I’m in Graz, Austria, representing the History Commons at the Elevate Festival — look for the English tab). This will be a very short post, mostly because I am using my host Daniel Erlacher’s laptop (insert complaints about German keyboards and laptop keyboards here). I’m leaving in about 24 hours, perhaps less, for a brief, touristy sojourn in Vienna before flying back to America.
A few quick thoughts. First, Graz is absolutely lovely, a relatively small town with piles of impressive Austrian masonry, mostly churches and other old buildings that have largely been converted into shops and stores. The venue for most of the events, particularly the music, is in the Schlossberg, a fabulous hollowed-out mountain now used for concerts, discussions, and community events. I know of nothing comparable in the States.
There is a vibrant activist community here, spanning the gamut of leftist, centrist, environmental, and other groups. They have all been VERY welcoming and gracious, putting up with my total lack of German and working tirelessly to accomodate and anticipate my needs. I am trying not to take too much advantage of their hospitality…! (They all have stories of Ugly Americans coming to Graz and acting like jackasses; I am trying very hard to counter those impressions by being as gracious as I know how.)
The festival combines political and social discussions, forums, and workshops (focusing on the concept of the Commons, a topic I will write more about later) with musical performances, mostly odd variants of techno, house, trance, and hip-hop. The highlight of the musical performances for me was grooving to DJ Spooky, an MIT-educated author and political-social observer who may be the single most intelligent and well-informed person I’ve met. I was fortunate enough to sit on a panel discussion with him, and he combines music and political-social discourse in a way I have never seen before. He exemplifies what the Elevate Festival is attempting to achieve. Check him out. There are a number of other terrifically active and well-informed people here, ranging from homegrown Austrians to people from the US, UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Canada, and Brazil.
Three shoutouts: extreme thanks to Daniel Erlacher, the coordinator of the festival, to Eva Knoblach, my guide and handler, and to Reine, the guy who graciously transported a crowd of us from and to the Vienna airport. Without them, I (and no doubt other festival guests) would have been horribly lost and unable to do, well, much of anything. They all have standing invitations to visit Chez Max for good Southern cooking and fancy kitchen-table conversation.
More later. Blame typos on the verdamnt German keyboard layout, which continues to befuddle me. Keyboarding issues aside, this has been a tremendous experience, and one which I think will have a strong and lasting impact on the Commons.