BLACK BOX
CONVERSATIONS
caja negra


These conversations took place in December 2008 in a variety of locations in Graz, Vienna and Ljubljana (Slovenia), with artists, cultural and social producers, alternative business projects, theorists, university lecturers and students, relevant in their respective fields.

The meetings would last about two hours, in the work contexts of the interviewees, or on the premises of Rotor, and were documented in video.

The conversations had a double objective:
On the one hand, they allowed us to distribute the Black Box through more adequate channels, and, on the other hand, thanks to these agents, we managed to delve deeper into the research in the following problem areas:

_Getting to know their viewpoints on the processes triggered by the new labour division and the production of subjectivity.

_To reflect on the consequences of the change in production paradigm in the current context of economic recession, and to think in new forms of production which could be implemented in the future.

_The relationships between art and activism in the Austrian and Slovenian context.

_The different approaches to the forms of representing the real.

For future development of the project in other countries, these conversations are a viable model to be produced with the relevant agents in the new locations.

We proceed to briefly document each of the conversations we had, as a means to present each of our interviews.


1) DIETER BEHR / EUROPEAN CIVIC FORUM

Dieter is an activist and co-editor of the well-known magazine Grundrisse (Grundrisse magazine: www.grundrisse.net)

We met with him on two occasions, and he is very interested in and has spent a number of years working on the situation of immigrant workers at the greenhouses in Almería (Spain). This concern on the forms of food production is a central axis in his current reclamations. Based in Vienna, he also presents a highly-visible effort in relation to supermarkets, generating alternative forms of obtaining food and products which are still useful, even though discarded by the system.
His organisation also includes autonomous agricultural projects, cooperatives and other initiatives which share an interest in obtaining an independence from the economic requirements of contemporary life, as well as also achieving a non-evasive position with direct and indirect actions which must be effected in order to produce alternative forms, in a cultural as well as political sense.

We talked about the current crises, that is not only a crises of neoliberalism, but a crises of the capitalist mode of production itself. We can say that it is not only an economic crises, but a "multiple crises", including the food crises, energy crises and the climate crises.

We also exchanged information and data on the social movements in Spain and in Austria that are working on these concerns, with the confidence that they will be able to generate more networks and exchange facilities.

You can read texts by this activist at: www.civic-forum.org.Texts by Dieter Behr and Lisa Bolyos, Photos by Lisa Bolyos: http://www.umbruch-bildarchiv.de/bildarchiv/ereignis/plastikmeer_almeria.html


2) MICHAEL WRENTSCHUR / INTERACT

Lecturer in Political Science at the University of Graz, founding member of the social theatre group "Interact", with 5 permanent members, a collective which has been active for 10 years now in Graz (Austria).
In our conversation, he proposed a practice which he considers a heir to Joseph Beuys' Social-sculpture, and akin to the "Theatre von der unterdrucken", or "theatre of the opressed".
They produce the "Work,less.power" performance, based on an idea by KiG (Kultur in Graz), and celebrating the "day of the unemployed", a celebration day proposed by the Grüne Party. The action consists in an "Army of Unemployed", according to Marx's quote, uniformed people with few distinguishing features, marching down the streets and walk into the Arbeitsam (Unemployment) office, in a kind of "Parade". They wield signs in the shape of comic bubbles, with expressions like "Why me?", or "Work is great", or "At last!". It is a question of empowering people in order to share one's experience as an unemployed person, a provide oneself with some social visibility.

They have also produced other theatrical actions, taking up as an audience the staff of public and political institutions, and which attempt to involve them directly with the problem of unemployment, but also with other issues, such as education or immigration.

