Vienna and Rome – Music and Gifts

Hello!

I am writing this feeling very refreshed and optimistic. Maybe shocking, considering circumstances around the world. And this doesn’t mean that I’m not taking very seriously the grave injustices and tragedies occurring at the moment. On the contrary, it’s because I take them so seriously that I go to gatherings like Giftival, which just took place in Rome last week.

But first, Vienna…

Pinacoteca_release_door-picOnce I learned that I’d be traveling overseas, when I’d accepted the invitation to Giftival, I decided to see what else I could do while across the ocean. I asked my good friend and music producer, Ed Reardon, if he would want to schedule a show for me in Vienna where he’s lived for the last year, and where he produced my new CD ‘every thing everything.’

Ed booked a show for me, with him as a very special guest on guitar for 4 songs, at his friend Claudia’s art gallery, Pinacoteca. This was a show to celebrate the release of ‘every thing everything.’ And it was quite a celebration! The venue was small, lovely, old and intimate and was full of very attentive and enthusiastic people. What a treat! Vienna is my new favorite place to play. :) I suppose its distance will cause it to remain a rare and special treat.

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my lovely hosts, Ed and Astrid

Another rare and special treat about Vienna (among many) is its embrace of arts and intellectual photo 5-11culture, and its devotion to leisure. My friends referred to it as the Viennese Lifestyle, and I enjoy it quite a lot! One factor that helps create this condition is that their government supports the arts. And helps make art and culture available to everyone in a way that’s unpretentious and doesn’t require people to have to ask for special help based on need.

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the salon at the studio

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improv at Celeste

For example, the rent for art studios and galleries is paid by the government, so the tenants don’t have to rely on selling enough work to make rent plus try to be paid for their time, not to mention other expenses like supplies, events, publicity… The Vienna Opera has a huge projection screen on its outside wall and anyone can watch the opera for free, and can reserve an outdoor seat for 2 euro. And on and on. The stars on the sidewalks are of renowned composers. My friends host a monthly salon/lecture series where everyone shows up to hear a talk, drink beer and smoke cigarettes (lots of smoking, maybe one downside but I can’t argue with its ability to create a great atmosphere for lingering and chatting) in an artist’s studio. Free jazz improv at Celeste is another impetus for a regular night out. The Naschmarkt outdoor market is always full of people with plenty of time to sit outside and drink at its outdoor cafes. (And one of the neighbors in a swank building across the street has posted, in one big letter per window – ‘STOP DRINKING’)

Vienna was a lovely break, just playing music and spending time with old and new friends. It was really good for me to get away, as the last months at home have been very full of work and lots of difficult situations and tensions around the police shooting of Tony Robinson, an unarmed bi-racial teen, in my neighborhood. There is a lot to say about that shooting and conditions that led to it, but I won’t say it here at this time. Instead I’m moving on to Giftival in Rome.

Giftival was a continuation of the amorphous group process begun in Istanbul October 2013, one of the loveliest times I’ve ever had. This Giftival took place in Rome with many of the same people as in Istanbul, along with many new people. Here is a near-complete list of this year’s participants.

I’m not going to write a lot of detail about what happened, I’ll just focus more on larger impressions.

The first 3 days we spent at the Maternal Roots of the Gift Economy conference, where I learned a lot but yearned to spend more time with some of the presenters, each of whom had only 15 minutes to present with no workshop time or space. But it was enough to gain some tremendous insights along with a thirst for more, and ways to go more in-depth later. The highlights for me were reports from indigenous people of the Americas and Africa, about their own matrifocal and gift cultures.

Giftival occurred over the subsequent three days, which had its pros and cons. A pro was that we had just been immersed in ideas about the topic we were there to explore. A con was that many of our brains and bodies were somewhat exhausted by the time we began.

Giftival is a hard thing to explain. It’s quite amorphous in the agenda, again with pros and cons. On the whole we had lots of magical, high quality time together.

Here are some highlights:

photo 4-1photo 3-8Rome.   photo 5-7

photo 2-9Also – We got to know each other deeply, partly through dancing, singing and playing. We shared practices and tools in several open space sessions. We mapped our various projects and photo 3-4added offers and needs, to begin identifying ways to collaborate. We visited photo 4-5some agiftival_project_mapmazing sites in Rome, including the Pantheon where we had a tour from our friend and archaeologist Marie Goodwin. Then we made a human circle around the floor under the Oculus, joined by new friends who helped us complete it, and then created a beautiful sound. And that night started a photo 5-4big dance party on the square where Giordano photo 4Bruno was burned at the stake, near the monument commemorating him. A tribute. Pat McCabe – Lakota name translating to Woman Stands Shining – led us in an incredibly moving healing ceremony, where she invited the holy people from around the world and we asked them for help. We certainly need it. And I left feeling it will be provided.

And for me the most wonderfully valuable thing about this gathering was of course the people I met. I’ve found some very remarkable new collaborators to work with on Mutual Aid Networks, including more people who have come up with nearly the same vision and are creating beautiful complementary pieces that will help create it. Super exciting!

Many of them are interested in coming to Madison for MAN Up month this August! So yes, I’ll be pursuing the biggest and most exciting plan that I’ve been wanting to aim for. Stay tuned for details on that.

And I’ll be setting up a few MAN overview and engagement web meetings to get our new friends up to speed, and introduce new participants to those who have already connected. Please sign up here if you want to receive an invitation (and haven’t yet signed up).

If you want to catch up on context read the rest of this blog, where you can also find an overview of Mutual Aid Networks.

Yes, we’re still working toward pulling together our web presence and member policies, but we still expect to soft launch within the month and then be ready for a proper launch during MAN Up month in August – where we’ll offer lots of training and workshops, opportunities to develop collaborations, and tool-building work sprints. Plus a MAN Up simulation game.

And lots more between now and then.

Thanks for reading this long-ass blog, and please stay tuned…

–Stephanie

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