Malewitsch, dancing - Artacts '02 - East St. Johann, 23rd - 26th of May 2002

Politically committed, the 2002 »Kulturschutzgebiet« (Federal Culture Reserve) of St. Johann / Tyrol presented musicians from beyond the borders of the Schengen treaty and has proven the fact that the east of central Europe sports various superb improvising ensembles and state-of-the-art electronica, oscillating between »hi« and »lo« art.

Prologue on current Austrian politics: critical art and media are economically starved by the conservative-rightist government. To the initiative of Austria???s Federal Secretary for the Arts, Morak, the funds of high art are additionally fueled by the prestigious project »Art against Violence«, after the Ministry for Art was closed down by Austrian chancellor, Klima. Artist are to adopt to the neoliberal shift and raise their funds by sponsorship, which, due to legislative obstacles, remains very unattractive to potential sponsors. As one consequence, more and more anonymized festivals and low-level mass events spread, without any social, progressive or applicable relevance.

Opposing this trend, »Musik Kultur St. Johann« established once again a »Kulturschutzgebiet« (Federal Culture Reserve). »Musik Kultur St. Johann« interdisciplinary engages on various planes of art, such as cinema, literature or graphic arts, and with the children???s program and a »Sub Area« for youth reaches an all-ages audience.

As the 2001 festival foscused upon the work of Martin Siewert, »Artacts 02« featured musicians and artist (as festival within the festival) from the eastern reform countries which are to join the European Union soon. Upon randomly asking locals of St. Johann (Northern Tyrol) and of Brno (Bratislava) for their opinion on the eastward expansion of the European Union, one is shocked by the Austrian answer: »People over here are good, those in the East are bad«. Video artists Daniel Jarosch and Falko Purner???s work »Welcome to Babylon« thus focused upon the lack of information within popular opinion fueled by monopolized media. The stereotyped reply amazes because of the growing employment of low-wage workforce from eastern Europe in the St. Johann tourism sector (which, by the way, heavily relies on Lederhosen-fests and the like).

Impro versus poppy electronic

The electro-crustie score of »Welcome to Babylon« was produced by Tyrolean, now-Vienna based Philipp Quehenberger (almost naturally, some St. Johann youth take to the Austrian capital), who showcased along with Hungarian roma combo »Romanyi Rota«, tromboneist Bertl Müller and bass player Peter Herbert (Series of »Gentle Chamber Music«) alongside the festival itself.

An impressive ignition for the festival: »Maly Szu« staged a furious happening during the opening of the exhibition »good – bad« of Warsaw galery Raster Art (no federal funding here, although 2002 is officially declared Austria???s »Year of Polish Culture«). Although fully-fledged as cosmonaut, cow and dinosaur, the trio managed to rock their Casio organs, even when a shower of polymer balls cascaded upon stage and auditorium. What a sight! Yet, the fusion of impro- and electronic music is still a risky one: Franz Hautzinger???s 8th version of the »Regenorchester« (Orchetra of Rain) was too heavily dominated by the bass beats of their Pop section. It was not until quarter tone-trumpeter Hautzinger???s »Abstract Monarchy« trio show in the baroque Chapel of Antonius, that his two Hungarian compadres sprang to full bloom. Routiniers like the impro collective of »Vapori del Cuore« enriched their sound by incorporating turntables and keyboards into their dense and accurate set. With the opening???s billing, curators Christian Scheib and Susanna Niedermayr (whose radio features »Nebenan« for the program OE1 are print-published in Vienna???s skug magazine) focused upon digital music. Duo »EA« from Poland presented sensuous quadrophonic sounds, which despite their resemblance to electro-accoustics never evoked a patina of the Old, and Wojtek Kucharczyk???s performance »*Retro*Sex*Galaxy*«, inspired by Soviet author Perelman???s 1955 publication on bodily reactions to music, basically delivered: from introspective kalimba tingles to touching his instruments??? cinch plugs to aggressive breakbeats.


The aim of reginalisation was reached: to include regional culture into the festivals schedule was a (one) proclaimed goal of organizer Hans Oberlechner and his team. Hence, the melancholy of the lovesongs of the Slovak duo »Azachronic« permeated the environs of an old remote farm yard, and the concert trips up to the peak of the »Kitzbühler Horn«, provided by St Johann???s cable railway, became a constant crowd craze. Way up on the summit???s plateau, Budapest »Tigrics« endulged in playing seated on a merry-go-round, grown kids, evoking naive but melancholic sounds from car batteries! The most influential regional aspect was the number of semi-experimental club acts throughout various St. Johann venues. »Deuce« (atmospherical beats), »Arkona« (uplifting dark bass beats) and »Olga & Jozef« (funky minimal techhouse) rocked the Humungus Bar, but the »resident« crowd failed to acknowledge their superb quality and after their sets immediately retrieved to alternative-guitar-rock-mainstream, as ever. The acts should have joined the show at the central festival venue, the soon-to-be pulled down »Alte Gerberei« (Old Tannery), where »Ludzie« from Gdansk delivered an astonishing show (although their ranks were incomplete due to illness of sampler and bass sectionist Bunio). »Ludzie« impressed as a very tight and powerful unit of difficile improvisation, as their meandering beginning slowly built towards n energetic climax. Visual artist Mikolaj Burkiewicz supported the show by a minimalist projection of a tiny white square, which according to the score slowly developed its dance against the backdrop of a giant black square. Malewitsch, dancing!

Übersetzung: Jörg Blecher