SONNTAG, 13. May 2007, 23:05. - 23:45, Ö1



by Robert Adrian X and Martin Leitner





The Viennese, who live and work in Robert Adrian X’s neighbourhood in the 4th district of Vienna, are from all over the world.
The local tobacco shop is run by a Greek, the tyre shop across the road belongs to a Croatian, there is a Chinese and an Italian restaurant, and a Punjabi runs a shop with his French partner. The radio piece “Counting” assembles the voices of these people counting in their mother tongues.

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.

Robert Adrian X

“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:

Robert Adrian X

“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.”

Canadian born artist Robert Adrian X moved to Vienna in the early 1970s, when the area where he lives and works today – and where numerous galleries have moved to – was an cultural wasteland. Despite the proximity to the city centre – the walking distance to the Opera is only some 10 minutes – it was only in the last decade that the Wieden district has become popular and the property values have gone up. Robert Adrian has witnessed the transformation the area has gone through, a “period of yuppification”, as he calls it.

Robert Adrian X

“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.”

Just like Toronto, where Adrian X grew up, Vienna is a city of transients and immigrants who very quickly adapt themselves to the city. Vienna’s culture, says the artist, is made up of the foreigners living in the city, of the various ethnic communities speaking different languages. “Counting” honours this Babylonian Confusion of Tongues. Is it a political piece? Definitely, says Robert Adrian X:

Robert Adrian X

“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 and who is regarded a pioneer of telecommunication arts, considers radio art as a sculptural art form:

Robert Adrian X

“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.”

Robert Adrian X shows recent works in the Galerie Grita Insam (An der Hülben 3 / Seilerstätte, 1010 Vienna). The exhibition is on from 11th May to 23rd June, 2007.
Opening: 10th May 2007, 7pm.
Replay of Counting: 24th May 2007, 7pm