From a biological perspective, fungi belong to the domain of the eukaryotes; they comprise a kingdom distinct from animals and plants, which was not assigned to them until the middle of the last century. Previously, they had long been relegated to the plant kingdom, both traditionally and erroneously. Today, though, we know that they have more things in common with animal organisms.
Fungi live in symbiosis with other animal and plant beings, or they are their parasites, including those of humans. Fungi play a fundamental role in the cycle of nature and in the exchange of nutrients in the environment: they are the originators of decomposition and they transform organic matter. Fungi live in dark environments, a characteristic they have in common with the cinema.
Humans use mushrooms as food, they are used as ferment in the preparation of drinks and food, they are used for disinfection or as biological pesticides. Ancient medical traditions as well as modern naturopathy value mushrooms as remedies, and because of their intoxicating effect they are used in religious rituals as well as in secular contexts as a means of escape from everyday life.
Mushrooms have also always been described in literature and in the visual arts as the key to the gates of perception due to their psychoactive and hallucinogenic properties.
The poster subject of the Viennale 2020 is a cheerful collection of stylized toadstools (Amanita muscaria), which have always been iconographically associated with psychedelic experiences. Just as cinema, with its surprising perspectives, inspires unexpected insights and visions and opens perspectives into new worlds. These aspects of transformation, astonishment and liberation are what we want to evoke with our poster subject. The Viennale’s mushroom, neither animal nor plant, is reminiscent of both, although it stubbornly remains something else – something that can continue to transform itself.
At the same time, this lively, colorful surface – on which the playful combination of representation and form makes a variety of associations possible – brings together many mushrooms, at the necessary distance, but still gathered together as if for a celebration and a meeting.
The leitmotif of transformation and recycling also characterizes our Retrospective, which this year is a collaboration between Viennale, the Austrian Film Museum and the distributor sixpackfilm, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. It is reflected in a still from the groundbreaking trilogy FILM IST (“Film Is”) by Gustav Deutsch, who died last year and who explored the phenomenology of the medium of cinema through the images from other films found in the world’s archives.Cinema is made up of cinematic material, cinematic art is a kaleidoscope directed at the world and the images it creates. Our poster shows a single image that captures their fire.