Vienna's Transnational Fringe: Arts Funding, Aesthetic Agitation, and Europeanization

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This dissertation deals with a subculture of transnational fringe artists, which is emerging in Europe in the early part of the twenty first century. It examines this subculture within the confines of Vienna, Austria, which was once the capital of a grand supra-national empire that spanned much of Central and Eastern Europe. Vienna is the site of this case study because in recent years the city has been instituting a self-conscious internationalization of its fringe scene, which resulted from local politicians' desires to help the city regain some of its long lost symbolic capital and become a legitimate competitor in an expanding and converging European field of cultural and economic production.

In Vienna's struggle for symbolic capital, the city's subculture of fringe artists is defined by their need to collaborate with the socio-political demands of the local government. They are also impacted by the requirement that they adhere to the economic, ideological, and aesthetic demands of transnational social spaces, i.e. co-production venues and fringe festivals, throughout Europe. The artists are enmeshed in external pressures as they forge paths for themselves within an increasingly uniform European fringe scene. The artists' complicity in the processes of globalization and Europeanization, which enable their subculture as they threaten to divest them of their "avant-garde impulse," causes the artists to adopt a highly ironic posture in their work. This posture, which is evident in their performances, may be partially to blame for a widespread claim that European fringe artists are suffering from an aesthetic crisis.

An examination of two fringe groups, i.e. Toxic Dreams and Superamas, which are thriving within Vienna's current system, reveals how any analysis of the aesthetics and ideologies of the performances being generated in the context of Europe's fringe scene must take into account the material realities that the artists are facing. In this dissertation the term conglomerate performance is used a as a descriptor for the emergent genre that is adapted from a media-induced and "McDonalidized" system of cultural production within a specific, yet vital niche of European culture.