• Gregory Perreault

Faces at the Albertina

We have now entered a "hard lockdown" until April 11th. Retail closed, but people are allowed to be out with good reason. Grocery and drug stores are open, restaurants are take out only--but more on this later.

PRIOR to the lockdown, I had the opportunity Tuesday to finally hit the Albertina Museum. The museum is an amazing story--funded by Maria Theresa (younger sister to Marie Antoinette) and named in honor of her husband Albert, the Museum boasts an array of classical furnishings and some great exhibits. My knowledge of art is admittedly limited, but based on a fantastic co-teaching opportunity with Appalachian State's Dr. Mira Waits in 2019, I've become more conversant in the basics of art.

Much of my time at the Albertina was spent in the Stadt and Land exhibit, in which I oohed and ahhed over the landscapes that, admittedly, look pretty much exactly like where I live in Appalachia (minus the castles). I was particularly taken with the use of light to make some of the foregrounds emerge out; this was--I learned--a very standard technique in the 1800s.

But my favorite exhibit was the Faces exhibit on the top floor of the museum. In the period of the 1920s-1930s, Austria went through a period where it was very popular to use facial portraits as a way to portray political ideology. Given the time period, you can guess why this would be engaging. Row after row of stern, troubled, shaken faces. From the backroom of the exhibit, I hear a stern voice that is utterly recognizable speaking in staccato German. As soon as I entered the backroom I saw that there was a video playing--a speech from Hitler with tight portraits of his face and the faces of his troops--and a number of Museum goers gathered around it. Upon my entrance, they scattered as if embarrassed at being caught watching. I understood how they felt because it felt guilty to watch--I'd never seen a video in America it's like. All of the camera angles put Hitler in heroic, larger than life positions. His Nazi soldiers responding to his military calls clearly, looking up to him with pride. The stark contrast is I suspect what made it so engaging. The darkness and despair of so many of the faces then contrasted with booming, proud, confident voice of the Nazi leader.

I'll write more on this in the future but I'd known on arrival that Hitler and World War II are sore subjects here, much like the Confederacy and slavery are in America. Hitler of course, is Austrian, although commonly remembered as German. So this is one of a few instances where I've seen some of the history up close.

In conclusion, the Faces exhibit included some nightmare fuel: close ups of freakin clowns.

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