During the Truth is Concrete Festival (Steirischer Herbst) a group of artist activist organized a group within the group called “Action is Concrete” in collaboration with local activists from Graz to experiment with mobilized political vitality.
The press release from Sept 25, 22 p.m. announced:
“Tomorrow 26 September 2012, a jolly group of local and international artists and cultural workers will take to the streets of the capital of the Styria, Graz! They will visit local points of interest where global and local conflicts merge into one.
In a week where the people of Spain (Tuesday), Greece (Wednesday) and India (Saturday) raise their voice against the dominance of finance over every form of life, all citizens and non-citizens and tourists of all ages are invited to join this collective procession, which is also an assembly, a tour, an investigation and an inspiration!”
On September 27th, 2012 “Actions is Concrete” a series of political and artistic interventions in the city of Graz, born out of “Truth is Concrete” made up of a collective of international and local cultural workers. At 4pm we invited the public to protest a creative tour of Graz which included more than 100 people gathered at “Truth is Concrete” terrace Thalia. The first action was “Smash-Town, a patriarchal die-in” in which women and men performed a collective suicide, then able to be “born again”, no longer being suppressed by male domination.
After the rebirth, the participants were led by Mr. Alley to the contemporary art museum theKunsthaus Graz which is supported by Raiffeisen Bank, their biggest sponsor and investor in the oil industry. During the march participants sung together to drive away evil spirits of the Kunsthaus. This action was in response to the complicity between business enterprises and public cultural institutions.
The group then moved onto the main bridge, Erzherzog-Johann-Brücke, where a black strip of cloth was hung in the river Mur, to protest against the plans for a new Murkraftwerk.
The last interventions took place in the Hauptplatz the main square in Graz, a collective begging action against the discriminatory ban on begging in Styria and public drinking action in response to the alcohol prohibition at the Hauptplatz.
Video from a participant of “Action is Concrete.”
Truth is Concrete
A 24/7 marathon camp on artistic strategies in politics and political strategies in art. 21/09 – 28/09/2012, Graz
The Netherlands, Hungary, Spain, Great Britain, Greece, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Japan… A list in progress of countries as synonyms for crises, hopes and disasters that are changing the world so fast that we can’t keep track: the rise of the populist right, financial devastations threatening the whole European project, fundamental destruction of economical, educational and cultural structures, democratic uprisings, Islamic fundamentalism, threats of technological and ecological catastrophes – where to start, where to end?
What is the role of art in this race of events that we can barely follow, let alone properly understand? At a time when theory and practice are constantly lagging behind reality? When art is seen rather as a mere leftist hobby than a foundation of humanity?
We have learned that there are no easy answers any more. We don’t trust ideologies, even though we follow the ideology of capitalism. We know everything is contingent and relative. We replace critique with criticality, the political with the post-political, modernity with post-modernity, and capitalism with added value. But where the answers get too complicated, the desire for simple solutions is growing. And we – perhaps indeed leftist hobbyists – seem to have lost touch with a larger base. The constant awareness of the complexity of the notions of truth, reality or politics seems to have manoeuvred us into a dead-end road: either we are too simple, or we are too complex, too populist or too stuck in hermetic eremitism. Either we include too much or we exclude too many.
So what is to be done? Should art help in solving problems that politics and society themselves have ignored for so long? Should art be a social or political tool, can it be useful? And why should it know what to do when nobody else does?
“Truth is concrete” is what was written in big letters over Bertolt Brecht’s working desk in his Danish exile – quoting Lenin quoting Hegel quoting Augustine. We take the possibility of concrete truth as a working hypothesis and look for direct action, for concrete change and knowledge. Large or small scale, loud and aggressive, or intimate and careful. Obscure or obvious. An art that not only presents and documents but that engages in specific political and social situations – and an activism that not only acts for the sake of acting but searches for intelligent, creative means of self-empowerment: artistic strategies and tactics in politics, political strategies and tactics in art.
“Truth is concrete” is a 24-hour, 7-day marathon camp: 200 artists, activists and theorists lecture, perform, play, produce, discuss, collect artistic strategies in politics and political strategies in art. All day long, all night long. It is a platform, a toolbox as well as a performative statement, an extreme effort at a time that seems to need some extreme efforts. The marathon is a machine, running in the centre, inspiring and frustrating. Surrounded by a camp-like living and working environment as a social space, that defines its own needs and demands. Having to miss out is part of having to make choices.
“Truth is concrete” creates a one-week community, mixing day and night, developing its own jet lag towards the surrounding world – at the same time being confronted non-stop with an outside audience passing by, joining in, leaving and returning. Lectures, discussion, performances, films and concerts will be accompanied by one-day workshops, open spaces and an exhibition. A full grant program additionally invites 100 students and young professionals from all over the world. In an attempt to create not just another event about politics, but a political event itself, the festival also investigates its own format and its own everyday decision-making.