Tanzquartier Wien: Dresscode

September 25th, 2005 § 0

The first real show of the Tanzquartier season. The week before saw solo performances by Dutch creator Robert Steijn and Lebanese choreographer. There was also an outdoor performance where four tents stood in a row under the Leopold museum. There were people inside the tents having before bedtime conversations. If you went to different points in the Museumsquartier space you could hear the action from any single tent. The conversations were not scintillating in German or in the democratically provided English sample either. The whole action was cute.

But a solo performance is no way to open a Tanzquartier season. A season opener calls for a big exciting show which invigorates the public for the ten month season.

So let’s call Dresscodethe real debut of the season.

Dresscode is a coproduction of Tanzquartier Wien with Austrian Fashion Week, bringing together dance and fashion.

In the words of Martina , director of research at Tanzquartier – These are two totally incompatible disciplines.

I wouldn’t totally agree with this statement but it certainly applies to dance as practiced by the Tanzquartier Wien. Dance in Vienna has become an internalised process far more about the inner life than the performance itself. The work of Philip Gehmacher and Ingrid Reisetenberg are two clear examples of this. Fashion is all about the performance and the appearance and cares naught for internal questions. The intellectual process is short. One is all internal, the other is all surfaces.

I like what I can see, so I have more patience for the fashion outlook (although I don’t see appearances in conflict with internal tension and psychological depth- i.e. Shakespeare).

What happened at Dresscode? Lots. Three huge white walls on stage. On each wall we see projected a very well dressed business person in ultrasharp, ultra-crisp video. Two women around twenty seven and one man. They look around and up and down and smile and smirk and generally make engaging and annoying faces. They look like an advertising or a marketing team caught in lifts. At the same time, a crowd of performers came on stage from the audience side dressed in hoodies.

Throughout this section there is gorgeous airy guitar music playing.

The performers eventually line up in a row on stage and remove their hoodies. There are about fifteen of them. Each one of them is distributed a sign which he or she later flips up to reveal announcements like “I’m not with him.” It is unclear if the signs are assigned or random. Marc Rees of the BBC is the last one in the line and he designs fashion for us: Fashion is the way we look.

Thanks Marc.

This is followed by a strange group of women in varied garb, bright blues and yellows and oranges that looks more like flashdance than anything else who come out and dance to the orders of blonde bombshell in high heels and a black dress. The dancers eventually retire and the blonde takes off first her shoes, then her dress, revealing some fine lingerie. Which she also takes off. She stands there splendidly naked and beautifully formed for a pair of minutes and then retires herself.

I think this was the Superamas. I will try to find the name of the blonde in time.

Didn’t make any sense to me – apart from showing the superficiality of fashion in comparison to the naked form. But it didn’t hurt to watch.

The same thing cannot be said of the Philip Gehmacher video which followed.

Before the video, the white walls on stage were rearranged into a new order with a large video screen on the right and a small video screen on the left.

On the left we see a figure in what looks like a white beekeeper’s outfit striking various poses on the floor. On the right we see Philip Gehmacher himself just standing there. Alright he does come and go a couple of times and make a couple of costume changes but mainly he just stands there for twenty minutes in video.

Not content with having bored us in the flesh with his incubator he is now more than prepared to provide us with prerecorded boredom. Fortunately this skit was only twenty minutes instead of an hour and twenty minutes.

His facial expression was amusing. He looked like he was sucking lemons throughout the performance. I have yet to see anything like animation or enthusiasm on his face in all the times I’ve seen him.

Gehmacher’s sleepy little video was followed by more wall rotations which turned the walls into a tight cube, which then opened up to reveal silver walls and women in identical silver dresses, about twelve of them. Fashion show music. The women subsequently begin to prance around in different catwalk poses. The women are not tall enough or good looking enough as a group to be models. Their fifteen minutes of prancing went nowhere, except as a reminder of the pointlessness of catwalk (which with identical clothes is a good point – fortunately most catwalks present varied clothing) and its sexist tendency to turn women into objects of consumption.

So far, we may as well have stayed home for all the worthwhile dance or performance we’ve seen. It hasn’t been terrible but it hasn’t been wonderful. The fashion people next to me have booed after several skits, judging them for what they probably are, nose-thumbings at fashion from dance people.

We are an hour into what is an eight minute evening.

The cube rotates again and reopens. Two women come out fully dressed in well-ironed clothes. They bring several piles of clothes. They stack the clothes deliberately and carefully. All the clothes are immaculately ironed and folded.

