Linz, that is. Austria.
After allowing the festival organizers to presume we needed full press credentials and provide them, MZ and I joined a swarm of people following eToy to the balcony over Linz Hauptplatz where, just like Hitler, we looked out over the crowds below, more or less indifferent to the presence of Ars Electronica opening night proceedings. It’s not like I understood where I was standing immediately, but it’s safe to safe the realization arrived seconds after MZ pointed out the hills to the right where Simon Wiesthenthal had been imprisoned in the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp.
Good view of the town, I said. MZ’s eyes narrowed.
And we looked down at the platz.
And we looked at the crisp uniforms of the eToy people (orange, way ahead of their time in the orange department).
And we looked at the polyglottish press corps.
And we looked at eachother.
And we left.
My pockets were full of 1″ square stickers that said “The Man Will Burn Without You” in four languages: English, German, French and Japanese. But the Linz we walked through endlessly was such an impeccably clean place: no graffiti, no lightpoles bulging with flyers, no crumbling racks of notices. I simply couldn’t apply one anywhere, even if it would, because it was the only defacing item for blocks, be instantly construed as conceptual art. Instead, I distributed them onto tables in cafes and bars, counters in galleries, more liberally in the lobbies of Ars Electronica venues and I hoped to see them start appearing, or disappearing. They did neither.
So what did it mean that I was recuperating from five years of Burning Man by traveling to Ars Electronica? Which parts of my expectations for arts festivals had been elevated and which had been distorted? Aside from absolutely preferring the plumbing of Linz over Black Rock City, the two seemed to require identical strategies. Go. Look. Branch in One of Two Directions: Go On or Hold Head In Hands Realizing You Will Never Be That Good. Maybe Even Sit Down To Regain Strength To
Go. Look. Branch in One of Two Directions.
So I was there, but was quite dense about what was really happening as a result of being there. Here’s what happened:
KlangPark (the speaker array over the Donau) one night had films projected on the water spray of a fireboat. I just wanted to try it at home is all. Ended up with five years of experimental outdoor cinema and music. Not one fireboat has been employed, leaving me with an inescapable sense of failure.
A Portsmouth Symphonium-style orchestra debasing themselves while (intentionally?) massacring Serge Gainsbourg covers on the ice itself in Donauhalle hockey rink like it was some kinda Peter Greenaway film. Ended up with two years of live soundtracks to pornographic films, interviews with Hustler and Irish morning drive-time radio, and an appearance on a British television show which I think was edited to make me look about as stupid as possible, but I never transferred the episode from PAL to NTSC to find out. I like being the only woman on the planet to have lost money in porn.
At the newly opened Ars Electronica center a digital version of the Torah that displayed in Hebrew and, if you pulled down on the screen, English and, if you pushed up on the screen, a z-axis of floating commentary. Reading on a Z Axis. Reading… on a… Still, you see, this gets me. Ended up morse coding text in plays and rotating it 90 degrees clockwise to create scores that Noh-trained actors could read. Five plays, three years, one day of performance on 07/07/07, and a ritual nostalgia every time I pull down on the iPodTouch screen to refresh tweets. I’m refreshing tweets, but I’m really back in that gallery looking up from the screen, holding my body still, realizing the radical nature of the interface. I heard a cough, looked up and stepped out of the way so other visitors could try. A kid started pounding on the screen.
Radio ORF’s embrace of pirate radio. Disingenuous? No, shockingly, no. Ended up in the former Louboutin shoe store next to the Whitney Museum helping trick it out as Neighborhood Public Radio for the 2008 Biennial. There was a mic pointing out at the street from the front window, hard wire microbroadcasting from the top of the building and streaming from the web. The NPR Collective was decompressing from an arduous interview earlier in the day, devolving into simple trash talk about the interviewer herself. The entire discussion went out over the air, which the interviewer was listening to in her home. She later thanked me for castigating them throughout their rant, also clearly audible, but thought their transgression was brilliant conceptual art. I closed my eyes, imagined a felonious 1″ sticker on a pristine marble embankment, opened them, and said O Yeah. Totally. Later in the run Mick Jagger slowed down to enter, because he needed a new pair of Louboutins, realized it was no longer that, and strolled on. I was coming round the corner from the opposite direction and Lee mouthed very obviously, and pointlessly since I’m not that much of an idiot, “MICK” “JAGGER”. I made eye contact with Mick from behind my big bag of warm Harp lager that cost $13 obscene dollars (o you east side!). Mick’s bodyguard, one pace behind and to the left, intercepted my eye contact, crumpled it with his eyes as if it was a gum wrapper, and slowly shook his head no at me. I lowered my eyes and walked into the station-not-shoe-store. Chorus of disapproval that the beer was warm.
Three days in a city plus ten years of internalization equals 28 projects, 240 collaborating artists and 50,000 dollars of debt. God damn you Linz, and your ignominious power.