Handheld promises. Small-gauge didactics of political crisis in Austria ca. 1930


16 Oct 2021, 12:00 – 16 Oct 2021, 13:30


Mousonturm, Waldschmidtstraße 4, 60316 Frankfurt am Main

Vortrag von Joachim Schätz auf der internationalen Tagung “Visible Evidence 27: Documentary and Democracy in Crisis”.

The 1930 national election campaign found Austria’s Social Democratic party at a precarious zenith: While membership was at a new height and efforts such as the Viennese housing program bore impressive fruit, attempts at social and economic reform had been stalled and right-wing political violence proliferated. The party answered this situation with a full-on multimedia campaign which was boosted by investment in new technologies, especially small-gauge film. For the first time, film use in the campaign was centrally managed by the Central Office for Workers’ Education, which also had campaign films be produced in-house. These films, as well as the concepts for film use promoted in the Central Office publication Bildungsarbeit perform a left-turn from the party’s use of film. They ditch newsreel objectivism and advertising gloss for a rhetoric that blends the epistemic value of the “document” with a stress on film’s “educational” efficacy. In my presentation I argue that rather than merely playing catch-up with the alliances of left-wing politics with modernist film culture that were well-established at that time in Germany or the Netherlands, Austria’s Social Democrats put their own localized spin on this precarious relationship: Fritz Zvacek’s campaign film „Schach der Wohnungsnot!“ (1930), of which a print was recovered in 2020, builds formal correspondences between handheld camera movements and Vienna’s non-modern commitment to brickwork, while film educators like Johann Fuchs or Hans Riemer developed concepts of film presentation that aimed to make filmic “records” speak within established party event structures.

Veranstalter: Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

LBIDH Projekt: Educational Film Practice in Austria