The women begin to change and try their different clothes. They turn coats inside out, they wear men’s shirts like nun’s habits, they turn trousers into skirts. Everything you can imagine with clothing they do.

When necessary they go naked to change their outfits. They apply themselves to their task (changing and reusing clothing) with intense concentration and are unrelenting in constantly changing the clothes.

The nudity is absolutely reserved and perfunctory, part of the necessary functionality of being, another state of being clothed. The nudity is very important to help us remember that all of these clothes are coverings just coverings. Anything can be clothing, all is fashion.

Of the two, Swede Krõõt Juurak was the more inventive. Her most astonishing invention was putting on a man’s shirt on one arm and on one leg. She then did the same thing on the other side, ending up in some fancy jumpsuit created from the two men’s shirts. In all Juurak took us through centuries of different fashions from nuns, to Dutch 17th century peasants, to Roman senators.

Her height and her splendid proportions were very appropriate to a fashion show.

This performance alone was worth coming out to see.

Anne Juren’s program note is interesting enough to reproduce. Juren is French, but like Krõõt is a long terms resident of Vienna.

The show might have been on a failure (there were many worried conversations after the show between performers and choreographers) as a work of art but it was a bold and varied failure. And that’s enough for me.

Tanzquartier Wien 2005 -2006 season is open.

Freedom of the Press | American Democracy

September 25th, 2005 § 0

Democracy in action. America is truly a model to the world for freedom of the press. Nowhere has this been more clearly demonstrated than in New Orleans:

when they realised Oleniuk had photographed them hitting looters, they hurled him to the ground, grabbed his two cameras and removed memory cards containing around 350 pictures. His press card was also torn from him. When he asked for his pictures back, the police insulted him and threatened to hit him.

Hard to believe how easy it is to set up a police stage. Machiavelli warned us and we weren’t vigilant.

There is a strong video compilation of New Orleans television coverage at Salon.com which covers much of the madness. After a strong dose of spin on how things are under control, this video will take you back to reality.

The web’s best reference encyclopedia – Wikipedia

September 25th, 2005 § 1

Interesting article about the Wikipedia

Now when eBay launched, people were skeptical, because the site wasn’t trustworthy. The curious thing about trust, though, is that it is a social fact, a fact that is only true when people think it is true. Social facts are real facts, and have considerable weight in the world. The fact that someone is a judge, for example, is a social fact — the authority that attaches to judgeship is attached by everyone agreeing that a certain person has the right to make certain statements — “Court is adjourned”, “I sentence you to 5 years in prison” — that have real force in the world. Those statements are not magic; their force comes from the social apparatus backing them up.

Ebay has become trustworthy over time because the social fact of its trustworthiness grew with the number of successful transactions and with its ability to find and rectify bad actors. Indeed, the roughest periods in eBay’s short life have been when it has seemed in danger of being a platform for fraud.

The Wikipedia online encylopedia has become the best authority on the web. It is an amazing collaborative project. A new invention of human ingenuity. Some complaints of spam around the web. More complaints from the right-wing pundits about an obvious bias in the articles (i.e. articles about Marx, Castro, Chavez, Palestine are not polemical screeds in hidden praise of Adams, Reagan, Bush, Zionism).

Great and immediate reference material with live links to more in-depth material. The way the web was supposed to work. Leaves DMOZ, About.com and the Yahoo directory far behind.

As a reliable and comprehensive source may soon rival Brittanica and the other behemoths of the off-line world. Already beats them on everything computer and contemporary.

Long live the Wikipedia.

Al Gore on Global Warming

September 13th, 2005 § 1

Al Gore delivers a scorcher of a speechOn Global Warming:

My friends, the truth is that our circumstances are not only new; they are completely different than they have ever been in all of human history. The relationship between humankind and the earth has been utterly transformed in the last hundred years. We have quadrupled the population of our planet. The population in many ways is a success story. The demographic transition has been occurring more quickly than was hoped for, but the reality of our new relationship with the planet brings with it a moral responsibility to accept our new circumstances and to deal with the consequences of the relationship we have with this planet. And it’s not just population. By any means, the power of the technologies now at our disposal vastly magnifies the average impact that individuals can have on the natural world. Multiply that by six and a half billion people, and then stir into that toxic mixture a mindset and an attitude that says its okay to ignore scientific evidence – that we don’t have to take responsibility for the future consequences of present actions – and you get a collision between our civilization and the earth. The refugees that we have seen – I don’t like that word when applied to American citizens in our own country, but the refugees that we have seen could well be the first sip of that bitter cup because sea-level rise in countries around the world will mobilize millions of environmental refugees. The other problems are known to you, but here is what I want to close with:

This is a moral moment. This is not ultimately about any scientific debate or political dialogue. Ultimately it is about who we are as human beings. It is about our capacity to transcend our own limitations. To rise to this new occasion.

