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put up a fight and take a stand.

Preamble by artistic director of the Burgtheater, Martin Kušej.

Many years ago – back when I was still young and somewhat attractive – I modelled for an “alternative fashion show”. The event was part of a festival for multicultural art performances and took place in an old industrial complex in Graz. There was another show happening at the same time in the same hall, and while we were presenting our bizarre costume creations on a catwalk made from Euro pallets, there was an alternative “adult” puppet show on right next to us. This meant that, all together, there were about 200 guests there. I had become friends with one of the other models, a young Black man, with whom I would chat about the costumes. He was a student and lived at the Afro-Asian Institute. On the whole, those were peaceful, liberal times. And yet, even then, there was a neo-fascist and German nationalist atmosphere in Graz, a city known for its conservative fraternities, many of which lean to the far right.

That night some Nazi skinheads, who must have heard about the event somehow, stormed the hall. They were armed with baseball bats and were wearing heavy jump boots, and because they were shouting the N-word, I quickly realised that they had it in for my friend. But there were only seven of them and 200 of us, so I thought there was no way they’d be able to do any harm. But one short skirmish later and most of the audience couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Only a handful of brave people stayed to face up to the neo-Nazis. As soon as I grasped that we didn’t stand a chance against them, I grabbed my friend and pulled him through a hidden opening in the brick wall into a passageway that led out into the open. Although things turned out alright in the end, the memory of that incident is etched into my brain. What really rattled and shocked me was the cowardice and lack of principles of the audience members. Although they vastly outnumbered the intruders, these culture lovers failed to rally and stick together. They fled the scene out of fear, when they should have put up a fight and taken a stand.

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