16 May 2011. The 2nd string quartet of the famous Austrian composer Arnold Schönberg was the centerpiece of an evening bringing together space and the arts. The event was jointly organized by ESPI and the Arnold Schönberg Center.

Being neighbors in the same building, the Palais Fanto at the Schwarzenbergplatz in Vienna, ESPI and the Arnold Schönberg Center organized a joint evening with the aim to bring space and the arts together. „I feel a breeze from another planet...” - with these words Stefan George begins his renowned poem “Entrückung”, which inspired Arnold Schönberg in his composition of the fourth movement of his second string quartet, composed in 1907 to engage in his way of “space exploration”.

In his opening remarks Christian Meyer, Director of the Arnold Schönberg Center, pointed out that with the composition of the 2nd string quartet Schönberg transcended the traditional way of composing music in a similar way as scientists and engineers at the same time laid the foundation for overcoming gravity. Kai-Uwe Schrogl, Director of ESPI, emphasized that ESPI as a space policy think tank, also sees the need to encourage the humanities and the arts to engage in space as a theme, inspiration and research topic. Klaus Pseiner, Director of the Austrian Research Advancement Society (Forschungsförderngsgesellschaft, FFG), stressed in his welcome address the value of ESPI as such a trans-disciplinary platform further to its core function of preparing policy advice. He pointed out that arts and sciences ultimately are pursuing the same central questions of humanity, though on different paths.

Actor Franz Robert Wagner, a famous voice in Austria, started the evening with the recital of Stefan George’s poem “Entrückung”.  The atmosphere and mood of the poem was then picked up by the Zemlinsky Quartet from Prague and Soprano Anna Maria Pammer, who performed Arnold Schönberg’s 2nd string quartet, which reflects in its fourth movement a masterful musical version of the poem. Alexander Geppert from the Freie Universität Berlin looked at space from a cultural and historical perspective and highlighted how our varying perception of conquering space has framed our understanding and imagination of space. ESPI Resident Fellow Gerhard Thiele then reflected about the desire of the human being to cross borders and argued that the human presence in space has opened a new chapter not only in the comprehension of our physical world but also regarding us, the human beings. Thomas Ballhausen, ESPI Associate Fellow and expert in the field of cinematic history, introduced the audience to Stanley Kubrick’s film “2001: Space Odyssey”. By bringing some background information and citing Stanley Kubrick the evening turned to be not only an enjoyment of listening to brilliant performances of music, literature and lectures but also an enjoyment of watching the final of “2011: Space Odyssey”, which has to be understood as an art piece itself. Further information on the artists, speakers and the presentations can be found in the programme of the event (download here ).


The Zemlinsky Quartet, Prague, and Soprano Anna Maria Pammer


Speakers and performers at the event (from left): Kai-Uwe Schrogl (Director ESPI), Vladimír Fortin (cello), Petr Střížek (violin), František Souček (violin), Thomas Ballhausen (Associate Fellow ESPI), Christian Meyer (Director Arnold Schönberg Center), Anna Maria Pammer (soprano), Petr Holman (viola), Blandina Baranes (Communications Manager ESPI), Alexander Geppert (Freie University Berlin), Gerhard Thiele (Resident Fellow ESPI)


This joint evening of ESPI and the Arnold Schönberg Center showed how closely related sciences on one hand and the humanities and the arts on the other hand really are, and how multifaceted space can be: inspiring, challenging, enriching, rewarding. It became evident that space is not only a technological challenge but also a philosophical calling leading us to new insights about our world and us, the human being. This insight and understanding might ultimately lead to broader support for the space efforts.

This exceptional event has been made possible by the support of FFG and BMVIT. The evening was organised by Blandina Baranes, Communications Manager at ESPI.



- Programme


- Arnold Schönberg Center


Photo credit: ESPI


Photo credit: ESPI

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