Thomas Ballhausen

- Austria -

Thomas Ballhausen, born 1975 in Vienna, is a writer, philosopher and media scholar. He studied Comparative Literature, German Philology, Philosophy and Creative Writing, which also clearly characterizes his international activities as lecturer, curator and editor. His keen interest in media history, aesthetics, digitality, and literature as artistic research informs not only his academic but also his literary works. Ballhausen has not only published widely in both fields, but has also repeatedly and successfully engaged in interdisciplinary collaborations in fields as diverse as film, music, and new media art. He has received several awards for his artistic work, in which poetry occupies a particularly important position. His most recent publications, in which he increasingly explores the connections between prose and poetry, include Das Mädchen Parzival (Limbus Verlag, 2019), Transient. Lyric Essay (Edition Melos, 2020) and Unter elektrischen Monden (Edition Keiper, 2023).


The author living in Vienna and Salzburg is also working in the fields of literature and cultural sciences, as an editor on international level, lecturer, curator and cultural philosopher. His oeuvre includes prose, essay, poetry and scientific publications.

 

He is dealing with a lot of interests – for example new media technologies and teaching new media, artistic research, theories of archive, teaching as Senior Artist (University Mozarteum Salzburg) and in the University of Vienna, also specialized in movies (scientific assistant at Filmarchiv Austria, lecturer at University of Vienna)

 

In the volume Flora. Sprachkunst im Zeitalter der Information. Language Arts in the Age of Information (Berlin/Boston: Walter De Gruyter 2020) he published a first idea of his studies Nachtaktiv. Versuch über das Cahier which came out as a full-length version in 2023 (Innsbruck University Press). Ballhausen examines literary and philosophical notebooks using the means of literature.

 

The author is a true poeta doctus playing on the keyboard from ancient myths up to contemporary questions.

 

Ballhausen was awarded several times – e.g. Reinhard-Priessnitz-Preis; his latest literary publications are for example „Mit verstellter Stimme. Ein poem murder mystery aus früheren Tagen” (2017), „Das Mädchen Parzival. Gedichte” (2019), „Transient. Lyric Essay” (2020), “Unter elektrischen Monden” (2023).

 

Obviously fascinated by the secrets as well as by chances and danger of the universe – as soon as man interferes – Thomas Ballhausen developes in his text What the zondes are reporting. A variant his ideas on control, obedience and fallibility based on the true names of man crafted zondes. And it is not a human being transporting the narration.

 

In addition, in his new volume of poetry Unter elektrischen Monden (keiper lyrik 29) Thomas Ballhausen clings to one of his topics.

 

The publishing house keiper states:

“In his literary works, the author and cultural philosopher Thomas Ballhausen deals with the present, which is perceived as damaged, with the demands of a present time that is characterized by digitality, alienation and conflicts. His lyrical texts are close to the poetics of punk; in them Ballhausen connects what at first seems incongruent and unconnected. In “Under Electric Moons” he draws equally from world literature and new media; film and pop stand alongside ancient classics or greats such as Paul Celan or Anne Carson with a poetic naturalness. Ballhausen negotiates the personal and intimate before the larger context of our agreed reality. The fantastic is one of the central foils of Ballhausen's poems; the supposedly unreal is naturally integrated into his literary texts. In dealing with the present and history, with this volume Ballhausen once again works on battered myths, dangerous objects and again and again on the seemingly hopeless, romantic alternatives of the lovers. However, his special and distinctive literary position is not reflected in the celebration of the downfall – Ballhausen's highly reflective poems are rather subtle and highly entertaining invitations to rediscover reality in all its horror and wonderful beauty.”

 

In a really charming and brilliantly guided interview (Kultur Interview Literatur 2019 online version, Winona Bach), after Das Mädchen Parzival was released, Thomas Ballhausen gives the reader an idea of his deep going writing, on his relationship with poetry:

Of course, one of the questions concerning Das Mädchen Parzival was: Why did you make Parzival a girl?

 

And the author explains:

“There is a text in the book where a subordinate clause is about Mordred, the evil son of Arthur. The text took me there in a flow moment. There is the careless remark, Parzival was a beautiful girl, we all know that’. When I was reading the medieval texts, the idea that came to mind was something like ,reading against the grain’. That was one strand and on the other hand my interest in theory and gender studies. The third moment is an impulse that is very strong in English-language literature: This is called versioning, which is about engaging with a classic as an artist, not just translating it, but responding to it and creating an add variant. I was really excited about making something completely new out of the Parzival material.”

 

On poetry Ballhausen states:

“There is an increased awareness of what poetry can do. I think there is still a lot to do to clear up all the prejudices against poetry. It's relatively easy to relegate it to such a premier class. Then you don't attack it anymore. I find that extremely unfortunate. There is a great liveliness, also in the area of poetry, which corresponds to prose but also to drama. The types of texts and genres change dramatically. I believe that as a reader you could perhaps now find easier access to poetry. These are sometimes compact texts that stand there, vibrate and hopefully create a resonance. Maybe I also see the other side, that it's not just the many prejudices that exist, such as “it's boring, difficult and incomprehensible and the market isn't interested in that either”. I don't share that.”

 

Being such an educated writer working in so different fields Thomas Ballhausen is an expert in offering his texts in an entertaining and stimulating way.

 

Therefore, we should not forget mentioning Mit verstellter Stimme. Ein poem murder mystery aus früheren Tagen:

The poet explores dark literary areas and sings the praises of the arsonist. This wild poetry is not afraid of anything – and it is painfully beautiful in those parts where it wants to be – and so this volume oscillates and shimmers between the murderous that so attracts us when we are pleasantly frightened by crime thrillers – and the real thing , that is the suffering that is almost perfectly disguised in this intoxication, which is mixed as a discreet branch in a brilliant bouquet of evil flowers.

 

Thomas Ballhausen is not only an admirable author, he is the optimal mediator of poetry who leaves it up to his readers to decide how much prior knowledge they want to bring in – or whether they allow themselves to be taken over "naked and bare" by flow and rhythm, association and image strength whether they feel up to the horror of the empty spaces or the breathlessness – whether they want to be taken to his midnight cinema under the electric moons.