One of my favourite TV series is Austrian Kaisermühlenblues running in the 90ies on Austrian TV channel ORF. Kaisermühlen is a sub-district of Vienna district Donaustadt. The episode “Hof-Konzert” (“Courtyard concert”) is among those episodes I like most for its charming mood and its promoted vision on togetherness. As I see it, this episode gives a practical application of Derrida’s thoughts on hospitality (which I will soon share with you).
The video extracts give the same information as points 1.-5. They are in German with English subtitles which are written by me. So please be gracious if it reads a little bit bumpy… 😉 )
1. Hostile attunement.
Right with the first scene of this episode were drawn deep into a hostile atmosphere. This hostility crackles between Austrians and foreigners. Gustl, i.e., Gitti Schimeck’s son fixates on general, indirect racism. He’s of the opinion that her acquiantance with Joseph Okonkwo is the reason for him being rejected by the Special Branch.
Further scenes in the first minutes of this episode show continuing stress between Austrians and foreigners – originating by both sides.
Put in a nutshell: The attunement is clear. Everyone’s following his or her own imagination of the other, of the foreigner; and feels hurt or even threatened by him or her.
2. Passionate turning point. (From the heart…)
The concierge Turecek catches sight of one of the gypsy group placarding the walls in the courtyard of the municipality building she’s responsible for. She intervenes and tears them off the wall. Anyway, as Joszy flatters her she gets attracted to him. So she helps him placarding.
3. Reflection. (…to the head…)
Kudrnac and Okonkwo give thought to the relationship between Europeans and Africans. At first it is Kudrnac criticizing the missionaries’ activities. They didn’t respect the Africans’ otherness, thus doing there a lot of mischief. However, it’s possible to respect this otherness, since there’s nothing to have fear of.
This European self-criticism, which in fact is the African voice (too), seems to encourage Okonkwo to raise this criticism against Europe as well. Here we are faced with an interesting detail. He enlightens a somewhat lightly mentally handicapped person, Franzi. Franzi comes in with two popular prejudices about Africa. Just desert, all are naked. Maybe the film makers wanted to voice through Franzi how low our views about others sometimes are; in this case about Africans. Okonkwo adjusts this view. There isn’t just desert in Africa, but they have even greater rivers than Europe has. Concerning nakedness he criticizes the missionaries for coming as conquerors and in their sovereign self-referentiality as well as in their hubris (nakedness being morally abhorrent, thus to be antagonized). That way they plainly despised the others, namely the Africans. For the clothes they handed out to them were infected with germs to which the Africans weren’t immune. Which caused many to die.
4. Introduction to the final. (…to the heart.)
The introduction starts with Joszy’s family visiting Turecek at home. For the first time one of Derrida’s motifs appears: the host coming home at home through his or her guests. For, look, Turecek is as happy as can be about so much people visiting her; and that there is food, drinks, and music.
Anyway, as the musicians start to play resistance arises. One of the tenants complains. Thereby the inner diversity of (from the gypsies’ standpoint hosting) Austria crops out. The Austrian is an illusion, which is to say that the Austrian identity is in itself diverse and partially split, estranged, incompatible, and so on. The Viennese vs. the “G’scherten” (the non-Viennese), the Carinthians vs, the Tyrolese, and so on. (It’s funny, too, how torn Germany is. Not only there is the “Weißwurschtgrenze” (the mental border between northern and southern Germany formed by the river Main), there is the mental “Wall” between eastern and western Germany. Apart from this there is the hilarious battle between the Türkdeutschen (Turkishgermans) and the Ostdeutschen (eastern Germans) about who is the real German, since the Türkdeutschen sponsor the “Aufbau Ost”.)
Before the quarrel escalates Kudrnac comes along. He proposes a courtyard party. Each is allowed to come and to bring something along. A joint party.
5. The final.
Well, the party is going on. A lot of people join it. One of the hosts is Joszy. And it’s Turecek who once again is to learn from him. As by chance Mrs Schoitl passes by, Turecek gets disdainful: she wouldn’t join in, she is something finer, for sure she is unappealing. Once again an improper perception of someone else. For at first Joszy asks Turecek whether she knows Mrs. Schoitl – which she blatantly denies. Whereupon Joszy responds that in this case Mrs. Schoitl could be a nice person. So he walks up to her. He invites her and she is met with a warm response.
