Electro Gönner, Vienna December 15th 2016
_ THE AUTO-INTERVIEW _
On the fresh winter eve of December 15th 2016, the five members of the art collective known as Frustracиja. performed a small, but unique, holiday-flavored action. The action took place at Vienna’s Electro Gönner bar, shortly after 10 o’clock in the evening, just as the DJ set begun and the crowd at the bar was starting to let loose.
The members of this, all female, collective dispersed over the venue while offering Santa-shaped chocolate treats to the crowd. Alongside the chocolate, the treats included rude, hateful, or insulting messages written on speech bubble-shaped pieces of paper that were attached to the chocolate Santas. The members of the crowd could either accept or decline the offered gift; and in some cases they were able to choose the “hateful” message which they wanted to take, while in other cases the selection was random.
This evening at Electro Gönner featured several other performance and video projections, and it was organized as the celebration of the release of the Entkunstung online journal for contemporary art, theory and criticism. Within this frame and through their performance, Frustracиja. offered a critical comment on the spectacularized, often forced, and omnipresent Christmas-holyday traditions and their complete commercialization in the service of capitalism.
- Hi Frustracija! How did you interpret the framework of Entkunstung? Hello Imaginary Interviewer! We were working with the notion of Entkunstung understanding it as de-aestheticization or as de-artification. Although we have used for our piece the material objects we did that so that they can be digested, condemned, rejected, destroyed or kept. The chocolate figures were only a tool, which carried a certain expectations and stereotypes, which were disturbed by their aggressive utterances. Our aim was to perform a sweet rejection without any obvious reason. Kinda laboratory situation, but still live.
- A short question about the logistic: Where did you get so many Santas actually? Who funded you? As it may seem strange, it was really difficult to find a greater amount of ordinary, average-sized St Nicolaus chocolate figures after the Saint Nicolaus Day (Dec 6th). The circle of production and consumption rotates quickly and it seems that what in the past ended up in sale, is now rather put off the shelves. It was really frustrating, especially for one of our member, which visited or called by phone at least 10 shops and factories both in Austria and Slovakia and got simply nothing. In the end, the more lucky of us bought them at various supermarkets at our own expenses. We have no sponsors yet – it was no promo for Lindt or other chocolate factory.
- The name of your collective is Frustracija, that is the frustration. In this piece I see more layers, in which you played out the topic of frustration. For example the chocolate… Yes, exactly, it is often said that chocolate is a great tool to cure your sadness or anxieties. Or to calm you down after the attack of Dementor. On the other hand, if you are obsessed with your body picture, it can possibly create a new anxiety of eating the chocolate itself. This circle of reward and frustration is very intricate.
- Your performance was obviously very time-specific. How do you perceive Christmas? In general, we perceive Christmas as very contradictory time of the year. The all-around Christmas slogan are advertising this period of year as a peaceful and relaxing. Counter to that is the real experience of the citizens in bigger cities such as Vienna, where one predominant narration with beardy fella from North Pole or the Saint from Myra ate the December.
- Why and how did you frustrated the participants? We observe the gradual rise of frustration among people about various things in their life and in society in general. We exaggerate the thing a bit to release all sorts of reactions and emotions. Therefore we personalized each chocolate Santa figure with his own nasty utterance towards the gifted person.
- For example…? “Fuck you”, “Piss off”, “You suck”, but also “Kurac Volim” (reference to Croatian performance artist Vlasta Delimar).
- How did the choice of venue – the bar Elektro Göner near the famous Mariahilferstraße – influenced your project? As at other let´s say hipster places, we didn´t expect some openly aggressive reactions. We admit that there is normally not so much dissensus, it is certain island of coolness and stylishness. However, our gifts didn´t released only smile or laughter.
- What were then the reactions of the people to your performance like? Did you estimate your audience well? We hoped for everything and nothing and we basically get all. Or at least some of us. One of the members of Frustracija was after gifting the Santa to some girl attacked back with the verbal utterance of classic Fuck you! and basically throwing the poor Santa back at her. However, as I already mentioned, most people just took it as a joke, what is in the environment of the hipster club a normal response – people are in the familiar surroundings, prepared for some gig/art work, willing to accept more from their fellow Weißerspritzer lads. Still, we hope that we disturbed a bit their night out. Nobody likes to be rejected. But obviously Santa has not so much power nowadays. We should give away the Devil.