For more information about this collective, see: www.interact-online.org


3) ANITA HOFER / KIG (KULTUR IN GRAZ)

She is an artist and an activist, a founding member of the Non-Profit-Organisation Kultur in Graz, which has been focusing on cultural work for 11 years and is managing the employment of people in need of a job (Erwerbarbeitslose) in cultural institutions. In addition to this goal, they develop a variety of cultural activities and interventions in public spaces, like the one they did on the "day of the unemployed", "Work,less.power".
She spoke to C.A.S.I.T.A. about her current projects on recuperation of the memory and history of the local artists and cultural producers who had been working alternatively, by creating a digital catalogue with the available documentation and researching the oral histories.
During our conversation, we agreed on the importance of the "reconquest" of the public sphere and of direct action. They are one of the most active political agents in the cultural and critical mobilisation in Graz.

For more information on this collective, see: www.kig.mur.at


4) NORBERT PRETTENHALER

A documentary film director, he has documented, together with David Kranzelbiner, the "Work,less.power" public intervention. He is also shooting a documentary about gipsy street musicians in Graz, and the possibility of coexisting with people from different origins in opposition to racist standpoints.
We spoke about the intersections between social activism an art in the context of Graz, and, generally, in the context of Austria. We concentrated especially on the different models of support and funding of art and cultural production currently under development in Austria and in Europe.


5) PROJEKT HEIDENSPASS

Sylvia, Herdrum and Andrea.

This initiative consists in an outreach project for youths with employment difficulties, and is premised on their business of objects designed with recycled materials. They are trying to convince this social group that work is not only a paid service, but that it can also serve as a tool of personal development.

During our conversation we had a change to prove that their attitude is radically different from that of other similar NGOs - they pay on a daily basis, and they accept on- and off-positions. Their working day only lasts four hours. In their own words, it is a case of "a job adapted to people, and not the other way round".
We spoke about our methodologies and, in the case of a business project such as theirs, we agreed on the choice of maintaining a small-scale structure, almost a family business, which involves no more than 12 work positions. The project is maintained thanks to funding from the European Union.

Also notable here is the construction of subjectivity in the process of creative work, which can also accommodate physical, manual labour, and in which each worker can have the choice of whether to have a personal relationship with their activity and with its product.
The find it important to re-adapt the idea of success and failure, and they think that the so-called financial crisis will have a very negative effect on less qualified people.

For more information about this initiative, see: www.heidenspass.cc


6) KAMDEM MOU POH Á HOM / Chiala Africa

Kadem is a Cameroon-born journalist who has been working with the Ausrian-African community in Graz for the past 8 years. He has a work space in the city centre which offers language and job orientation courses, but which is also a cultural platform for African writers, musicians and artists. He defines his project as a cultural and social organisation.
He thinks that the work regime encountered by a foreigner in Western cities demands an excessive amount of production and work, an anxiety for obtaining results which makes one forget who they are. We are talking about the effects of the over-protective State and the difficulties faced by African immigrants when trying to gain acceptance in Austrian society.
Regarding the possibility of Obama being the next president of the United States, we believes that there is still insufficient presence of politicians with an immigrant background in Austria.

For more information on this project, see: www.chiala.at


7) MARTIN KRENN / I G Bildende Kunst

Martin Krenn is an artist who develops an important part of his work in public spaces, paying special attention to the collective production of the image. His works question the basic principles of the system and propose antagonistic ruptures.

Currently, he is also the head of the IG BIldende Kunst project, which can be visited at: www.igbildendekunst.at. This cultural association had invited a collective with a similar focus and a methodology to ours. It is a project by two artists who reside in Berlin: Caroline Lund and Christine Woditschka. Their project originated in 2007 and is called "Radikale Entspannung. Totale Partizipation".

We talked with Krenn about the state of art production in Austria, and, more specifically, about the relationship of social movements with art practices, a problem of the utmost importance both in his work and in C.A.S.I.T.A.'s projects.

We also engaged the issue of integrating fiction in reality, since, in his photographic production, he re-enacts situations that have taken place in someone's reality and in the media, with the aid of actors (cfr. "Right to Stay" in : www.martinkrenn.net/projects/19_1.htm).

