Q/A Gustav

Wherein lies the happiness of wage labour?

Back in the day, Jeans Team sang: “O farmer, / Take me along / Into the fields … To the animals / Into the warmth / To the feed / And the straw.” This expressed a longing for simplicity and clarity. You aren’t just a farmer from nine to five: you’re always a farmer. That’s not a profession in the classic sense, but a design for life.

An artist’s life usually takes the same form. Feeding cows – reading books, harvesting grain – producing texts … dreaming of electric sheep. The things that surround you, people you meet, with whom you exchange views, both informally and professionally, define your social status and become tools of distinction. They are part of the field you cultivate: your cultural capital.

As a one-man/one-woman company called Artist, which naturally entails being an author, producer, and barker in one, it is a constant performance of existential drive (a farmer has to do what a farmer has to do), a personified promise of advancement (recognition, high culture, prizes), media self-promotion, and self-presentation. This grows and takes root in the most intimate corners of your being.

Under the dictates of neoliberalism, this format, this fusing of the models for living, working, and selling, this absolute penetration and absorption, is a kind of trial balloon for a construct of society as a whole.

Consequently, you have to reconfront the question of how you define yourself as an artist in this situation.

For me, Gustav has always been a tool that is not directly related to my personality but instead permitted me to explore limits and codes. Part of this has to do with shaping a media image, reconfiguring it, or sometimes even withdrawing from the process deliberately.

At first, making music was a necessity. The most suitable means to communicate content and raise questions. Composing for film and the atre has largely turned music into a job for me. Now I get a concrete assignment: make music. While in my former existence as an artist, work and leisure were combined, now they have been split again. I go to work. I sit in the studio for eight hours a day. I do what I do well. Compose, produce, arrange. Then I go home. That’s the end of that.

It is a pragmatic decision. On the one hand, for a form of craft. On the other hand, it’s a kind of liberation: not having to express my thoughts and compulsions in order to go with the flow of the digital stream, the flow of capital.

Translated by Steven Lindberg

Performing under the name Gustav, Eva Jantschitsch released the critically acclaimed albums Rettet die Wale (2004) and Verlass die Stadt (2009). She has since composed various commissioned works for the theatre. In 2013 she received the Österreichischer Filmpreis for her soundtrack to the film Grenz gänger by Florian Flicker. Currently Gustav is performing in the new production of Proletenpassion (1976) at the Theater X in Vienna.