|alytus biennial 1|
International festival of experimental art
Dagmar Schink ( Austria )
Hello and welcome to the lecture about the v.o.n. caravan project.
My name is Dagmar Schink. I am an artist and the project initiator.
While reading the call for submission of project proposals from the “ Festival of the Regions ” - a biennial regional cultural festival – I immediately had a picture in my mind.
The theme that year was dedicated to “ the art of enmity ” and 9/11 was still omnipresent. The September Attacks lent an unprecedented level of impetus to the theory of the clash of civilisations (=THE WEST VERSUS THE REST), which is also reffered to as “ a war of cultures ” .
The image of a technically equipped camel caravan that would cross the Hausruckviertel area of Upper Austria and serve as a symbol of the Middle East and a metaphor for the Western media's portrait of terror, while communicating current controversies such as the control of public opinion via the mass media, migration and xenophobia, and the Western control and consumer society.
(coming from the DVD):
Caravans and travelling people have always been suspect to those in power, since they had access to information that one had rather kept safely away from the majority of obedient subjects.
Over and over again, travellers were blamed as scapegoats, they where persecuted and driven away.
In keeping with the tradition of bearing unwanted news, the v.o.n. caravan, consisting of 7 camels and about 20 people, crossed Upper Austria in the summer of 2003.
On its way it questioned contemporary power structures and modern myths along the following slogans:
War is Entertainment - Advertisement is Truth - Tourism continues - Who cares about Reality
SPY US ++ ctrl4all - Embedded Truth
We wanted to awake the interest of passers-by and to encourage active participation in the discussions of the theme e venings at the individual stop-overs.
The v.o.n. caravan was accompanied on its way by a journalist, who composed the daily entries in the log book on the website and provided reports for Radio FRO, a non commercial local radio station in Linz, which is also broadcasting in the net.
By two film makers, who captured moving images for the documentation, a diary illustrator, who committed visual notes to paper. A pair of technicians, who apart from servicing the web-cam also looked after the assembly, disassembly and modifications needed for the evening events and last but not least, the catering team who took care of the physical well-being of the crew and visitors throughout the project.
Camp 1 (Kohlgrube)
The derelict coal breaker at the small village of Kohlgrube was the location for the official opening of the sixth Festival der Regionen - the biennial regional cultural festival hosting our caravan project. The whole team, including the camels, set up camp at a gravel pit nearby.
Coming from quite different backgrounds, camel owners and cultural activists still had to find a way of living and working together.
The camels, however, seemed rather glad to leave behind the banality of advertising - their usual job in their western working life.
After a brief getting to know each other face, they camp very quickly developed an atmosphere of friendship.
The technical crew spent some time loading and unloading equipment onto the chosen animals' backs, getting them acquainted with their delicate task: to carry the web streaming tools during the trip.
The possibilities provided by technological armament, especially in connection with the most recent war events, were constantly on our minds. How much technology could you possibly pack onto a camels' backs?
After the last preperations for the start of the trip we all were looking forward to to get on the road. Both animals and people were quite nervous on departure. As soon as we were on our way, the agitation settled step by step. Humans and beasts were visibly glad to get something to do. This joy also expressed itself in the hellish speed the camels got into. Deceleration – As if!!
This urge, and probably some left over nervousness from the deoarture in the morning, had fatal consequences for our webcams. Scared by a galloping horse, the camel carrying the construction raced away.The connecting wires between computer, power supply and the cameras were broken, plus some more damage on the supporting construction itself.
Dispite that incidence, we reached our first stop an hour early.
Camp 2 (Bachmaning)
Entering Bachmaning, a familiar advertising sign greets the visitor, announcing that, “ also here", the population “ reads the Kronen Zeitung", Austria' most popular (and populist) daily newspaper. This would be a good place to adress the issue of mass manipulation through mass media.
We handed out a number of flyers and pamphlets as well as our own info reader.
In the evening, we screened “ Kronenzeitung - Every Day a Boulevard Comedy", a documentary by belgian director Nathalie Borgers, which analyses the system behind the making of the paper, without falling into polemics.
It opened the general discussion about populist opinion making and its impact on politics.
To the - local - audience at the improvised cinema in the old train station building, the idea of a critical glance and active reflection upon their daily source of information seemed rather unfamiliar.
The making of reality? Not an issue here.
Media was a big issue in this project. At our first stop-over we tried to discuss the fact that in the age of digital reproduction, mass media duplicates their content and largely consists of repeatedly screened, censored and standardised information.
The “ news ” from the v.o.n. Caravan, which related to local circumstances in a variety of ways, was intended to represent extracts of the veiwpoints of alternative, oppositional public opinion, which is virtually excluded from the standard, daily consumption media such as television and the press.
Camp 3 (Lambach)
1996. A hydro plant is projected for the river Traun at Lambach, in order to straighten the river bed as well as to generate electricity which in fact was not really needed. The local population split into supporters and opposers of the project. For 15 weeks, protesters occupied the embankment around the proposed construction site, under massive confrontation with the builders' lobby. In early 2000, the Lambach power plant was taken over by the public power supply.
The caravan set up camp right in front of the Benedictine Abbey at Lambach. As Austrians are notorious for their lack of historical memory, we wanted to remind the villagers of the protests.
