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The Viennese, who live and work in Robert Adrian X’s neighbourhood in the 4th district of Vienna, are from all over the world.
Artist Robert Adrian X and technician and co-author Martin Leitner have asked these people to count from one to twenty. Whilst each word and sentence has a different connotation in every language, or even in dialects of one language, the content and signification of counting and figures appears to be globally valid.
“We have our lingua franca which is German. But, when I started to think about this, I noticed that the Greek man in the tobacco shop downstairs always deliberately greets with ‘Kalimera’, and when he hands out the change, he counts aloud in Greek. I thought that’s interesting, because counting is universal. That’s how the idea came to me.”
The recordings were made in the work environments of each participant, subtly incorporating their everyday acoustic ambience into the radio piece. Only a dozen people were recorded, yet through the elaborate superimposition of the voices the sound piece develops a dramaturgy reminiscent of large-scale choral arrangements. Robert Adrian X on the composition:
“We wanted it to develop a thickness, a texture. Since what is said is ‘belanglos’ (insignificant), we are only talking through the languages and the voices, and the content is the people who speak.”
“The neighbourhood has become fashionable, partly because it used to be cheap. That this happened so late is unusual, because it is right on the edge of the first district. We got the place – our flat and my studio nextdoors – cheap because the U-Bahn wasn’t built when we moved here in 1973. It was just a construction site. There was dust and sand everywhere, as they were digging up the Favoritenstrasse – it was noisy, dirty, our house was falling apart – not very desirable, back then.”
“In the climate of Europe nowadays, with the paranoia of immigration and so forth, working with this material makes it a political statement. It is a fact that these are the people of Vienna – and they are all neighbours.”
Counting was produced on the occassion of his exhibition at the Galerie Grita Insam in Vienna. The radio piece constitutes a part of the exhibition, and on 24th May 2007 it will be replayed on the gallery’s premises. The artist, who in 1995 co-founded the website kunstradio.at and who is regarded a pioneer of telecommunication arts, considers radio art as a sculptural art form:
“I treat radio space as sculptural space. Radio space is where people hear radio. It’s working with the knowledge, that everybody has their own version of what they are producing. And you have no control. That’s one of the most interesting elements of it.”