Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Psychedelic Vienna (Part One)

I've published these images before on other websites.  Today I thought it was the right time to put them on this blog and use the opportunity to add captions.

 Psychedelic Vienna #1
Karlskirche (St. Charles's Church) blends with Schoenbrunn Palace.

 Psychedelic Vienna #2
Twice the Donaukanal ("Danube Canal") and once the Rossauer Kaserne ("Rossauer Barracks").  This image is the result of me spending a whole afternoon in one certain area of Vienna and exposing one cartridge two times with pictures of (more or less) the same motif, thus reducing to the absolute minimum what I consider the two main dimensions of organic random photography - namely
a) time elapsed between the two "takes" and
b) variations in motif.

 Psychedelic Vienna #3 / L'Empire Des Lumières #3
Same story as with #2. I certainly stole the title from Magritte.  Just in case you wondered why this is not only "#3" of a series of slightly surrealistic images taken in Vienna but also of a series of "empires of light": please allow me to enlighten you right here and right now :-)  

Psychedelic Vienna #4 - Painting Dreams
A colleague at work becomes part of a graffito that is just being sprayed.

 Psychedelic Vienna #5 - Night & Day
Once more the Danube Canal times two, once in bright daylight and once at night.

Psychedelic Vienna #6 - The Escape
Thomas and the famous "Riesenrad".

 Psychedelic Vienna #7 - The Sound Of "Musik" 

Schoenbrunn Palace and a "zither" which I found at Vienna' s biggest flea market (the "Naschmarkt") make their way into the same image.  The name is actually the song title of one of the few modern Austrian artists that enjoy(ed) global success: Falco.

 Psychedelic Vienna #8 - Wiener Ringelspiel
 Ringel... what???  

 Psychedelic Vienna #9 - The Real Wiener Ringelspiel ?
 This Carousel (or "Ringelspiel") can be found in the "Prater".  Judging from the green dots I can tell that the film I used was a "Revolog Volvox".

 Psychedelic Vienna #10 - The Cucumbers Strike Back
 Yet another Volvox...

 Psychedelic Vienna #11 - Norma Jeane Mortenson
Marilyn in Vienna?  Yup, at the Viennese Madame Tussaud`s.

Psychedelic Vienna #12 - Smash Fascism
...and neo-nazism.

Psychedelic Vienna #13 - Faces
A couple of Falcos as well as my wife Nina and some unknown woman.

Psychedelic Vienna #14 - Drowning In The Sea Of Absurdity
The entrance door to one of the most legendary cafes of Vienna - the "Hawelka" - gets flooded by "Riesenrad" bouncing balls. 

Psychedelic Vienna #15 - Walking In Space
Tourists at the "Burggarten".

 Psychedelic Vienna #16 - Face In The Trees
Danny from my previous blog post vogues right into one of the trees in "Burggarten".

Saturday, May 11, 2013


Enough of philosophising - let's have some fun!

A few months back Nina and I hung out with dance artist Danny "Hakan" Red.  It was with great interest that I listened to Danny's first-hand stories from the world of dancing, something I know very little about despite my great love for music.

My interest in listening turned into curiosity when he spoke the word: "vogueing".

"Vogueing?  What's vogueing?", I asked.

(The dancers among you will probably ask now: "Hey Robert, where have you been living over the last 20 years - behind the moon?"


Vogue magazine (from which the dance style got its name, as you guessed) defines vogueing [ˈvəʊgɪŋ] as "a dance style of the late 1980s, in which a fashion model's movements and postures are imitated in a highly stylized manner." 

In other words: the dancers take on model-like poses integrated with angular, linear, and rigid arm, leg, and body movements.


Egyptian hieroglyphs and fashion poses serve as the original inspirations.

I learned from Danny that there currently are three styles of vogueing:

1. old way (pre-1990)
2. new way (post-1990) and
3. vogue femme (circa 1995).   

Old way is characterized by the formation of lines, symmetry, and precision in the execution of formations with graceful, fluid-like action.  It's the style that Danny, Nina and I decided upon for the photo shoot.

Vogueing gained mainstream exposure when it was featured in Madonna's song and video "Vogue" (1990).

Many thanks to Danny "Hakan" Red for agreeing on this photo shoot during a very busy schedule here in Vienna!

Thanks also to the people who put all that extremely helpful information about "vogueing" on Wikipedia :-)

Friday, March 29, 2013

L'Art Pour L'Art Pour L'Art

Have you ever wondered why you like to listen to music, read books, watch movies and even are willing to wait for hours in a queue just to see an art exhibition?