The episode ends with a miss competition. Who could win it? That tenant dancing the Csárdás best. What about the prize? A bottle of Champagne and her work undertaken by all men for one week.
The motif of this episode corresponds to some of Derrida’s thoughts on hospitality. The host becomes homey through the guest in being hospitable to him or her. On that score this episode is reflectively optimistic.
On the one hand this episode ends harmonically. The attendees enjoy themselves and the others, in this case the gipsies. They even dance their dance, they dance to their music. On the other hand this harmony is faced with three borders, which is why I call this optimism reflective.
First, in this episode we are introduced to some xenophobic persons who do not attend the party. Even though the reasons for their absence are not given, if we would witness a happy end then they would be there celebrating.
Second, Okonkwo’s attitude. He’s sitting alone at a table with Gitti. This causes him to say that no one dares glancing over them. Here we have an essential difference between Okonkwo and Joszy as lovers and foreigners. Okonkwo is always driven by some prejudices. What do the others think? He as a black guy with an Austrian woman! “Niggerbitch,” he expects people to call her. What is striking, too, is the fact that he is a loner. I sense the mood surrounding him to be embittered and resigned, although he is carefully proactive. – Joszy is entirely different. He is forthright proactive. He immediately chats up with Turecek. As soon as she is addicted to him he acquaints her with his family. He is sociable. What isn’t obvious in this episode but could be reasoned anyway, is him being a traveller. He’s an aesthete willing to enjoy the moment. But he is none willing to bind himself (at the moment).
The border both lovers form could be put this way. Okonkwo striving for a long time relationship is reserved by far. He considers the consequences of his action much more. For, would he undergo a romance with Gitti he would dip deep into a foreign environment. Although he seems to be pessimistic about this, yet he is hoping. Otherwise he wouldn’t be proactive. He initiates a picnic at the Arbeiterstrandfischern at the New Danube. Joszy is much different. He’s not interested into something long-term. He has a stake in the instant – and that it would be fulfilled altogether with delight. Accordingly he is lowbrow in going close to people and offers them opportunities rich in delight. Even though he doesn’t starts off the courtyard party not only he is the driving force in the background, but he is one of the hosts, too. His aesthetic character comes to light when he invites Mrs. Schoitly to the party: “The day is beautiful, the air is mild. Listen to the music. Come. Eat. Drink.” This is poetry.
To put it in a nutshell: The one turning towards the host more intensively has greater fear to be rejected. The one turning towards the host more superficially has the simple expectation to be welcomed.
Third, the miss competition. The relationship between man and woman here is portrayed light-heartedly, bright, and happy. However, the miss competition isn’t harmless in full. Just recall the feasts several hundred years ago. There social roles were exchanged for one night: the duke being the bondslave, the bondslave being the duke. This really sounds humanly. However, this has a stale tang, since it just seems to confirm the established asymmetrical order. And some kind of this hierarchy between man and woman we have here. The men dictate tone and rhythm.
(Possibly a fourth kind of border is the medium leaving reality aside. The film producing the party. Derrida’s text. This text.)
Happy Open End.
The idea to find oneself as a host through the guest (a thought to be taken as broad as possible, since who is not a foreigner to others, who is not other?) could claim solid evidence for itself. This is what Derrida has elaborated convincingly. And Ernst Hinterberger as well as Reinhard Schwabenitzky as screenwriters created an artistic vision which to be realised is really desirable.
But since it is reflective optimism this episode encourages to suit the action to the world learning. What is it that Okonkwo could learn from Joszy? And what is it that Joszy could learn from Okonkwo? And what is it that we could learn from both?
Another of Derrida’s ideas is that the other is wholly and forever other, that two human beings will never understand each other thoroughly – we shouldn’t lose sight of this fact. It’s the uniqueness of every other and each situation which this episode impressively portrays.
Accordingly one could appreciate Derrida and learn from the “Hof-Konzert” that acting morally means to act for the sake of the other. All of this can be discussed, tried out, and experienced in the light of hospitality.