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OPEN STUDIO INTERVIEW

Anne Kersting:

Given your individual perspectives, functions and positions (artistic director, dramaturge and choreographer), can you think of any ways of reaching the audience that are particularly interesting to you, and if so, why and for whom?

Amelie Deuflhard:

To me, successfully reaching the audience has a lot to do with sharing and participation. How can we involve people that are normally just the audience? How can we activate them and involve them in our process? There is a wide range of tools at our disposal already. For example, some artists work with laypeople in their performances. This of course makes for a completely different process. People who are used to sitting in the audience become part of an artistic process, getting involved in the artistic act on a much deeper level and also getting to know the performance place – in my case it’s Kampnagel – much more intimately. From my experience, I can say that anyone who has ever actively participated in a performance in this way becomes a part of this place. They will continue to attend these artists’ performances in the future and also go out and see more performances by other artists. There are other formats too of course – workshops for example, or the idea of turning part of the audience into critics, which is a way of continuously activating a discourse about the performance. You can reach out to different social groups, developing projects with them, putting on performances with them, involving them. All these possibilities allow for a very different access than just saying, “Come on, I’m doing this thing about this or that – you might find it interesting.”

Melanie Zimmermann:

I am generally not a fan of the traditional ways of imparting something to the audience. In the theater world, the word “imparting” is associated with educating, which carries connotations of hierarchies, of “imparting knowledge” – somebody who knows a lot passing their knowledge on to somebody who knows little. That is generally not our way of approaching projects. That is why I think it’s important that there are formats such as yours, Jenny, where knowledge is a collaborative effort.

Jenny Beyer:

I think that is the crucial point, and it opens up the possibility of failure, of encountering difficulties. Because to me as an artist, it raises the question of what my actual interest in this process of imparting, of communicating is. Audiences will know if an artist is actually interested in opening themselves up to the audience, whether the artist is open to learning something new, gaining a new perspective. But this interest on the part of the artists is the fundamental prerequisite for a format that allows for something real to happen between these two groups, between these two partners in dialog.

Amelie Deuflhard:

There is an important book that deals with exactly this topic – The Ignorant Schoolmaster by Jacques Rancière. The classic teacher imparts knowledge in a completely hierarchical manner, and their best student learns the knowledge imparted upon them so that in the best case, they will know it as well as their teacher does. The “ignorant schoolmaster” on the other hand uses participatory structures. Instead of establishing a hierarchical relationship between teacher and students, the latter are partners in an exchange process, able to contribute their own ideas of the world. This allows the student to evolve in a far better way and to produce their own knowledge, going beyond the teacher’s knowledge. To me, this is an essential and very important aspect of your OPEN STUDIOS – people are not just encouraged to get involved, they are actually exploring things in your workshops that can potentially go beyond the ideas that you initially thought of. I believe this aspect offers so much potential in your work with the OPEN STUDIOS, especially because it is not merely a parallel process or by-product of your performance development.

Jenny Beyer:

An interesting aspect of this attitude about imparting or communicating something for me is knowing that people attend for a variety of reasons. They all have their own ideas of what they want to get out of it. Knowing that allows me as an artist to relax much more, so I don’t feel pressured that there is something specific that I need to offer, convey, teach or prove. Instead I can be very honest about what is interesting to me in this very moment of the process. This interest then comes into contact with the interests of the audience, allowing for something new to grow. This is a very nice way of coming together.

Anne Kersting:

Kai van Eikels wrote an insightful essay about this definition of interest. It explores the idea of participation, and he urges us to cast aside the misguided notion that participation is something pleasant and polite. Participation only works when artists are willing to take something from their audiences, i.e. to draw from their knowledge or expertise. Because this idea of the one-way road, of the teacher only giving and the student only taking, i.e. learning, is just wrong, he says.

Amelie Deuflhard:

Yes, because this passing on of something, giving something, is not even possible without exchange. This has been proven scientifically. Giving something needs to include giving something back. If you give somebody something, they need to at least be grateful to you or to be happy about it. This is what they give back, and if that is missing, the recipient assumes the role of someone who is dependent. In all interpersonal relationships, there is a process of exchange that must never be one-sided.

Anne Kersting:

Let’s assume that it will work: The project will receive funding through the funding program Tanzpakt and the department of culture. The department of culture will continue its funding after three years, and then we look at your work five years from now, Jenny. The OPEN STUDIOS are now an institutionalized, established artistic format, here at Kampnagel, but perhaps also at different institutions. How do you picture this? What is the result of five years OPEN STUDIOS?

 

Amelie Deufllhard:

Well, at the very least there will then be a group of people that has been intensively dealing with dance for a number of years, a group that has essentially developed their own coordinate system in this art form. The starting point is Jenny’s aesthetics, but beyond that, this group can now incorporate the aesthetics of other choreographers and theater makers in a whole new way. That means that we will have people in the audience with a different and better understanding of the performances, people who can deal with them in a more competent way. I personally think that this is something of incredible value, because in the best case, it would allow for a new discourse about dance, reaching beyond the rather insular dance scene and a small handful of critics.

Jenny Beyer:

Yes, that is my goal as well – really using the medium of dance as a way of communicating, as a tool to interact with people, not just during a performance but also beyond. In five years, the membrane of my work will have expanded significantly. Already during the rehearsal process, and even during the times between rehearsals, I am always talking to people about movement, about dance. This process broadens the definition of creative work and what it represents. Up to now, creative work has been defined by the performances that result from it. But the work processes in the studio that take up so much time and that I find so fulfilling often go unnoticed by the outside world; they are not part of the visible work of art. I want that to change. How does this process of open research affect people? How does it affect my work and what kind of a community that practices contemporary dance as a communicative, discursive medium can evolve from it?

Melanie Zimmermann:

Well, my hope is that if things go really well, we won’t be needing the OPEN STUDIOS anymore five years from now, because they come into play in exactly those areas where currently, the system is unable to offer real approaches – namely, aesthetic education. If you have kids in school, you know that still to this day, there is a hierarchy between body and mind when it comes to teaching. And even though a lot of schools do offer drama classes these days, what is being taught there is mostly text based. Everything to do with text is basically real art, and anything to do with the body tends to be assigned to sports, to physical education. That is why dance still remains in its own little niche. In my work, my mediation efforts, for example introducing a performance or doing audience discussions, I still have people coming up to me after a show, asking what the message of the performance was, what it was trying to say. This is because they don’t have any tools that allow them to rely on their own perception and use it. This is where the OPEN STUDIOS come in, because they offer genuine insight into how a choreographer works. You create a representative method and you share your love for this approach with other choreographers as well. So the best-case scenario would be that over the years, so many peers of yours will have been inspired by your approach that they will include it in their respective fields and advocate it in a way that will allow for a stronger bodily awareness to arise in the general population.

Amelie Deuflhard:

Basically, what happens when you work with other people over a longer period of time on the subjects of perception, sensation, movement and relationships, you create a sort of archive that you can draw from as you do your work. This is incredibly interesting of course, because typically, people still think of the artist as sitting alone in their cold little room, a genius working on their new idea, their new project in solitude. Of course, this is not how it works at all, and never has. Still, the idea of the artistic genius lives on. And there aren’t a lot of examples of anyone sharing a research process so thoroughly with their audience, which is to say, with laypeople, who then not only get involved in certain issues, but help to shape them, to empathize, to test them by means of establishing relationships. I think that is very brave and generous.

OPEN STUDIO
29 September 2022 | Studio 'Alte Post'

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