L'Empire Des Lumières # 1

I know very well how wonderful it feels to be creative and I guess so do you (unless you are one of those artists/people with creative hobbies who are at their creative best when feeling depressed).

L’Art Pour L’Art Pour L’Art #4

But what about the other side of the coin?  The viewer's or listener's side. What do we get from looking at the "Mona Lisa", listening to "Bohemien Rapsody", reading "The Da Vinci Code" or watching "Avatar"? Why do we appreciate and consume art? 

L’Art Pour L’Art Pour L’Art #6

Bono, frontman of Irish rock band U2 once said that "the job of art is to chase away ugliness". Nice words - but if that was really the role of art, how can we explain the fact that seemingly "ugly" paintings like e.g. those by Jackson Pollock can be worth millions of dollars to galleries (while in the view of an interested buyer only five, as was the story of a woman who actually bought a Pollock that was mistakenly priced five dollars)?

And what about Munch's "The Scream" and the late works of Pablo Picasso Is this really art that chases ugliness away? 

L’Art Pour L’Art Pour L’Art #1

According to American neuropsychiatrist and Nobel Prize laureate Eric Kandel, the Vienna School of Art History in the 1930s emphasised that the function of the modern artist was not to convey beauty, but to convey new truths.

Kandel, Eric: "The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present", The Random House, New York, 2012).

L’Art Pour L’Art Pour L’Art #3

What exactly these truths are, depends to a large part on the beholder, the reader, the listener.  And that is you.  Experiments have also shown that these truths - your reactions to a work of art - are influenced by what you are told about it.  In other words:  You are more likely to respond positively when you are told a painting is a genuine work by Rembrandt, even if it is not (read more about this here).

Merci De Faire Ma Chambre

This digression still does not answer the question of why we like and consume art, and why we choose to decorate the rooms of our apartments with paintings.

L’Art Pour L’Art Pour L’Art #2

In his blog post "Why do we appreciate art?", Surya Ramkumar says that while enjoying a work of art, we lose ourselves in a tiny self created world, where there is just us and the work before us.  I agree, and I would add that this self created world is either somebody else's reality or my own.  I consider this apparently trivial addition important because in the first case I am looking at another's reality for distraction whereas in the second case I introspect and want to intensify a certain positive or negative emotion that I am currently under.

 Towers Tour The Louvre

Therefore it seems to me that the main reason why we like art is because it helps us escape our reality. Or gets us to really dive into it.

Monday, March 11, 2013

That Was One Small Step For A Man ?

Heimlicher Atomtest

In "The Change Book",  authors Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschäppeler identify six dictatorships in the so-called "free world" which should be toppled. One of these is the "dictatorship of breaking news". They claim that if a piece of news was really so important then we would hear about it sooner or later anyway.  Instead, we should draw our attention to what is overlooked.  I couldn' t agree more.  I feel like I am permanently exposed to a cacophony of information, most of all in my mailbox - the "real" and the electronic one.

I consider myself a person who by nature is not very interested in breaking news, for the reasons that Messrs Krogerus and Tschäppeler outlined above.  However, every now and then there comes that certain "one in one thousand" headline that manages to catch even my attention... 

 Baba, Papa
On 28 February 2013 A.D. pope Benedict XVI resigned, aged 85. The last pope to do so was Celestine V in 1294.  If you are not a Roman-Catholic you probably couldn't care less.  But if you are like me someone who can best be categorised somewhere between pious church-goer and christened atheist, you might have wondered during the last weeks what the implications of this development are and whether you need to adjust your world view a bit.

That Was One Small Step For A Man ?

Some say that Benedikt XVI (now - again - Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger) was forced to resign.  If that really was the case, I do not think that we would ever know.  Assuming it is not the case, I congratulate Mr. Ratzinger for having taken this bold stepMore people should have the courage to do what they know is the right thing to do even if their society tells them otherwise

Primary Colours 

But what about those things which some societies approve of while others - alongside the church - resent?  Who can give the unequivocal verdict on what is really ethically correct or morally wrong?

Some Things Are Almost Indestructible

What about fun things which some priests are trying to make us feel bad aboutWhat is really so wrong about heavy metal, premarital sex, or a good joke about god?  

La Décadence Aux Tours De Notre Dame

And are they practicing what they preach?  The ones who do must be super-humans.

Shortsighted In The Church

In religious discussions I like to bring the example of the indigenous man living in a jungle somewhere on this planet.  All of his life he does his best to be a reliable partner, a caring father and a responsible member of his tribe.  He also shows great respect for natureHowever, when he dies will he fail the test at the gates of heaven because he does not know who Jesus is? 

