field trip to Kasba Tadla, Morocco

November 30th, 2014 by admin

In May I had the chance to take part in a field study in Kasba Tadla, Morocco which I combined with two weeks of travelling across this beautiful country. Lazy blogger I am, I didn’t quite allocated the time to write about it – apart from diary entries and the research report.
Alas, it was my first stay south of the Mediterranean sea. And while I leave the description of the beautiful landscapes that change dramatically as you cross the country away from the coast, south through a chain of several mountain ranges (being the Rif mountains and the numerous manifestations of the Atlas) right into the Sahara as well as a portrait of the rich cultural heritage to the travel writing trade (as well to my photography and real-life in-your-face story-telling), I’d like to point out that Morocco is probably a good start if you aim to leave the European bubble without feeling completely lost and helpless. Face it, it is some beautiful country and if you’re priviledged enough to be on a vacation and not having to make a living, it’s the most relaxing place I can think of. “Très tranquille” as they say. Actually, I’d like to make the point, that even if you HAVE TO make a living, it can be a very relaxing place. I’m not going to romanticize the life of Moroccan peasants and city dwellers alike. Most people we’ve talked to gave accounts on their hardships, the daunting unemployment and inapt politicians. However, most people in Morocco alloted time for the most basic yet important thing: time spent in community with friends and strangers alike. Being invited by complete strangers for a good “thé à la menthe” made me wonder, what I do with all the time in my life.

Our research was titled “Urban primary production of food.” Originally, we meant to work on urban subsistence production. However, we began to question the viability of the term “subsistence” in this specific context. Unlike in Europe, the distinction of the two domains of labor for subsistence and labor for profit is highly blurred. It is not too say, the term is completely inapplicable. It would “simply” require a new re-definition which we didn’t quite have the time for in this one week field trip. One of the things that screams: “Further Research!”

In three of Kasba Tadla’s quarters, Hay Dakhla, Hay Berraka and Dar Draouech, we surveyed fruit trees, livestock husbandry and kitchen gardens. Thinking about the effort that grassroots movements all across the industrialized countries invest in order to push forward (small-scale) food production in cities, we were amazed to see, it is all in place in Kasba Tadla. So who is the developed country? Another term that lost its suitability. At the same time, we were shocked to realize, how much these practices are frowned upon by the local government. They dismiss subsistence as something backward of semi-wild, rural peasants that doesn’t fit into a modern city. It is cynical: A group of European academics come to Morroco to critize a political position that had been implemented by European academics (and other colonialists) in the first place. How can we know, we’re right this time?

To sum up, we have shown that primary production of food takes place to a significant amount in Kasba Tadla. While it doesn’t allow for self-sufficiency, it contributes to local resilience by reducing the amount of food that needs to be imported, by preserving local knowledge on food production and processing and by strengthening human relationship s1in the community. It is also of outstanding cultural value and, thus, adds to the quality of life of the population of Kasba Tadla.

Choir Corridor

October 27th, 2014 by Johann Strube

Back in November 2013 I had the honor to sing with the BOKU-Choir in Seth Weiner’s performance “Choir Corridor” at the Museum of Applied Arts Vienna (MAK). It’s been a great experience and luckily, the MAK published some footage of the show. While, obviously, it doesn’t quite capture the spatial quality of the performance, it still offers some good impressions what the whole fuzz was about.

Festrede zum BOKU-Ball – Bildung: Befähigung zum kritischen und emanzipatorischen Denken und Handeln statt Wirtschaftshörigkeit.

February 2nd, 2014 by Johann Strube

Am Freitag, den 31. Jänner 2014 fand wie jedes Jahr der BOKU-Ball statt. Als GastgeberInnen hatten wir vom Vorsitzteam der ÖH BOKU die Ehre, eine Rede zu halten. Da die fremdenfeindliche Reaktion des Österreichischen Bundesminister für Land- und Forstwirtschaft, Umwelt und Wasserwirtschaft, Andrä Rupprechter noch für Gesprächsstoff sorgen wird, habe ich mir gedacht, dass es sinnvoll wäre, die Rede, auf die sich BM Rupprechter bezogen hat, hier wiederzugeben.