Knowing that the Abbey had then been part of the supporters' party, we set up two “ repentance corners". Visitors could repent by watching images of the protesters' occupation camp on a monitor installation while kneeling on a rough log - a traditional form of punishment.
However there were hardly any visitors: another caravan made the show that day.
Activists of the Volxtheaterkarawane, well known from earlier gigs around the critical noborder movement, had stirred up the whole village, and the festival as well, with an undercover action at the local school.
With police and even the Interior Federal Ministery getting involved, the line between art and politics was finally and irrevocably crossed.
The Volxtheaterkarawane also known as Publixtheatre Caravan made an intervention in a school in Lambach. The took saliva samples of students there, arguing they were to take biometrics measurements for the ministry of the interior. In one or two classes, they even succeeded in resolving their intervention by explaining that just recently, the EU decided to gather biometricsdata of people and to enter these data into regular passports.
This intervention had also an impact on our caravan – two caravans participating at the same festival - that was too confusing for the locals and the media, they lumped us together and so the hospitality of the abbey ended and they asked us to leave immediately.
GELBES GOLG : YELLOW GOLD: DVD filmlet
Camel urin should be, applied directly to the skin, the best remedies for heavy neurodermatitis.
Camp 4 (Wels)
At the Old Abbatoir, a cultural centre and a nucleus of the left within the rather conservative small town of Wels, the two caravans gathered in order to discuss the latest events and the next steps.
Debating aspects of efficiency concerning interventions between art, cultural activism and politics, in theory, is one thing. How the media actually portrait the the intended messages is a completely different issue. Distortion, falsification, contents co-opted...: and many other forms of missrepresentation happen all the time.
The next morning, the caravan continued its journey, except for two of us who still had a mission to accomplish in the town center.
To address the proposal for a monument to the conservative Ö VP (Austria's People's Party), the leading party since the general elections of 2000, they wanted not only to replace the statue of Emperor Joseph II, but also to rename the square “ Dr. Wolfgang Schuessel Square".
Why wait with monuments until people are dead, if you can honour “ big men" like the current Austrian chancellor right now?
Their staged campaign on the market square was actually accredited to the officially as political event, our activists where disguised and pretending to be members of the Ö VP Youth
The real Ö VP Youth, who quickly appeared on the scene had a hard time trying to explain the situation.
The true young conservatives where considerably less well dressed than the disguised demonstrators which succeeded in creating even more confusion amongst the public.
In the year 2000, after the elections and the coalition between “ Black ” and “ Blue ” , (the conservative Austrian's People's Party and the right-wing Freedom Party) many activists demonstrated, then we had new elections in november 2002 because of the big troubles between those two patries. Austria voted and the winner was the conservative People's Patry. They had to find a Partner for the coalition. The forming of the government appears to be difficult, the Federal Chancellor Dr. Wolfgang Sch ü ssel had to choose, cause any party represented in the parliament could be a coalition partner. Guess what happened! mr. Sch ü ssel chose the Freedom Party and we still have the same coalition ruling Austria!
But that's not enough, since April this year we have a new shade in the parliament. The Freedom party split into two camps, so now there are the “ orange ” ones aswell standing for the Alliance for the Future of Austria.
You can't take this serious anymore.
Camp 5 (Rutzing)
At Rutzing, we enjoyed the hospitality of the local fishing club. The goal for this camp was to initiate a debate about sports and competitiveness in society with the help of some invited guest speakers.
According to the web site of the Sports Department of the Austrian Federal Chancellery, “ Sport is a true image and a microcosm of any society. Its purpose rests on four pilars: it has an educational, a health improving, a social as well as an economic function."
Get fit for neo-liberal competition!
Do fitness centers work for the government?
Sport is an efficient instrument for socio-political masures. And, above all, sport offers the best possible opportunity for the exercise of behavioural patterns that are most useful in neo-liberal, dog-eat-dog competition and the fulfilment of the credo that one must be better, faster and stronger than everybody else. Fouls, as long as the referee's not looking, are also permissible because the issue is not taking part! It's all about winning.
This is what governs our lives and our fight for survival. This way of thinking is also good for cranking up the economy, particularly with regard to the sportswear industry and brand awareness, while comfortably ignoring the accompaying exploitation of the low-cost producers.
Camp 6 (Linz)
The last stage took us - not into the heart of the cultural epicentre on the Danube, but to Linz-Kleinmuenchen. As in many other cities, the people here with a migrant background live on the periphery of town.
Conflicts in everyday life make co-existence with the locals quite tense at times. Neither the culture of origin nor the dominant local culture can be unquestionable accepted.
Our camp, in co-operation with the Volxtheaterkarawane, provided an opportunity for a range of activists and neighbours to deal with this issues.
The announced programme included presentations by MAIZ (an organisation of immigrant women in Linz), the independent info shop, Kanak Attak (young immigrant activists from Germany), and Sans
Papiers (the French NGO adressing repression against illegal immigrants).
Apparently that was reason enough for the police to expect the worst to happen.
However what they actually got to see ended up changing their minds.
There was a shared meal from the two field kitchens, peaceful football playing, and some lectures.
Finding themselves with nothing to do the police eventually felt.
Time for questions and discussion.
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