Thanks to the efforts of Reform Art Unit spiritus rector Fritz Novotny and polymath Siegfried Holzbauer, I will, barring life’s vagaries, be returning to Austria at the end of August as a member of Three Motions. (When Fritz first proposed the trip, he thought to call the threesome of himself, Paul Fields and me the reformARTtrio. But, as Fritz and Paul were two-thirds of the group Three Motions, an off-shoot group of the reformARTunit with Walter Malli [1940-2012] as the third member, and I, like Walter, double(d) on drum set and reed instruments [Walter; soprano sax/me; clarinets {+ piano}], I thought a variation on Three Motions would be appropriate. Fritz obviously agreed; no variation necessary. Additionally, with the blessing of Walter’s son, Albert, I will be using his late father’s drum set for the concert in Gmunden.)

Organized and conceptualized by the Holzbauer, “a shards action ritual @ the Töpfermarkt in Gmunden/Austria” will take place on August 26. In his words: “One of my forthcoming works is an installation titled ‘Scherbenhaufen’ / heap of shards. It will be shown at the 30.Austrian Pottery Market in Gmunden from Aug.24-26 It is about the profound shortenings in Upper Austrian state´s budget 2018, especially concerning the cultural affairs. So, a lot of arts projects and events can´t get realized or have/had to be canceled. We stand before the rubble of a very successful cultural policy in the past. Well, it is not that dramatic, but it is a serious shituation (sic). My comment on this situation is to smash pottery and build a heap of shards. But to also document all the art, arts projects and events that had to be canceled. And, to personalize it and make the faces (of the artists) visible, I´ll take Polaroids of the concerned people when they tear in two their project infos. The concept of the concert from my view is: the concert titled ‘A Shards Ritual’  takes up the topic of destruction. The ritual smashing of clay pots (‘Tongefaess’ in German can also be read as ‘a container of / for sounds’) will produce sound effects and rhythmic accents… the music [from Three Motions in tandem with the breaking of pottery] can lead to the experience, that something new can arise from the shards. There is a saying: shards bring luck. Do they?”

Digression: During my last visit to Austria in 2016, Fritz mentioned that a new government had been instituted and, as a result, the future for cultural affairs funding looked promising. Obviously, and, in keeping with what is going on worldwide, that promise never came to fruition. And while, on a certain level, I find this disheartening, I am nonetheless extremely ambivalent about such funding. Much, if not most of what gets funded these days (and for some time) is  essentially window dressing; salve for the status quo. Those who seek and receive such support look towards and customize their grant applications to reflect prevailing trends and fashion rather than out of creative necessity. Thus, they are more opportunists/politicians/businesspeople — in all “careerists” — than anything else. Art, for me, is a(n ongoing) revolutionary act/struggle; questioning and challenging the culture at large as well as oneself. (And by “revolutionary”, I do not mean self-consciously transgressive or gimmick-laden. Something akin to true subversion, and from there, evocative art is to be found in the subtle; the resonant; the necessary. Ananke.) Naturally, upon occasion, wonderful, challenging, questioning work does receive the token blessing of the state or robber baron fortunes. But, this is the exception rather than the rule. And, in that scenario, the artist him/herself must assess the impact/effect of that “success” on the work going forward. (Otherwise, they risk diluting their vision for further “reward”.) From another angle, I would feel less ambivalent, and even somewhat supportive if the money from funding cuts in cultural affairs went to providing those on the low end of the socio-economic strata with food, housing and health care. But, of course, if the world’s economics weren’t so skewed to the vile and corrupt — the war machine for example — heinous disparities, while not eliminated, could be readily mitigated. And, from there, funding for cultural affairs could be administered in a manner beholding to art’s inherent potential. However, I don’t see that happening…ever.

On August 27, Three Motions, becoming the reformARTseven for the second set with  Rina Chandra, Johannes Groysbeck, Raoul Herget and Franz Koglmann will be immersed in “a ritual for Cecil Taylor” at the Porgy & Bess club in Vienna.

poster by Jörg Dobrovich/photo of Milo Fine by Andrea Canter