What was this man doing during his run for president? Had he managed to deliver some consequential speeches like this, the world might have been spared a regime of brutal stupidity and enjoyed another ten to fifteen years of uninterrupted prosperity and world peace (regional conflict excepted)?

Al Gore is absolutely correct though – we have to act larger than our immediate interests – or we all perish/suffer. There are too many rats in the house now and we will soon be overwhelmed by our own droppings and our own diseases. The stench will become too much for even rats.

And still we have people inhabiting the White House denying this. On the other hand, I believe it has become legal to teach creationism as scientific doctrine again in American schools.

Working very well for them…Insurrection Act in New Orleans

September 6th, 2005 § 0

Cynicism and neglect continue to reign in the federal response to Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath.

The feds are ever insistent on getting Lousiana’s Governor to sign over all regional authority to them. Why? It would give them a free hand to bring in whatever out-of-state contractors they want for the $50 billion clean-up and rebuilding effort. It’s about the money.

It would also be a cheap electoral ploy – only a Republican federal government can keep you safe, not a Democratic state government. To this end, a senior Bush administration has lied and said that the Governor of Louisiana refused to declare a state of emergency. Untrue. She did so on the 26 August.

Governor Kathleen Blanco is quite right to be wary of Bush.

Bush…used his weekly radio address to put responsibility for the failure on lower levels of government. The magnitude of the crisis “has created tremendous problems that have strained state and local capabilities,” he said. “The result is that many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need, especially in New Orleans. And that is unacceptable.”

Due to Bush government discomfort with anyone outside of their country club – including a Democrat female governor – more effort is being spent on taking over command than on cooperation. They talk of invoking the Insurrection Act (ibid).

Lamentable that National Guard and federal troops cannot cooperate in the face of a national emergency. The unfortunate people of New Orleans have been flooded, not launched an insurrection.

Not that insurrection would be out of place here after remarks like those of Barbara Bush (GB 1’s wife):

What I’m hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them.

Unbelievable as this last remark is, there is audio. Living on a cot in an abandoned sports stadium as a step to social advancement? (discussion)

My concern is that the people of New Orleans without flood insurance are about to be permanently disinherited. One can imagine the speeches of G.W. Bush in 2007 after spending $90 billion (overcharged by triple) on rebuilding New Orleans.

After the reconstruction effort, New Orleans is a city that has to pull its own weight. Living in New Orleans is a privilege and not a right. Those people who cannot afford to pay their share of the redevelopment can look elsewhere to carry on with their lives. They proved they were not ready to do their part in maintaining the city before Hurricane Katrina and even taking the basic step of insuring themselves. Why should we believe they are more prepared now? When they are financially ready, they are more than welcome to return to New Orleans. They have no one to blame but themselves if they are not in that position now.

What about Jazz culture? Historic New Orleans in the face of the giant amusement park built in its place?

Local culture and atmosphere? I’m glad you asked. National hotel chains have formed a council with the support of the federal governement to build a Jazz hotel which will house 400 jazz musicians in permanent residency. All members of the council will be able to use these performers on an ongoing basis free of charge. Special monitors are in place to ensure the performers compliance with city and federal regulation and the proper discharge of their duties. Other hotels and bars will be able to hire the musicians at flat rates, paying the wages directly to the the council to fund the living costs of all the residents. Performers with no definite engagement will be sent to the street corners to perform ten hours per day. All tips will be collected by the Federal monitors to finance the New Orleans Debt Fund. There will be even more music in New Orleans now than before the flood!

Feudalism is just around the corner in the United States of America. The latest judicial appointees are the final death knell to the republic. No remedy, no remedy at all.

A literary renaissance is in the cards. In satire. Jonathan Swift cannot help but find a worthy successor in these times.

I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees – G.W. Bush

September 4th, 2005 § 0

Reuters. A whole New Orleans
neighbourhood submerged.