“Von der großen weiten Welt wollen wir jedoch den Blick wieder zu uns nach Österreich schwenken.
Vor der Ökonomisierung der Bildung warnen Studierende schon seit Jahren. Doch spätestens mit der Eingliederung des Wissenschaftsressort in das Wirtschaftsministerium dürfte allen klar sein: Die Wissenschaftspolitik in Österreich hat vor den Interessen der Wirtschaft kapituliert. Nicht, dass dem in den letzten Jahren anders gewesen wäre. Es ist nur ein symbolischer Schritt, aber eben auch ein sehr deutlicher.

Wenn wir heute einen Universitätsball feiern, dann jedoch um die wahren akademischen Tugenden zu feiern. Und diese sind eben nicht Wirtschaftshörigkeit – oder gar mensurschlagender Elitarismus – sondern das humanistische Ideal des kritischen und emanzipatorischen Denken und Handelns.

“Donau – Ein Fluss der verbindet” ist das Motto dieses Balls und bietet gleichzeitig ein hervorragendes Beispiel, dass die Fähigkeit zu kritischer Reflektion und das über den Tellerrand hinausschauen auch in den technischen Disziplinen von äußerster Wichtigkeit sind. Ohne diese Fähigkeiten würden AbsolventInnen der BOKU heute immer noch Fließgewässer begradigen und verbauen statt sie zu renaturisieren. Als 1984, also heuer vor 30 Jahren, der geplante Bau eines Wasserkraftwerks die Hainburger Au stromabwärts von Wien bedrohte, waren es zu einem großen Teil kritische Studierende der Bodenkultur, die dies verhinderten und so die Grundlage für den Nationalpark Donau-Auen schufen.

Lasst uns als Universität des Lebens diese Tugenden hochhalten und verteidigen, damit in Zukunft die Wissenschaft in Österreich wieder den Stellenwert einnimmt, den sie verdient.”

the student in the time vortex

December 23rd, 2013 by Johann Strube

2013 is about to close and it’s time to write something clever on my blog. Oh my, half a year has passed again since I wrote my last entry. Guess I’m not much of a blogging person. Or rather, I’m in a stage of my life, where I do make progress in certain areas, namely my studies and students’ association (ÖH) activism, but unlike in music, where you have concerts and releases, there are not so many stunning events that I feel eager to write about. Or when they happen, I’m too tired and torn to be bothered. It feels like in Doctor Who’s time vortex; I chase through time and space with tunnel vision and without contemplation.

When I look back at the first months in office, there are several things I should be proud of: We (my colleagues in the chair team and several other activists of ÖH) established two new units within the students’ association, organized a number of seminars and political/informative events, organized a huge demonstration against the union of the ministry of science and the ministry of economy and, most importantly, seemed to be able to create a general sense of motivation within the student body for ÖH affairs. Also, we created a lot of confusion. Something, I’m not entirely discontent about.

As with my studies, officially I’m still in Bachelor stage but practically halfway through my masters. Which is kind of cool, ’cause it give’s me the choice of being done soon or stretch the end a bit to get some time for my own, artistic, political and/or scientific (I don’t attempt to separate these areas to much) projects. Yeah, my head is still bursting with ideas that needs watering.

tldr: wibbly wobbly timey wimey happy new year

And suddenly they called me chairperson

July 30th, 2013 by Johann Strube

Looks like it took me 6 months to write another entry on my blog.  Not like I’ve been lazy, far from it. I’ve just been caught up with tons of stuff, I didn’t even remember I had a blog. Sort of…

The single most exciting event was the election for the Student Union parliament. The election itself was exciting, but so was the preparation and aftermath. Admittedly, our green student group (bagru*GRAS*boku) was pretty much in a state of coma since the last election in 2011. We didn’t die, the heart was still beating, we were just dozing. That is to say, me and a fellow student were members of that student’s parliament and did get involved there, but other than that, it was pretty much green radio silence. Anyway, something must have struck us, as we decided to run again this year and even do some campaigning. A small group as we are, I confess it was one of the most intense campaigns I took part in. But it was great to see our group become alive again and even better, we managed to maintain our two seats in the student’s parliament. Still better, we were suddenly a much asked for coalition partner for the two bigger student’s group. Therefore, no relaxation after the election but coalition talks! I tell you, that stuff is exciting. Everything went pretty smooth, though, and now, hooray, we’re part of the executive coalition with the so-called Unabhängige Fachschaftsliste, a rather odd collection of campus activists, that came together in deadly terror of joining any party-affiliated group. Nice bunch of people, though. Long story short, I’m now part of the chairteam of our Student Union, which is not far from a full-time occupation. It’s going to be extremely intense, busy and challenging plus awesome. So I assume. It was interesting to realize, how nice and polite suddenly everyone becomes, once you’re get into some sort of exposed office. Wonder how long that will last…
Another year, another challenge.

