Narrating Transgression: Beyond the Horizon
Czirp Czirp: Experimental Music in Aspern Seestadt
An Interview by Nina Prader with curator Lona Gaikis
A conversation about the past events HORIZON and NARRATIVES, hosted in the beginning of 2015 at the cultural salon SALoTTo and about the perception of the relationship between art and urban life in the context of the cultural activities in Aspern Seestadt.
This interview was published in German on SKUG Journal für Musik, Vienna, March 29th 2015 and can be viewed here.
Nina Prader: As one of the curators for the salon Salotto, in your program what were 4 important aspects to you and to reflect the relationship between art, in this case, also sound, and this special location?
Lona Gaikis: The Salotto is located in a kind of in an unreal no man’s land. Sure, there are a few cultural initiatives, like the mobile youth center, also a former airfield, a small community garden at the edge of the flight lane as well as the significant Flederhaus, but these are really just tiny seeds of civilization in the moonscape, surrounding Aspern Seestadt.
When you arrive here, it is almost like visiting an extinct pioneer settlement from the Wild West, instead of Vienna’s cultural hotspot. This is the appeal and challenge!
Then the curators Raimund Deininger asked me if I wanted to curate a program, I immediately said yes, because this place just is not occupied yet. He and Jürgen Weishäupl, who initiated the project in 2014 in Triest, aim to attract heterogeneous and diverse social groups and bring them together.
My events are called “czirp czirp”, which is based on the phonetics of bird song -a sound in its own right- that has alighted since 2009 in the most diverging locations. Sound and music interest me, because they are direct mediums and absorb their listeners bodily and mentally. The bird is the motif that best captures the nomadic spirit of the program.
To come back to your initial question, to reflect the sound and the art here, I do actually have to name 4 plains: the curatorial frame of “czirp czirp” by itself; the choice of artists, in which I search for specific positions, that reflect music cultures and sound within themselves, and also invert styles; an attempt to work together as close as possible with the artists and finally, and this is really important, to work with the technical conditions at-hand and a good group of people.
N. P.: What does the long trip to Seestadt add to the location, the art or the expectations of the audience? Exclusivity? Atmosphere?
L. G.: It truly is a trip! Honestly, I enjoy the field trip out of the city, the backward view onto the skyline of Danube City. It is as if discovering new urban territory.
N. P.: How did Aspern’s New Year’s Eve light show relate to the sound show? Your invitation reminds of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis).
L. G.: Nice question. What Catherine Ludwig from the “Architecture Institute”, Julia Starky, or Stefan Kainbacher from “Neon Goldin” from “NEON GOLDIN” did for new years goes beyond modern spectacle. Art and reality collide.
But truly, light was the starting point for me to choose the artist LUMISOKEA, to give this dark season an en-lightening outlook. Konraad Ecker (BE) and Andrea Taeggi (IT), both living in Berlin, showed an impressive visual show in the frame of their performance: In a completely dark and hazed room, light beams from a projector pierced the space and were intercepted by the bodies of the guests. This inverts the traditional way of dealing with images in the genre of visuals and throws the audiences visual experience back onto themselves.
I would ascribe a similar listening-effect to music.
N. P.: In the program of HORIZON, you describe the evening with the words “club culture as point of transgression”. Could you relate this transgression-term to the evening of the event and the location? How radical can you be in the frame of SALoTTo and Aspern Seestadt?
L. G.: The term “transgression” may confront one currently in cultural contexts and means the opening of prefixed borders to overcome established norms through the experience of art/music/dance/performance/film. To Techno and its sound culture I would ascribe this potential. This was what I had in mind with HORIZON. At the summit of orthodox techno-idealism, if you will, it is about dissolving the categories of sex, race and origin as well as the fusion with machine and computer music through the rhythm. I understand “transgression” as the potential inherent to art.
As is often the case with ideals, in reality it is hard to apply them with all their radicalness. The protagonists on the evening and I are not interested in radical overthrow. For that, I think, we are the wrong generation. It is much more about the play with normalizing and categorizing codes and to soften them.
A possible visualization of the idea of “transgression” as a fragile and oscillating plain, I see in the piece *=/- (star equals dash minus) of Benjamin Tomasi. He was actually occupied by the notion of crossing this border in the making if this work.
N. P.: How do you see the event: NARRATIVES in contrast? What were your expectations? What was important to you?
L. G.: For the event NARRATIVES I invited artists, that operate less at the level of transgression or transformative moments, but rather create narratives. Moon Wheel (Olle Holmberg), whose music is strongly influenced by dub, psychedelic and drone elements, puts you into a trance-like state. The performance is a kind of shamanic ritual. In the music, field recordings appear, creating their own environments. Christina Nemec alias Chra was also invited. She is one of the most fascinating musicians in Vienna and lately, has produced new stuff.
Vienna’s ambient Virtuoso Stefan Juster also played, nowadays also known by the name Jung an Tagen. He always manages to inspire me again and again with his delicious acid-synth sound and noise elements.
N. P.: Are the aspirations and values of the new media art in harmony with those of the new city Aspern Seestadt? If yes, how? And if, no, how come?
L. G.: Whether the aspirations of ‘new media art’ are “in” or “not in” harmony with the values of the city development project, frankly, it is too early to tell. However, what should be interpreted as a good sign is that Aspern Seestadt opens its eyes and ears for new media art and with Salotto supports a very diverse program.
N.P.: Critics of Aspern Seestadt made prophesies of a “suburban ghetto” or “city-development-flop”. Is the cultural program a method to counteract this? Or, is it a disguise to cloak the predicted “problem-zone”?
L. G.: Critics often judge things from a distance and project their “values of experience” or sensitivities onto initiatives, that bring change. Sometimes it is sage advice to ask, out of which interests do such prophecies emerge.
But, I know this critique well.
In reality, there are building projects in Aspern that are founded on participatory decision-making of the inhabitants. I find that pretty progressive. In my opinion, the shaping of urban space is also founded largely on the openness of the tenants of Aspern also the Viennese locals from the city-center districts in the ring. The fact that this debate surfaces, during the development of the city, is a really good sign, because this means there is still freedom of action.
January 29th 2015, Berlin/Vienna