The people on the ground know. In the words of a long-time New Orleans resident:

Today my sadness turned to anger. I saw several unbelievable things on CNN and Fox.

Bush was acting like he had no idea this was going to happen. He may be able to lie to the rest of the country, but he can not lie to the New Orleanians. We were there in 2002 when he was warned that this could happen and he still reallocated our levee money to Iraq. Our levees have needed to be reinforced for years because of coastal erosion.

Bush claimed as late as 1 September “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.”

As the already limited federal funds were reappropriated for Iraq, there was no doubt about the risk to New Orleans. In 2000, Risk & Insurance magazine ran an article entitled The Lost City of New Orleans?

New research by the U.S. Geological Survey, however, indicates that New Orleans is sinking faster than many realize and could be under water within 50 years. The city is facing a series of issues–disappearing wetlands that protect from hurricanes, levees that are too low to hold back flood waters, rising water tables, to name a few–that if not addressed soon could have New Orleans suffering the same fate as Atlantis.

Dramatic, yes. But not unlikely, according to Shea Penland, geologist and professor at the University of New Orleans. “When we get the big hurricane and there are 10,000 people dead, the city government’s been relocated to the north shore of Lake Ponchartrain, refugee camps have been set up and there $10 billion plus in losses, what then?” he asks.

“It would cost a billion or two dollars to make the levee 30 feet high. A major flood with loss of life could cost $10 billion. What’s wrong with this picture? If we know the worst-case scenario is billions and it would take a billion or two to prevent it, why don’t we do it? I don’t think anyone’s thinking about it.”

One could say the scenario is eerily prescient, but it’s not. That was the best scientific information available at the time, to all parties, including the federal government. There was an award winning five part special report entitled Washing Away published by the Louisiana Times in June 2002.

This disaster seems to have finally turned the lights on in the newsrooms of America. There but for the grace of god go I. Where Americans couldn’t identify with Iraqis and accepted the absurd designations like enemy combatant. Even token gay republican Andrew Sullivan is losing confidence in his president.

NYT columnist Maureen Dowd poses some tough questions to America:

Why does this self-styled “can do” president always lapse into such lame “who could have known?” excuses.

Who on earth could have known that Osama bin Laden wanted to attack us by flying planes into buildings? Any official who bothered to read the trellis of pre-9/11 intelligence briefs.

Who on earth could have known that an American invasion of Iraq would spawn a brutal insurgency, terrorist recruiting boom and possible civil war? Any official who bothered to read the C.I.A.’s prewar reports.

Who on earth could have known that New Orleans’s sinking levees were at risk from a strong hurricane? Anybody who bothered to read the endless warnings over the years about the Big Easy’s uneasy fishbowl.

American incomprehension at European (German) reaction to Hurricane Katrina: the Trittin case

September 4th, 2005 § 0

American readers wrote in droves to Der Spiegel to express their outrage over German environmental minister Trittin’s admonition to the US government concerning the consequences of ignoring global warming (i.e. not signing Kyoto).


Prisoners held at gunpoint
on a broken bridge
under the open sun
without proper food or water supplies
and no toilet facilities. Reuters

When others in our world are in pain during/after a catastrophe, the citizens of the United States open their hearts and generously help. We send doctors and aid halfway around the world to ease their suffering.

To my knowledge, no country has yet to offer aid those affected by Katrina.

Thanks, European friends, for yet another kick in the groin. Four years ago, the European left blamed us for the September 11 attacks. The French think that China is less of a threat to world peace than the US is. And today we get these comments from the German left on the same day that a columnist in the Guardian argues that we “invented” Al Qaida as a “phantom” enemy.

It is hard for me to comprehend how, in the midst of Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath, a human tragedy of epic proportions, much of the world stands along the sidelines ready to criticize rather than assist materially in any significant way.

It’s not the American people’s fault that the storm hit and they couldn’t have stopped it. The Germans, on the other hand, could have done a lot to prevent World War II. And yet, care packages still rained down from US troops. Trittin’s know-it-all stance is therefore not only tasteless, it is also historically blind.

Surprisingly the current affairs editor of Der Spiegel is with them, even invoking Nazi ghosts.

Few in the world feel much compassion for a country which has sent the bulk of its National Guard (the heavy lifting for natural catastrophes like this) to wreak havoc and destruction on other sovereign nations under blatantly false pretenses (WMD).

The money spent on the firebombing of Falluja would have been more than enough to shore up New Orleans for all time.

