The life and work of the Austrian writer Peter Altenberg is shrouded in controversy. From bouts of mental illness to obsessive relationships with prepubescent girls, Altenberg’s willingness to write about his experiences of depression and passion ensured a level of notoriety that exists to this day. Celebrated as an eccentric during his lifetime, his friends and contemporaries included Sigmund Freud, Gustav Klimt and Adolf Loos.
Altenberg described himself as ‘a little pocket mirror’ and had a unique ability to see the world of Vienna circa 1900 in miniature. Art Historian Gemma Blackshaw retraces his footsteps through Vienna’s cafés and asylums, cheap hotels and holiday resorts to create an illuminating portrait of this deeply troubled man, so central to the culture of this time and place. Accused of paedophilia by some, how can academics and institutions deal with his collection of images and texts? What would they have to leave out, and what does this say about our own, similarly anxious times?
Presented and written by Gemma Blackshaw
Filmed, directed and edited by David Bickerstaff
Funded by Plymouth University