We also talked about the constant re-framing of artists' positions, and he made a reference to artist George Gross, as well as Heartfield, as examples of the capacity of the art system to reformulate artists' initiatives.

He gave us a detailed account of experiences in the Vienna scene at the beginning of the 21st Century, such as "Gets to attak" where a group of cultural agents ran as election candidates, and generated documentary material of the action.

We also approached certain issues pertaining to education, since he works as a lecturer in the Vienna Fine Arts Academy, and of how social control starts with the devices of class evaluation, in relation to one of his latest projects, which takes place in a secondary school.

For further information about this artist, see: www.martinkrenn.net


8) OLIVER RESSLER

Oliver Ressler is probably one of the currently most active, and most international artists in Austria.

Before meeting him, we saw his latest projects, especially "5 Factories", and "Alternative Economics, Alternative Societies".

He explained to us his understanding of art as a tool at the service of social and political actions, and we discussed the meaning of what is "alternative" in his work, and delved deeper into the concept of "democracy", which is one of the keys subjects in his work.

We spoke about the importance of how important it is for contemporary art projects to operate on a global level, opening up their expectations to other contexts, in order to complete and acquire new perspectives on the common problems. In this sense, we established a dialogue on "5 Factories", a project which took place in Venezuela, and which engages the current social and labour situation in that country with a great degree of commitment.

As with Krenn, a point of debate during the conversation was the use of documentary aesthetics and the representation of the real. We also took into consideration other subjects, such as the role of the work of art in resistance practices.

Regarding the black box, he was sceptical regarding the degree of collaboration he thought we would find, but he nevertheless showed a lot of interest in the object, due to the strategy we were applying, and he was also interested in C.A.S.I.T.A.'s Decalogue.

For more information about this artist: www.ressler.at


9) MARIJA MOJCA PUNGERCAR

Marija Mojca Pungencar is a Slovenian artist, who we spoke to about the cultural and social situation in her country with regards to its Communist past.

We analysed one of her works, in which she researches the conditions of workers from the former Yugoslavia in the reconstruction of the old Pan-Yugoslavian highway, now under the conditions of Slovenian economy.

Marija also told us about her activity in Ljubljana in the Art servis portal (www.artservis.org), a kind of w3art, which is a website with information by and for Slovenian artists.

For more information about this artist, see: www.mojca.info


10) TADEJ POGACAR / P.A.R.A.S.I.T.E MUSEUM/ GALERIA P74

The P74 space is a gallery set in a building shared with the premises of a school in Ljubljana. In this space, Tadaj has been developing exhibition projects for over ten years, activating the Slovenian cultural and artistic scene. We visited a retrospective of his works, which he exhibited especially for gallery anniversary.

We spoke to him about his interesting idea about the concept of Parasiting, and about his interests in common with C.A.S.I.T.A.: the alternative forms of production in public spaces, especially regarding the artists' stance in the face of a disagreeing audience.

He explained to us his experience of over 8 years of projects with sexual workers (the Sex Workers Project for the 2001 Venice Biennale), and his special interest in alternative economic forms, an example of some of which he finds in the realm of sexual work, as well as non-regulated forms of commerce in different societies, such as informal marketplaces in Latin American countries, or travveling salesmen in the context of the European South and East.

For more information about this artist, see: www.parasite-pogacar.si


11) SAABETH BUCHMANN / Akademie der Bildenden Künste

Saabeth Buchmann is a lecturer at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste. Institut für Kunst und Kunstwissenschaften in Vienna, and is a researcher associated with political art practices, in the sense of lines of micro-political action.

We talked with her about the importance and value of the emotional state in production, about how affections are considered as tools by the system, how they can be directed, how the they are totalising our attitudes and how they are manipulated by the current political state towards fear, polarising people's outlook on the world.