Apart from all those political activities, I also managed to make some progress on my studies. I’m like on the finishing line of my Bachelor graduation. The most interesting part was the field research for my Bachelors thesis (more on that, once it’s proof-read, handed in and graded), which took my to the Vinschgau in South Tyrol, Italy. It was quite a relief and change to get out of Vienna for 2 weeks.

Deine Meinung zählt (nicht) oder Vom Unterschied zwischen Stadtsbürger und Staatsbürger

February 20th, 2013 by Johann Strube

In Wien findet im März eine Volksbefragung statt, auf deren Inhalt ich jetzt gar nicht eingehen will. Ich darf eh nicht wählen. Gut, ich bin auch nur mit Nebenwohnsitz in Wien gemeldet, verständlich. Aber mehrere hunderttausend andere, die hier teilweise schon seit vielen Jahren leben, dürfen auch nicht wählen. Warum? Weil Sie keine Österreicher_innen sind. Die Plakatkampagne der Wiener Stadtsregierung – Deine Meinung zählt – kommt da wie Hohn daher. Wieso ist jemensch eher Wiener, wenn sie oder er vor einem Jahr aus beispielsweise Vorarlberg zugezogen ist, als jemensch aus Bratislava, schon 15 Jahre in Wien lebend? Das erscheint mir wenig einleuchtend, diskriminierend und undemokratisch. Würde es sich um ein rechtsverbindliches Referendum handeln, könnte ich es aus verfassungsrechtlichen Gründen VIELLEICHT noch nachvollziehen. Aber es geht hier nur um ein unverbindliches Meinungsbild, dass hätte die Wiener Stadtregierung auch individuell, jenseits der verfassungsrechtlich fixierten Instrumente lösen können.

studying in Vienna: in praise of a dying system

December 1st, 2012 by Johann Strube

It’s been almost two years since I moved to Vienna to study landscape planning and architecture at the University of life sciences and Natural Resources. Most likely, I’ll stay here for grad school and there’s a reason, why I think studying in Vienna is great (at least for people like me):First of all, as a EU-citizen, it’s free as long I stay in the regular period of study plus two semesters which shouldn’t be a problem. With my German Abitur, I could just walk up to almost any university (there are nine of them), enroll and start studying. Just like that. Even better, I can study more than just one program at several universities at the same time. So I enrolled for spatial planning at the Vienna University of Technology. I just jump on my bike and commute between classes at two different universities at which I don’t pay a single cent of tuition. I have a great amount of freedom to tailor my studies to my own interests, style and pace of learning. It’s education heaven, right? Well, close but not quite there…

Since until recently (after I enrolled, that is) Austrian universities had no tool to control the amount of their students. More often than not, this would lead to overrun programs with the universities being unable to provide sufficient facilities for all their enrolled students. It’s not too bad at my programs, even though it does get cramped in the lecture halls once in a while. The computer facilities are a joke. I had the opportunity to see some universities in the US and god, they had some shiny facilities, gorgous libraries and what not. But is that worth paying something like 20-30k a year? Not for me. I have my own computer, I don’t need a palace for studying and they have some great professors over here. You might not get invited to their homes, but you can still learn a lot from them if you’re commited. It’s actually not that difficult to get a decent education and set yourself apart from the mass of students as long you’re commited to your studies. So for me, it pans out nicely.

But wait, things have changed. They’re trying hard to reduce the number of students. Introduction of study fees for long-time students and non-EU students and limits of students for some programs (including landscape architecture). And while those restrictions are still very modest by international standarts, experiences from other countries such as the UK have shown, that it will become tougher and tougher to study in Austria if those attempts aren’t tackled now. Kill it before it grows. I want future generations of students to have the same degree of freedom while studying that I have now. As a start, you should join the demonstration for free education organised by the Austrian Student’s Union on the 5th of December.