 Notrenotre Damedame

If there is a god then He will judge us by our behaviour towards others and towards nature rather than by our religious rituals I would hope.  He would certainly also apply this rule of judgement to a man who some humans had called their "pope" for a few years.  Was this also what the man formerly known as Benedikt XVI was thinking when he decided to step down instead of completing a questionable religious duty which foresees retirement only via death?  If yes, then Mr. Ratzinger's move would symbolise a modernised Catholic church that I could identify with, one I would be proud to be a member of.  Then - from my perspective - Benedikt XVI's resignation would have been much more than just one small step for a man.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Between Reality And Wonderland


The other day Lisa invited a bunch of friends including me to watch a video she had just finished editing.  The 55 minute film turned out to be a creative documentation of seven months in late 2011 and early 2012 during which Lisa and 21 other artists developed and finally performed live a circus piece called "reALICE".

"Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" was the main theme of the acts and they depicted Alice in her old age: a woman who gets lost in weird memories full of whirling contradictions, disoriented thoughts, acrobatic banalities, enlightening darkness and sounds that drip of poetry.  The aged Alice balances high above the trees, stumbles through the labyrinth of an absurd reality but won' t let anything get her down.  

Lisa's short film inspired me to think about Robert in Wonderland and the Robert that has a foot in reality and another in wonderland.  The next day I conducted a search on the internet for images, quotes and other material around the theme of "Alice" which made their way into my own (unsurprisingly photographic) interpretation.


 "I’m Not Going Back To Yesterday Because I Was A Different Person Then"

When I was a teenager I considered everyone above the age of 40 to be "officially old".  I also believed that at that age everything in my life from job and hobbies to friends and family would be one wonderfully comfortable routine without the real dangers of a less predictable life.  In 1983 at 12 when I decided I wanted to become a "famous songwriter", it would have almost certainly devastated me to learn (from someone who' s been to the future) that exactly 30 years later I would not only have given up on music but also still be at "square one".

The reality however, is far from devastating. I can safely say that I prefer leading a life that constantly creates that "square one"-feeling to that of the "comfortable predictability" that I had actually expected and aspired to.  Time for me to move on to square two, however...

 "But You Can't Help It. Everyone Here Is Mad."

In every day conversations I find it sometimes difficult to clearly state what I personally think about this or that. I am often reluctant to voice my opinion because I feel that I know too little about the topic in question. And I really feel awkward when I have to admit to myself that I don' t even have an opinion at all!

But why? Why is it that I, and probably others, believe that in this world today, we are supposed to have some opinion on everything if we don't want to be considered "uneducated", "disinterested" or "ignorant".    

Could it be because we seek acknowledgment and acceptance?

"If Everybody Minded Their Own Business,
The World Would Go Around A Great Deal Faster Than It Does"
I sometimes find it hard to accept people as they are, probably many of us do, as we try to place them in the categories and boxes that frame our world view and expectations of them.
I do not care about academic titles, they say nothing about me.  Money is not my main motivator and hopefully never will be.  And I have no intention of stopping to be a "dreamer" who likes to mentally escape into his own "Wonderland" at random moments of the day, every now and then. Others out there like me, who have aspirations that are out-of-the-norm, may be shattering the worldviews of those around them in this very moment!

And we should, as long as we are not harming anyone. The biggest step towards happiness is by being true to yourself.

The Moment I Realised That I Was Tricked

Lying in the face of others is one thing.  But what about lying to myself?  Isn't that an obvious attempt to ignore a valid possibility or even fact about this world which I do not want to accept for whatever reason?

Maybe.  But it is easier said than done to accept the possibility. As it would be for a religious person, to even contemplate the possibility that God may not exist or that their life is a pure cosmic coincidence...

Empty Promises

Man, I really take people by the word sometimes.  And then I get angry at them because they did not "behave" or "deliver" what they promise.  While trying to reason with my anger, I've made two observations: First, in most (if not all) cases the main cause for my anger can be traced back to myself.  Second, I sometimes put people through the looking glass but not my own self.  I do not always "walk the talk" either.

"So Rested He By The Tumtum Tree"

Not that I can remember when I last did it but I just don't understand what is so wrong about hugging a treeSo why is it that the term "tree hugger" is used to belittle environmentalists?

Is it wrong to acknowledge the "simple" things in life which in reality are far more complex creations than anything we humans could ever make?  No. And if it makes you happy then go and hug that tree for as long as you like.