She was very interested in discussing our Decalogue, in which she was most interested in the role of desire, in the Deleuzian sense, which is represented in the heart of our Móbius strip.

From her own standpoint, she finds it necessary to emphasise the role of affections in the construction of identities, which makes it necessary to insert ourselves in the concept of biopolitics, and to react against the fetish which has become of the modern notion of "life".
We also talked about the central role of distribution and, above all, redistribution, with regards to the strategy proposed by the "Black Box".


12) JENS KASTNER/ Akademie der Bildenden Künste/ Bild Punkt

Jens Kästner is a professor at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste. Institut für Kunst und Kunstwissenschaften, in Vienna. We met with him, as well as with two of his partners, Lisi and Thomas, who had participated in the Zapatista movement, and who, like Jens, were especially interested in the processes of political change in the Latin American context.

Jens collaborates with the European Institute of Progressive Cultural Policies, directed by Gerald Raurig (EIPCP:www.eipcp.net) and he is the editor of the Bild punkt magazine. He explained to us that the first two issues of the magazine had focused on the subject of cultural production and work conditions, and the third issue will engage the subject of immaterial production.

He is developing a research which relates the concept of the symbolic in Rancière and in Bourdieu , among who he finds contradictions and common ground.

For more information, see: www.jenspetzkastner.de


13) JUDITH LASTER

Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Graz.

With this academician, we discussed the concept of "creativity". She is working on the possibility of a "translation" of art into cultural and social processes, analysing the interactions of artists with the audience, the market, and politics.

We engaged the issue of the aura, in the Benjaminian sense of the term, and its projection on a project like ours. We also spoke of the problems of the creative industries and of the special values which symbolic capital deals with.

She was especially interested in the idea of "empowerment", bearing in mind the care necessary when acting on the gazes on the real in relation to process-based and urban practises. She showed a lot of sympathy towards our work, and she especially asked us about the methodologies and collaborative practices we establish with other people.


14) CHRISTIAN FLECK

Lecturer at the Institut für Sociologie at the University of Graz and President of the College of Austrian Sociologists.

Fleck is a highly-regarded sociologist in the context of Austria. We talked with him about the contents of the "Black Box", and how different methodologies affect art practice and the science of sociology.
His research is focused on a reformulation of contemporary sociological methodologies, and, in this sense, we discussed the role of creativity in this context.

We also focused on the issue of flexibility in the labour system, which he considers from a very positive perspective, and finds it a step forward equivalent to that of divorce in marriages.
We didn't reach an agreement in the analysis of precariousness and the state of exclusion of other agents.
Regarding the concept of exchange in the social context, we spoke about the different dimensions we have in relation to Foucault's theories of control and discipline. He did not agree with Foucault, in the sense of considering that there is no imperative on our behaviours, but that, rather, societies react dynamically, in constant movment.

We also talked about the current situation in Austria, and, more specifically, about Graz. Here, he spoke of a certain state patronising, which, according to him, had generated a certian conformism and neutralised private initiatives.

Premised on an education received in an American context, he emphasised the advance implied by the introduction in the field of politics of citizens from minority social groups.

For more information on this academician, see http://www.uni-graz.at/~fleck/


15) LINA DOKUZOVIC

A student in Marina Grznic's Post-Conceptualism class at the Vienna Fine Arts Academy. She is collaborator of the Slovenian magazine Re-artikulacija ( espacio www.reartikulacija.org).

Lina is a Croatian-born artist who has spent most of her life in the U.S.A. Her perspective on immigration and her parents' experience, as well as her own current condition have lead her to developing a line of work which focuses on the contradictions in economic processes.

Her work conceptualises complex situations in the contemporary world, through diagrams and drawings.


16) ALEKSANDRA ALEKSIC

A student in Marina Grznic's Post-Conceptualism class at the Vienna Fine Arts Academy. With Aleksandra we went through out Decalogue, dealing with it from the point of view of her lines of research and production.