Walden’s nightmare

May 14th, 2012 by admin

Recently, I’ve been asked to perform at the opening of the latest exhibition by the Viennese artist group annalian. Unfortunately, I had to do some field research in Styria so I couldn’t be around. So I set up a private and cozy performance at my home, recorded the result and gave it to annalian. The exhibition took place in some old bunker in Vienna. I would have loved to hear the pulsing bass down there.

Anyway, since it is recorded now, I might as well share it with you. Enjoy and let me know what you think.

How to put things off you can’t do anything about now

April 15th, 2012 by Johann Strube

As I am working myself  through my undergraduate programme in landscape architecture and planning, I am already thinking about which master to take. There are a couple of options I find intriguing:

Coming to a decision is only part of the problem. It’s still more than a year left until I actually have to make that decision, in fact, it won’t be before December I can apply to anything. There’s absolutely nothing I can do about it right now and yet this pondering is nagging my mind to no end, taking up way to much brain power which I rather invested on other things. So today’s big question is, how to put off something that is bothering you, but which you can not do anything about at the moment. Basically, I want to put it into a mental hold-file, erase it from my mind and follow up on it in autumn. I know how to do it with a file on my hard-drive, but my brain doesn’t work like that. Any suggestions? I might continue this article whenever I came up with a solution, which I don’t at the moment, because…which master programme should I take again?

edit, half a year later: Over the course of the last 6 month that list expanded to about 20 extremely interesting master programs I’ve been considering. However, coming back to University in fall made me realize the advantages of my current program. All those other masters, tempting, but not better suited for my overall goal to plan sustainable communities than the course I’m already taking. It’s like walking down the aisles in a department store, when all the shiny products left and right of you are grabbing your attention while their’s only one product in the whole store you’re  actually need. Ehh, I forgot how much I hate department stores…

Beauty in abundance

March 3rd, 2012 by Johann Strube

As you see, I’ve been very lazy with my blogging and artistic work recently. Actually, “lazy” isn’t quite the right word, since I’ve been and still am insanely occupied with my landscape planning/architecture studies. It’s extremely interesting so I dived into it for real. Also my computer and musical gear got stolen while I travelled the states, leaving me in a somewhat unfortunate position. Anyway, enough of the whining. Chances are I’m going to play a set of something (yet to be revealed) in May in an old bunker in Vienna. It will definitely be electronica driven, so I figured I share a piece of music with you. It’s one of the first things I wrote in PD, so you’ll need to download that first in order to play it back. [PD aka pure data is an open source graphical programming language for multimedia. That is, you're invited to fiddle around with my patch to see what will happen. It's fun, I tell ya. You can get it for free on the pure data website.]

Beauty in abundance [download]

“Beauty in abundance” is an infinitive piece written for noise generator and four powerful bandpass filters.
The piece challenge the way we look at dirt, chaos or so called noise. Whereas society tend to label all these things as being bad or unwanted, they are nothing different than an exsessive supply of human products. Or in other words, wheares the single component might be positive, in abundance  it becomes negative. Examples? A single car carries the driver to its destination, too many of them cause traffic jams and pollution. Overproduction of food ends up on the landfill. A twitter feed might contain valuable information, but becomes useless if the user is confronted with a couple of hundred messages a day. On a planet with a human population of almost 7 billion, finding and reusing these components becomes a technique of survival.
In musical terms, a single sine tone at random frequency, duration and volume is rather innocent, MANY of them cause white noise, which only a few would describe as a welcoming sound. In “Beauty in abundance”, I attempt to move the listener’s focus away from the general noise to its core ingredients, which I present in simple yet beautiful 4-note chords.
Once started, the patch will play forever (untill someone comes to stop it), blurring the border between a classical composition and a sound installation. Personally, I used to play it in the beginning of concert, while the audience is entering the room to smoothen the transition between the non-concertante time and the performance itself.
The duration of one loop (noise – chord – noise) can be set by the operator of the patch, according to the circumstances. Whereas it can be set to quick cycles in order to present a couple of them in a short time, I generally prefer longer times. That way, you become aware of all the levels of grey between the noise and the pure chord, posing the question what defines the one and the other. Especially if played as a permanent installation outside of a concert, 2-3 min per circle don’t seem too long.