The Austrian Cultural Forum, in collaboration with literature curator Jen Calleja, invited two Austrian authors to explore London and share their experiences with two British authors, namely Ruby Cowling and Thomas McMullan. The four of them worked on themes such as architecture, public spaces, psychogeography and the vast city itself.
To give our readers and guests a glimpse of what these two Austrian writers think about London and how their work is getting along, we decided to ask them a few questions in regards to the event.
What is it like to use a city as a specific source of inspiration? Did you find the process easy?
Teresa Präauer: It felt like there wasn’t really enough time to deal with the city. It’s more of a shy approach, but in a context that you wouldn’t usually get. Maybe it’s less about being in London, and more about removing yourself from a familiar context.
Tex Rubinowitz: It’s interesting to visit a city that you used to glorify as a teenager and haven’t seen in ages, – and then you go there and see it lying there on the Thames’s river bank – a rattling walrus. Nothing is inspiring about that, what should be inspiring about that? The carpets, the monarchy?
What is special about London?
In this short time I can say: I find it faster, noisier, more aggressive and more demanding than Vienna or other comparable cities in Germany – and different to New York. I remember how I saw London as a teenager and ask myself what I’m looking for here today. I think you can only really understand after spending more time here.
Volume, dirt, stress, no comfort, psychological strain, self-pity, stupor.
What is the most un-urban thing you have witnessed so far?
I am actually quite astonished about this food-hype that seems to spread everywhere in the western world. It is about eating healthily – but the kind of cult that is being practised: it seems banal.
Geese cover a public (royal) lido in shit.
To what extent did you interact with your collaborator?
In as far as that we met and wandered the streets together, without having a specific goal in mind. We talked a lot about personal issues as well. But also about what it means to be foreign or new to a place or to make yourself feel at home.
Talking to each other and pretending to know what the other one means.
You both have a background in painting/drawing as well as writing. What feels more appropriate to describe London?
I think the most adequate would be, if I could be a cast concrete element of the Barbican or a pint of beer somewhere – in order to express my impressions.
Writing more than anything, but that doesn’t really work either. Everything is too big, and above all TOO LOUD, so very loud that it makes it impossible to think.
To what extent do spatiality and time play a role in your narrative?
I try to ignore them both. Just like the paintings of the Middle Ages: everything is happening on the same level.
Thursday 18 June 2015, 7.00pm | Austrian Cultural Forum London