Katharina Swoboda












Ostend Company

various media, work in progress


sound: Sara Pinheiro, violin: Pierre-Henri Dutron, graphic: Carlo Clopath, additional camera: Kamen Stoyanov


A project about the "Ostend Company", which was founded by Austrian emperor Charles vi in 1722. Then, Ostend was part of the Austrian South Netherlands. The Ostend Company really existed. After the War of the Spanish Succession, the "Southern Netherlands" became Austrian territory. The Ostend company was modeled after the successful models of the Dutch and English East Indias Companies, which were very profitable at that time. In „Banquibazar" (today Ichapore, close to Kolkata) the Austrians established one commercial post, or "colony“. Due to political pressure from England and the Netherlands, the company lasted only shortly. Still connection between Ostend and Austria can be found. For example, in Volker Weidermanns book "Ostende 1936: Sommer der Freundschaft" one can learn about Stephan Zweig and Joseph Roth spending their summers there.


The main historical sources I encountered are in French (especially Michel Huisman [1902], La Belgique commerciale sous l'empereur Charles VI. La compagnie d'Ostende, and Norbert Laude [1944], La Compagnie d`Ostende et son activité colonale au Bengale (1725-1730). Both did extensive research in the archives in Ostend directly, which were destroyed during WW2.


The work is about the fiction of Ostend Company still operating today. In this narrative, also other historical "facts", like the luxury train "Ostend-Vienna" Express, are incorporated and become part of the narrative. Since Ostend Company is an Austrian Company, and music is very - very important for Austrian self-images, music painted on a wall in Ostend are also connected to the company. These music forms the basis of the so called "Ostender Variationen." The singing birds in the company logo refer to the company’s attachment to music






Exhibitions (parts of the projected were presented):

Excursies. Solo Presentation. Steiermark Haus, Brussels 2017

Don´t call it off-space. Curated by Alexandra Grausan. das weisse haus, Vienna 2017