This year marks the centenary of the start of WWI and the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Across Europe commemorations are underway by the countries that were involved to set their place in history on an event that shaped the modern world. In the Balkans, Serbs are careful to make certain history does not blame them for the war; the Belgian government is upset with the Flanders region for possibly using the opportunity for separatist movements; England is hosting a recreation of the Christmas 1914 football match; Italy is kicking off its events in Sarajevo; and the Germans have been pretty quiet about the whole matter. There is also a yearlong series of events in Vienna depicting various perspectives, the first of which I wrote about earlier this year.
Sunday’s wicked windy weather thwarted our outdoor plans, so by the by we found ourselves at the Essl Museum in Klosterneuburg. Kiosks around Vienna have piqued our curiosity with these flyers for a new exhibit, The Last Days of Mankind, so off we set.
We had no idea what to expect.
The Last Days of Mankind, I have learned, is originally the work of one Karl Krauss, a satirist who wrote a radio play on the inhumanity and absurdity of The Great War in 1918. The play lacked characters, only archetypes: patriots, ordinary citizens, and Hapsburg officials. Nearly a century later, a Viennese artist has freely interpreted Krauss’ work to commemorate the centenary. With stuffed rats.
The rats used in the exhibit (over 400 of them!) were destined to become food for birds of prey and were not, therefore, “purposefully killed.” I will not go through the interpretation scene by scene. You will just have to visit the exhibit for yourself.
The black rat is The Grouser.
The Last Days of Mankind.