We started with closeups, we conquered the eight geographical centre points of each and every Austrian Province. (Vienna will get its own closeup.) And then we took the bird’s eye view, the longshot, the geographical centre point of Austria itself. Yes, Austria has a midpoint, it’s in Bad Aussee, and, surprise, it’s a piece of stone in a city park, hipp hipp hurra.
It was supposed to be a beautiful day on the lake. The plan was to film some scenes á la Moby Dick, the movie; to swim, eat, celebrate together the last day of shooting. None of the above happened. It was a cold and rainy day. We filmed some scenes on the lake but we ended up freezing in the process. In Austria, one learns early, summer is a relative word. Austrian-Summer in some years is an oxymoron.
And then, a day later, we drove back to Vienna. On the road, in no man’s land, we stopped and squeezed out another scene.
Interior. Recreational Vehicle. The actors sit around the car’s dining table. They read the last scene from the play by Orson Welles ‘Moby Dick Rehearsed,’ a drama in two acts. Action…
The Governor: You can take down the curtain.
(He turns and walks away. After a moment:)
THE CURTAIN FALLS
Cut! It was the last scene we filmed on the trip, the end of the beginning…
I’m a city person, a big city person. I’ve always thought that this is part of the aesthetics, the program of toxic dreams: to capture as much of the life of the city as we can. The city gives you so much to talk about, such a huge cast of idiosyncratic characters.
I don’t see us changing the subject matters any time in the future, even after spending three weeks in the Austrian countryside. I can only look at the green landscape outside the city with the eyes of a city dweller.
It’s amazing to me how many artists of my generation, and subsequent generations, chose the countryside or the suburbs as their subject matter. I grew up in the suburbs and I’ve never had the need to go back or talk about it. I’ve always thought that there is something patronising, even condescending, about the way we either idealise or ridicule the countryside. I’m not saying that countryside, or suburban, ‘fiction’ can’t be good—I love Cheever and Alice Munro—all I’m saying is that for me this project was a once in a blue moon experience, and I’m sure that in future performances we at toxic dreams will go back to what we know best, the people of this/the city.
I’m speaking only for myself, but I can’t say that I had a love affair with the mountains, the lakes, the valleys, the green meadows. I didn’t have a ‘Sound of Music’ experience. There is a clear divide between country and city, a political division that seems to grow with each moment passing. If there was one thing I took from this trip, it was this clear cut between country and city. It made me fearful, worried, anxious. Cynical politicians use this divide to a devastating effect. Can artists build a bridge? I’m not sure… (y)