Salzburg’s free cultural scene


The free cultural scene in Salzburg is being boosted by the Bureau du Grand Mot and the partners of its network. These young activists gain their strength from their readiness to cooperate.

“In the beginning was the word.” And many words were said at the weekly informal meet-ups for literati at the Café Central in Salzburg. Gradually, the meet-up group was turning into an art collective that gave itself the name Bureau du Grand Mot four years ago. Literature was at the core of the joint activities at first. But then, as almost every Bureau activist involved since the beginning had ties to other genres, it rapidly became a multidisciplinary art collective with the principle of being open towards all forms of art.

Take the allrounder Peter Wolfgang Wetzelsberger, for instance: He works as an author, song writer and illustrator as well as for the radio (having created the program „Artarium“ for Radiofabrik Salzburg) and as Wolfwetz in electronic music.

Or take the author Marko Dinic. He organizes the cross-over series Kulturkeule that goes beyond literature. Another feature is the literary magazine Mosaik that is issued by Josef Kirchner and Sarah Oswald and that now has a small publisher’s edition. With Labor L´Art, the Bureau has even created its own net label that shall be expanded to a video platform.

The Bureau du Grand Mot sees itself as an open group without hierarchies. There are no fixed memberships that would cut the group off from the outside world. Instead, new people are always joining the art group, while others are leaving. Collaboration is strongly emphasized: In cooperation with colleagues from My Sound Of Music, who also organize a music and film festival in Salzburg, the summer open-air cinema Zur Schreienden Nachtigall was created.

Cooperating closely with other groups of its network, the Bureau du Grand Mot cocreated the Salzburg-based Interlab Festival. As a transdisciplinary festival, it ranges from video art to urban design and music, theater and literature. One of the partners within this festival is disposed, an initiative that is occupied with using unoccupied spaces for cultural purposes.

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Josef Kirchner from the Bureau du Grand Mot points out that the size of the town has its benefits: “Salzburg is just big enough for a lively scene to develop. At the same time, the town is small enough to enable everyone to quickly join the community – even if he or she comes from somewhere else.” Bigger cities see their subcultures develop in a more differentiated manner within the culturally active scene. However, these subcommunities tend to close in on themselves, says Kirchner: “In a town like Salzburg, things are different. We depend on interdisciplinary cooperation. Simultaneously, we do not struggle with the pressures of expectations and competition that large cities face. They are almost forced to consistently come up with new formats. So we can concentrate more on real contents and actually have the freedom to experiment interdisciplinarily.”

Tied together and in liaison with the Bureau du Grand Mot, a number of small festivals, projects and initiatives have emerged out of the realm of the Bureau. Kirchner views this as the “third wave” that has affected the cultural landscape in Salzburg. Now they all complement the organizations of high culture and the already established institutions of the free scene such as the Elisabethbühne and the Szene Salzburg. Their origins reach back to the time between the 70s and the 90s, from where they have come to face their own institutional pressures. „We cooperate well with the established institutions of the free scene in Salzburg. Many of those who work for our art collective simultaneously work for one of these organizations. Still, contents are primarily exchanged between the people of our generation and not so much with the managements of these bigger institutions.”

It is a new generation of cultural activists that has grown here in Salzburg. Cooperation instead of competition is their motto. The habitus of these “digital natives” is characterized by their collaborative culture that is also influenced by the social media. While the free groups of the 70s and 80s are being absorbed increasingly by self-employment – still protecting the structures that were built over the years – the new groups of the 00s and 2010s are hardly concerned with these issues. Admittedly, the Bureau du Grand Mot had a funded studio in the building of the Salzburger Kulturverein in the last two years, but the next group – Salon Franziska – took it over,  exploring alternative ways of using public and private spaces. Meanwhile, the Bureau du Grand Mot moved to Salzburger Volksheim.


This urban nomadism is thus becoming part of the free group’s identity. On the one hand, the act of continually occupying and abandoning places counteracts the danger of becoming encrusted institutionally and content-wise. On the other hand, this nomadism entails ever-changing cooperative projects and new subject matters and perspectives on the town itself, which are not perceivable to well-established cultural institutions.

As for the Salzburger Festspiele, a festival that seems to fully dominate the town in summer, the young art collective is not particularly interested. For the young art activists, its big cultural tanker is like a parallel universe which has little to do with the actual cultural life in Salzburg. “During the time of the festival, the cultural life in Salzburg simply continues”, says Josef Kirchner with both irony and confidence.

Apparently, Salzburg’s cultural life is being pushed well into the 21st century by this young and free scene. It acts in a carefree and somehow unstoppable manner and off the beaten track trodden by the establishment.


Bureau du Grand Mot


Labor L’Art

Zur Schreienden Nachtigall

Interlab Festival

My Sound Of Music

Super Initiative

Salon Franziska