Deborah Sengl’s ESCAPE! in Vienna
Deborah Sengl’s 2019 ESCAPE! was a large-scale installation in Vienna’s MuseumsQuartier that combined the concept of the recreational escape room with the topics of forced migration and refugee experience. My paper unpacks ESCAPE! by considering first how the room defies categorization—Is it a game? A work of art? A kind of theater?—and how this categorical slipperiness complicates a critical reading of the project. I also explore the placement of ESCAPE! in Vienna’s MuseumsQuartier and discuss how the decision to install a refugee-themed escape room in the center of Vienna in 2019-20 co-existed with contemporaneous political realities in Austria that continued crackdowns on asylum seekers. And last, I examine the role of “Empathie” in ESCAPE!, cited as both the motivation for developing the project in the first place, and also the desired outcome for visitors who participated in it.
About the German Studies Seminar Series
The Newberry Library German Studies Seminar series provides a forum for scholarship-in-progress in the area of German studies. The seminar is particularly interested in papers that cross disciplinary boundaries and that reconceptualize the materials and conventions of German Studies as a field, including beyond the frames of the German language and nation state. Like all Newberry Scholarly Seminars, meetings are conversational and free and open to faculty, graduate students, and members of the public, who register in advance to request papers.