally like a real place, because there's just something so picturesque about it, especially at night with all the golden lights and holiday cheer in the air. Even though I don't celebrate Christmas, it's always seemed like a Hollywood-picture-perfect type of thing, but I think that might be because there are so many movies and tv shows, etc, focusing on how Christmas is the most magical and important time of year. Like how you always tell people on Christmas you love them (even if she's married to your best friend like in Love Actually, ahem), or you "tell the truth". I've never quite understood it to that extent, but even in the US, and especially in Vienna, Christmas seems like a time of heightened emotions and sensations.
I always make this face when I take photos with food. I don't really know why. The cornbread was really good too.
Ooo shiny. I wish my proper camera worked because my iPhone doesn't do it justice.
On Saturday I watched the Gilmore Girls Netflix episodes, which I overall enjoyed a lot, more than the new Netflix Arrested Development episodes. I won't get into a lot of detail because not everyone watched 6 hours of television like me with only one break in the middle for lunch, but I'm happy with much of what they did with the characters.
On Sunday my roommates and I and another Fulbrighter friend woke up early to catch the bus to Graz, the second-largest city in Austria. It was about a 2.5 hour ride, but there was free wifi and charging stations for my phone, so it wasn't too much of an annoyance. We decided to go to Graz largely because of the Krampus (krahm-poos) parade, which is a really big deal in Graz. The parade didn't happen until the late afternoon, so we spent the middle of the day and early afternoon taking in some sights of Graz, which is pretty small and charming--it reminded me more of Zagreb than Vienna in terms of scale. Another Fulbrighter working in Graz served as our tour guide, and with her, we climbed way too many stairs to the Uhrtum (oor-tum), or the clock tower and gardens high above the city. (It's about 260 stairs, according to some cursory Googling I did just now. It felt like more.)
Jazz hands at the clock tower! Someone stop me from making these faces when I take photos; it's becoming a really weird habit.
Because I was on the trip, I managed to bully the rest of the group into shelling out 3 euro apiece to go to the Kunsthaus Graz, which is a contemporary art museum in the center of the city. The space was taken up by two large shows and was, frankly, just a cool venue in that it completely obliterated the idea of the "white cube" as the ideal gallery space. The main show was called Body Luggage: Migration of Gestures and was actually pretty inspiring in terms of the kind of work I hope to do as a curator: it was about migration and refugees and the idea of the body as an archive of memory and experience--something that remains when people are forced to flee and must make new lives for themselves in new contexts. It consisted of painting, sculpture, video, and multimedia installation, and, again, the space was just so cool.
The Krampus parade itself was certainly a different experience for me: it was a seemingly-endless procession of people dressed as demons that looked like the Horned King from The Black Cauldron that not only leered at the crowds and asked for money, but occasionally reached and grabbed at the people watching behind the waist-length metal barriers--kids and adults alike. There was also lots of fire and smoke and people walking alongside the Krampus figures dressed like how I picture Ebony from My Immortal--that is, very Hot Topic. I think I ended up leaving to catch my bus back to Vienna before it got actually raucous, but it was something I'm glad I experienced.
Enjoy my terrible video of the proceedings.
Aww... we look so cute. At this point my feet were pretty tired.
Random thoughts/photos of the week:
- I can't believe I've been here for more than two months. It feels very, very unreal, because on the one hand, I feel like I've been here forever, but on the other hand, I'm sure July 1 will sneak up on me before I realize it...
- At the University of Vienna, they had a miniature horse that made me think of the famous Lil' Sebastian from Parks and Recreation. I only wish I'd gotten a better photo of the tiny guy, but I didn't want to get all that close and risk getting my hand eaten.
- I see this store when I walk home from the University, and it just strikes me as funny that they use Comic Sans, the least attractive and enticing font, to advertise an X-rated video store... to be fair, I don't exactly know what a "sexy" font is, but Comic Sans ain't it.
- Someone in one of the Austria-related Facebook groups I've joined posted this funny image, which is a map of the Vienna subway with all of the stops translated into English.
My favorites include "Hospital-in-the-mead" and "Slaughterhouse Street," which I would be proud to have as my address.