Karlsplatz, Staatsoper, 2009
With their “Bitte Spiel Mein Gong”-actionism Xiu Xiu prove true as an interactive and experimental group consisting of sportful and committed people. It was just a couple of months ago at Donaufestival when Xiu Xiu’s sonic brainchild Jamie Stewart politely turned down our request for reasons of impracticality of transferring their stage-appearance outdoors, at the same time referring us to his bandmates Ches Smith and Devin Hoff (together they are Good for Cows), who did with Jeff Parker (from Tortoise) back then. Anyway, once Xiu Xiu return to Austria, they come up with something really special for our shooting. With their lo-fi “Bitte Spiel Mein Gong” Jamie Stewart, Caralee McElroy and Devin Hoff totally go for the dynamic interaction. Yet the area the trio is heading for – leaving the venue brut to the inner city, direction Opera – is not a good turf for actionism, as unbiased and inoffensive it may be. Just because they kneel down at the walk of fame reserved for composers (it is Johann Sebastian Bach whom Jamie gives a peck), have a rest at the Opera toilet where you can pee to “The Blue Danube” and pass by the famous State Opera, this does not automatically mean that they come across people who are into musical interaction. On the contrary: only a third of the persons invited would react responsive to Caralee’s, Devin’s and Jamie’s “Bitte” and take the pleasure of “Spiel Mein Gong”. Howsoever, for being denied by that majority, Xiu Xiu is a fortiori adored by you and me.
Karlsplatz is a centrally located square, situated between the inner city and the fourth district. In the late 19th century the square was erected on the former riverbed of Wienfluss, which was regulated and canopied. Karlsplatz lies at the foot of the massive and splendid Karlskirche, Vienna’s largest baroque church. Moreover Art-Nouveau-style Otto Wagner Pavillon with Club U, historic Wien Museum, project space, Künstlerhaus, brut and the Technical University are situated on or in the vicinity of the square. The square and its environment have experienced various transfigurations. It has changed from a notorious place for drug dealing to a popular hang out spot. In summer Popfest Wien brings live shows to Karlsplatz, while in winter the square is converted into a big Christmas market.
Its directors will only admit it gnashing their teeth: Vienna’s State Opera is internationally best known for the annual Opera Ball, one of Austria’s most popular society events, for which celebrities, politicians and parvenus gather to waltz in the 1869-finished Neo-Renaissance building on the Ringstraße boulevard. The architecture of the Opera House was heavily criticised from the start of its construction, which drove one of the two architects to commit suicide before the building was completed. As so often the Viennese eventually got used to it and today the State Opera is one of the main sights of Vienna. After heavy destruction caused by bombings during World War II the building was reconstructed as it had been before and reopened in 1955. In its 140-year-history famous conductors such as Herbert Von Karajan, Gustav Mahler and Riccardo Muti have worked there with nothing less acclaimed singers and orchestras. The State Opera is traditionally closely linked to the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Opera enthusiasts still don’t have to spend a fortune for attending one of the approximately 200 productions per year. Tickets for the standing room start at 3 Euro; rumours say that the most critical audience is to be found there.