 "Because Everything Would Be What It Isn’t"
I do not expect you to have an opinion about everything, let alone this "Image Of The Subconscious" or its title "Because Everything Would Be What It Isn’t" or on how the image and title fit together. You might like neither or would not want to "meditate" on whether you actually like anything about this image.  That' s fine with me.  Because I, on some matters, refuse to have an opinion.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

I Show You Happiness!

“I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness. That is clear. Whether one believes in religion or not, whether one believes in this religion or that religion, we all are seeking something better in life. So, I think, the very motion of our life is towards happiness.”
(Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama in his book "The Art of Happiness")
Joy #2

Nigel, a good friend of mine, calls himself "Chief Happiness Officer" (CHO).  He runs the "Vienna Happiness Project" and if you check out the website you will find small square-shaped abstract paintings by artist Petronilla Hohenwarter titled "moments of happiness".  In my opinion Nigel would be the perfect candidate for the position of a "European Commissioner for Happiness", were the European Commission ever to create such a Directorate General


"Why on earth would the EU need a DG on Happiness?" you might ask yourself.  I tell you why: because among the top 40 countries in the "Happy Planet Index" for 2012 not a single one of today's 27 EU Member States shows up.  According to that index the gladdest people lived in Costa Rica, Vietnam and Colombia. The top Western European nation in the Happy Planet Index was Norway in 29th place, which is not a Member of the EU.

The EU country with the most joyous people is in 41st place, namely the United Kingdom, coincidentally the country where Happiness-Commissioner-to-be Nigel comes from.  Maybe president Obama should also think about appointing a "Happiness Secretary of State" because the United States of America (of course not an EU member) is ranked 105.

 Don't Laugh And Stare At This Photo For 1 Hour In Public

Could it be that happiness has little to do with wealth?  Could it be that the "upper 10,000" Austrians do not feel as positive and blissful on the inside as I do?  Should I actually pity the twenty-somethings driving around in their Porsches in the 1st district of Vienna rather than envy them for having been born into a rich family?

I guess I should neither pity nor envy them, right?

Eat The Rich

I assume you will agree that below a certain level of material wealth it is impossible for anyone to be truly content, simple because of the daily struggle to afford food, healthcare, proper housing and a decent education for their children.

Sometimes Money Can Light Up Your Life #1

But where is that certain point at which more money does not automatically mean more joy in life?  Angus Deaton and Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University found that the quality of everyday experiences does not improve beyond 75,000 USD a year.  Admittedly I find it somehow relieving that high income does not necessarily bring happiness.  Call me naive or idealistic but I really think that it would not be fair if such a direct correlation existed. 

 Seeing Red In The Mall

What is it then that brings us this desirable positive state of mind?  In the "World Book Of Happiness", Leo Bormans asked 100 leading experts on the topic from all over the world about their views.  Essentially these can be boiled down to "12 secrets".  It' s been two years since I read this book and the three things I still remember and consider relevant for myself are these:

- Enjoy the things you already have and be thankful for having them.

- Make sure you have a decent social network of friends and relatives (and regularly stay in touch with them!).

- Help others.

The Day The Window Was Cleaned And The Opportunity Clearly Visible

I have a notebook in which for years I've been writing down my "revelations", i.e. conclusions or observations that I consider important for my own well-being and advancement in life.  Possibly unsurprisingly a considerable amount of these notes deal with my own happiness.  Let me share three of them:

- "I only truly enjoy things that I consider inspiring.  Every day I will engage in at least one inspiring thing".  Remark: today one of these inspiring activities was writing this blog post!

- The feeling I get when I have the impression that I am contributing to something beautiful, significant and relevant is "joy".  Remark: here' s to IndyACT, an organisation which I co-founded in Austria.

- I am happy when I have the deep feeling that my life is taking a positive turn, that it is moving ahead in the right directionRemark: these days I feel that very strongly, and this blog and my photographic project in general definitely also have something to do with it.

Warren Just Kept On Laughing

Apparently the highest ranking politicians in the European Union have also taken note of the aforementioned "happiness deficit" in the EU, because in late 2011 the then Chairman of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy sent out a copy of the "World Book of Happiness" to all world leaders!  Do you still consider the idea of a "European Commissioner for Happiness" far-fetched?

Nigel, get your job application ready :-) 


I am also very pleased to inform you that this blog has its very first follower - it is "Pink Carlienne", a young lady from the Philippines, a "photography hobbyist on the loose" who also has her own blog called "Point and Shoot".