Let’s have a look – our neighbour is a murderous robber with a leaky roof who spent his money on weapons instead of on reinforcing the shingles. A storm comes in while he is out of town stalking new victims. His roof blows off. Why would we come running to help him? No we don’t feel much desire to do this. Actually, we hope it serves as some kind of lesson to him to reform his ways.

We don’t have much (any) hope for the current administration or any of their associates. But perhaps the people will learn. Judging from the polemics above exculpating themselves for any blame for their inadequate preparation for the situation, I don’t hold out much hope.

Most unfortunately the real victims of this disaster are the poor and unprotected of America. But isn’t that always the way with the Americans? Indians, African-Americans, Palestinians, Iraqis – ride roughshod over them.

It is technically impossible for us to help these people trapped in perpetual poverty by their fellow countrymen – and something that American billionaires should be working on. On a per capita European countries do far more to help the economically disadvantaged countries than America.

A few people are asking the right questions:

On the whole the coverage of this is very telling. While over 600 people have tied in Iraq today, the focus continues to be on the southern US. I just wonder if it really is such a devastation, I mean the death toll will probably rise to 100-200 people, which is horrible. But, compared to other disastors is quite minimal. I wonder if the property distruction is what is most upsetting to our society? I wonder if we care more about the property, the oil infrastructure and the economy than the people?

You don’t need to wonder. While American patriots are beating their chests about the hard-hearted Europeans, Republican national leadership is sending out emails to encourage Senators to eliminate the estate tax. The money involved here is 400 billion dollars over ten years. Almost enough to pay for the Iraq war. Enough to rebuild New Orleans ten times over.

The president’s vacation is more important than leading a rescue effort. No wonder the rescue teams couldn’t be bothered to get to the rescue scene for a few days. If the President can’t be bothered to cut short his vacation, what’s the rush?

In his first interview after the flooding of New Orleans, Bush told ABC Television that he was first and foremost horrified by the law-breaking in the Louisiana capital.

I think there ought to be zero tolerance of people breaking the law during an emergency such as this, whether it be looting, or price-gouging at the gasoline pump or taking advantage of charitable giving, or insurance fraud.

The man is more concerned with petty theft, insurance companies and gasoline prices at a time like this. Compassion, understanding, solid priorities.

Personally I’m a little more worried about the 40% of homeowners whose are not covered for flood and who no longer have homes due to the negligence of the current administration (money allocated for reinforcing the levees was reallocated to the Iraq misadventure).

Iraq: The unseen war – a photo report at Salon

September 3rd, 2005 § 2

At last somebody in the US media has had the courage to print a few photographs of the devastation that the United States military has wrought on Iraqi civilians. Quite unbelievable that gas prices are of more importance to them than the death of tens of thousands and untold devastation. Darkly amusing to hear them insist that they are good people in the face of images like this.

Dead Iraqi girl in makeshift morgue

This Iraqi girl happened to be at the wrong place when a US bomb exploded. Many more Iraq war images at Salon.

Collateral damage.

When I read 1984 in high school, it seemed a fantastic tale but certainly nothing that I would see in my own lifetime. Newspeak has arrived. It’s as if George Orwell was writing the manual for these monsters.

No real images of combat and devastation. Twisting the law to repress the rest of Abu Graib images. Anything to prevent people from seeing the real consequences of militaristic imperialism.

A few people are coming out of their media-induced coma (one must try living in America or working in their mass-media to fully understand how cosseted the masses are from anything even resembling truth/objectivity) and are shocked to see where they find themselves.

I thought I was “on top of things”, but I never knew the United States was using Depleted Uranium weapons. Why don’t we just call them dirty bombs, which is exactly what they are. Not only were soldiers affected, but children were, too. This is the culture of life

So far, this war makes it seem as though the United States:

  • Encourages torture
  • Disregards our own citizens’ Constitutional rights whenever it’s convenient
  • Likes to spread radioactive contamination
  • Cares more about oil than women’s rights
  • Will destroy anyone (and his CIA-agent wife) who comes out against the war
  • Doesn’t give a darn about the U.N.
  • Currently has the “W”orst President EVER

This is not the country I thought I lived in. I feel like I’ve been duped my whole life

Much of the rest of the world is only too aware of all of the above. So, no, the United States and its citizens just are not very popular anymore. Until more people wake up and force policy changes on their government, that situation is likely to persist.

Accurate reporting – including images – would be the first step to recovery.