TransAct. The First Year

At least twice I did not manage to complete this reflection on the first year of TransAct. I did not manage because memories of the beginning of this initiative kept breaking into the present, because images from February 2001 kept pushing aside those of February 2000. Was it not the wrong time for reflection? Had what had appeared as a ghostly scenario one year previously only just become apparent? Had an historical turning point passed into a state of normality?

However, something happened in February 2000 which still occupies our attention today: with the first experience of a vacuum, completely normal, everyday feelings began taking on a political colouring. It was new experiences of the instability, alienation and insecurity of previously stable positions which made us also experience the political break as a break in our individual histories. A new type of perception of events pushed the political into the "sense of proximity" (Alexander Kluge) of those who suddenly felt affected.

They were intensive feelings which followed the momentary numbness in the first days after the formation of the new government in February 2000. This situation produced direct initiatives which shortly afterwards came together under the title TransAct (Transnational Activities in the Cultural Field). The first activities were already directed outwards towards the cultural field outside our country, certainly with the intention of making sure of intellectual and moral positions and seeking their solidarity.

The first requests for contributions to this protest against the participation in government of a right-wing-oriented and openly xenophobic party brought a spontaneous and wide-ranging echo from intellectuals and artists from all parts of the world. During the course of the following months, out of the first protests, a resonant space was created with commentaries in texts and images on the current situation; these combined direct local experience with foreign, distant horizons of experience.

At the beginning, TransAct had no programme, strategies developed against the background of political events and statements, from the commitment, creativity and, not least, from the emotions of those involved. After the first few months, the initial phase of the protest was replaced by observational commentary and reflection which went beyond current events.

Over the course of a year, a complex panorama of subjective experience and interpretation of the present developed. Spontaneous reactions, capturing the mood of the time, stand alongside historical reflection and projective criticism of social and cultural developments. A panorama and at the same time a small cartography of time reference which returns in the topicality of a daily newspaper, making it in two ways a document of our times.

However, in accordance with its special character, it is a document for motivation and the breaking of passivity, for a "realistic attitude", as Alexander Kluge calls the accurate representation of real experience, and in this way it is not least a document for a view of politics which does not see this as separate from personal life and realms of experience: the political as "a special degree of intensity of each everyday feeling and each action." x)

As a whole, the first year of TransAct brought 70 contributions, 70 places on a map with Austria at its centre. However, it is made up of a much more varied cartography of individual experiences, memories, attitudes and ideas.

x) Alexander Kluge: Theodor Fontane – Heinrich von Kleist – Anna Wilde. Zur Grammatik der Zeit, Berlin 1987, p. 9.