30 July 2005

A Guide to an Austrian Museum

When I was in Vienna, Austria, I was astounded at the number of museums that await the tourist. Indeed, Vienna is a city of museums. I visited quite a lot when I was there. And then, today when I opened Yahoo!, I saw this quite interesting news article regarding another Austrian museum.

Apparently, the Leopold Museum had an exhibit and they would let nude or semi-nude people get in for free...

Hmm... Why didn't they have that exhibit when I was still there?!?!

I didn't get to enter the Leopold Museum, but I got to enter the MUMOK, which is the museum across the plaza from the Leopold Museum. MUMOK stands for Museum Moderner Kunst, or in English, Museum of Modern Art. And it was definitely an experience. If you ever get to enter that big slab of basalt (the building is made from slabs of basalt lava), start from the fifth floor, and do not even attempt to enter the basement unless your stomach can carry it. As they say, all the nasty stuff are stored in the basement. The exhibit in the basement is actually rated R-18. Everything in the basement deals with Wiener Aktionismus, or Viennese Actionism. The main artists were Gunter Brus, Otto Muhl, and Hermann Nitsch. The exhibits range from the mildly offensive to the explicitly gross. They use the body itself as the canvas, and they perform different stuff on their own body. One video clip was showing when I was there, and I think it was Gunter Brus' work, but I cannot be sure. It is called Endurance Test, in which for 30 minutes, the video showed the artist defecate, urinate in a glass, drink his own urine, masturbate, and mutilate his body. Well, what can I say? That is still art, if your aesthetics permit it.

Another museum I got to enter was the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien or the Museum of Art History in Vienna. It was a splendid place, and I saw the originals of paintings that I only saw before in encyclopedias and other reference books.

My museum trips didn't come without some comedy. When I was visiting the Imperial Treasury, where they were displaying the Imperial Crown Jewels of Austria, I had an incident with a local. I wonder why these Austrians, especially if they are senior citizens, they think that they know everything, and they have the right to correct everyone if they think that someone is making a mistake. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Austrians, I am only relating something that happened because of a cross-cultural situation.

Well, I had my mother's digital camera with me. When we bought our tickets, we asked the staff if we could take pictures inside. They said yes, as long as we don't use flash. Not using flash wouldn't be a problem, since my mom's digicam had this thing where it can capture the light and the picture would seem like it was taken with flash when in reality it wasn't. I just don't know the exact description, I'm not a camera person, sorry.

So, I was taking pictures of the gowns, the crowns, the scepters, everything with jewels on it, of course, without flash. Then, there comes this old Austrian lady, who comes in front of me and murmurs, "Es ist verboten hier zu fotografieren." (It is forbidden here to take pictures.) I was standing about 4 feet away from an exhibit, and she just stood in front of me, blocking the way for me to take the picture.

So I just waited, patiently, until she moved. Of course, it would be very awkward if she just stood there waiting for me to move, but since I didn't budge, she stepped away. I then clicked away.

But the Austrian lady wasn't satisfied. She directly spoke to me this time, and she was speaking in German, and I, although I could understand her German and was capable of answering in German, I opted to answer her in English, for I might stumble and not give the desired effect. Our dialogue went like this.

Lady: Es ist verboten hier zu fotografieren.
LIW: No it's not!
Lady: Es ist VERBOTEN hier zu fotografieren.
LIW: (shuts her off, clicks away)

When I ignored her, she even went to the room staff (there were personnel on every room making sure that the visitors behave) and "squealed", saying I was taking pictures. I had the laugh of my life when I saw her hear the answer, that one can take pictures as long as there is no flash.

And I smiled to her one last time, and clicked away.


  1. keepin' this short... i dislike people like that who think they know it all... i would have done the same, click away! LOL

  2. Ah well, some people just feel the urge to poke their noses in someone else's business, don't they?

    Anyways, seems like you handled yourself well, there.