Laura Nitsch, Videoinstallation, research, work in progress, 2020 - 2022
In this ongoing experimental documentary, I am concerned with the in/visibility of class differences in the historical construction of sexuality and desire. Putting emphasis on the geopolitical context of Red Vienna (1918-1934), the film approaches the tension between in/visibility, memory and history writing. By analyzing the archival collections of photography and motion picture of that era, it became apparent that they lack a representation of the existence and claims of queer ways of life. The official narrative of Rotes Wien emphasized radical social politics, particularly in regards to the widespread establishment of social housing projects all over the city. At the same time, the importance of the nuclear family (exclusively meant to be heteronormative) was overemphasized. Homosexual forms of life were criminalized as fornication against nature throughout Austria by the “129 I b (act)” and “130 (punishment) of the penal law (StG)” of 1852. Contrary to the reality of criminal prosecution, historical sources reveal the existence of queer forms of life. It is noticeable, however, that most of the sources lead to bourgeois milieus. Given that Red Vienna prosecuted public display of homosexual desire not only poses the question of representation, but also the question of space. A further concern is to reflect on the meaning of spaces in order to establish a basis for cinematic and collective processes. The term “scene”, deriving from the old Greek skené, meaning “hut” or “tent”, serves as the starting point of this project.
Although I am working with found footage, I am interested in the (intentional?) empty spaces in the archive and the ambivalences of in/visibility in coding of queer ways of life. At the same time, a queer reading of the archive aims at evoking the following question: When we look at images and narratives of socialism, international solidarity and workers‘ subjectivity, are we (automatically) framing them in a heterosexual narrative? When we talk about Red Vienna’s working class, do we then talk about and re-create the imaginary of white heterosexual men? Or it is possible to represent or allude to queer forms of life?