1984: Back to No Future, #2 – 2021

In their new production, Gob Squad travel back to 1984, back to the “good old days” when life was still analogue and simple – without internet and limited to three TV channels. At the risk of falling into nostalgia and losing themselves completely in the maelstrom of pop music, they meet their former selves: Teenagers who, in the midst of the Cold War and full of fear of nuclear catastrophe, tried to shape themselves and their future. Playfully, they transcend time to develop visions for the present via the past, which also saw “No Future”, and new perspectives for what lies ahead.

The collective and the audience

Gob Squad have been an integral part of the international art scene since their founding in 1994. Visual artist and filmmaker Phil Collins talks to members Johanna Freiburg, Sean Patten, Sharon Smith, Berit Stumpf, Sarah Thom, Bastian Trost and Simon Will about collective working methods, their own replaceability and the audience. Phil: There was a decisive moment in the 1980s when performance artists became a laughing stock in the popular imagination, in Hollywood films and on television. Performance was considered trivial, superfluous, useless, because – unlike today – you couldn’t make money with it. Performance implies criticism – of work, of time, of values. The focus is not on the individual, brilliant artist, but on the group as a creative force. What is the most difficult thing about being a collective? Sean: The collective takes time. You spend many hours talking and discussing. Ironically, it’s a long process until you have everything discussed and everyone on board to make art that relies decidedly on the spontaneous. Sarah: In retrospect, it shows that we started on the edge and beyond institutions, so to speak. We chose a path where you wouldn’t eventually become a director or a solo artist, with a name that everyone knew. We gave up the I and became the we. We decided on this journey and on the DIY punk aesthetic. Perhaps we thought – quite naively – that we could permanently operate outside the system with our political stance. Today, of course, it’s clear that we too belonged to the establishment at some point. We have to pay rent. To be able to work, we apply for funding, and you never get money for free. Money always comes with an agenda. Sometimes we ask ourselves if we are part of a culture factory. Even though we always decide against the product and work in a process-oriented way, we are aware that we live in a culture where we are evaluated and judged by the product, by the result, not by the process. It’s hard to rebel against this commodity value-driven inertia and also to build consensus in the group about what exactly that means. Simon: Gob Squad has been around for a long time. For 25 years. The way we work together has always evolved. Our own experience has increased our interest in collective forms of work, especially in collectives that have also existed for as long as we have and that manage to create a framework for themselves in which individuals can move freely. Johanna: I always think of a long relationship in which it becomes increasingly difficult to surprise the other person. At the same time, however, trust in each other grows. In this conversation with you, Phil, it strikes me again that there are words that Gob Squad would never use. We relate to each other so much that the English members of the group know the vocabulary of the Germans and adapt to it. It is rare that we have to ask what a certain term means. On the other hand, we just as often ask: “Whaaaat? Why not? Why do you see it differently from me?” So there is both this almost automatic familiarity with each other, and at the same time a lot of convincing that needs to be done. Phil: Besides the work for your productions, a lot certainly goes into the daily maintenance of a group that has been working together for over 25 years. That interests me. Because I myself also often cooperate with groups and teams, but usually in different compositions. So I don’t necessarily have to convince others of my ideas. In contrast, you develop your ideas on a completely different basis. Sean: You say you don’t really need to convince anyone? But I need dialogue to develop ideas. We usually present the fragment of an idea, something that interests us, an end, a beginning, but never the whole thing. If the spark is there and someone takes up the idea, we develop it. If not, we do something else. Sarah: It really makes a difference whether it’s an artistic project or Gob Squad in general. Developing a payment system that everyone feels is fair, or how much say we give our staff – that’s hard, emotional work. In contrast, the rehearsals are more relaxed. Simon: Getting up from the table, moving around the room and trying things out – that’s completely different from a six-hour meeting about collective structures. Johanna: But we also negotiate the creative aspects of our work: “Do we try this scene again? Or do we leave it out?” Bastian: Leaving it out is usually the most difficult, because someone in the team can always discover something good about an idea. Phil: An ongoing theme is the autobiographical. No matter how radical and offensive or how cautious and reserved you are, when you decide how much of yourself is reflected in the production: As a spectator, I am inevitably always thrown back on my own history. In these structures of confession, if you like, I can locate myself, and here and there I then want to take your place quite actively. What is it about this autobiographical impulse that appeals to you? Johanna: When I saw early works by Gob Squad, even before I was a member of the group, I was particularly touched by the fact that there is not this distanced art expert or master who acts, talks, performs on stage, but a person you can approach: an ordinary person with weaknesses, someone like me. I felt directly addressed. Sharon: We never play a person we are not. This probably has to do with post-modernism: As artists, we are part of the work. “We play ourselves” also serves the relationship with the audience that we strive for. We are not interested in displaying special skills that might be attributed to a stage language or methods of performance art. We want to present everyday, non-constructed bodies and people and not stand alone or above the audience. Berit: When you say that you want to actively take our place while watching, Phil – I take that as a compliment. None of us sees ourselves as irreplaceable. On the contrary, our performances are not about individual fates, but about shareability. Johanna: They are about stories that everyone has experienced, that we can all share. Everyone can identify with them, get involved with them. Berit: That is important to us: that everyone can find themselves in the projects we develop. It’s also about shared authorship. Everyone contributes and writes in, and what comes out in the end belongs to everyone equally. Only from the mosaic of puzzle pieces does a narrative emerge – often only at the moment when we are on stage together – and the audience also adds its part. In this sense, our plays are never finished or completely written. Abridged version; the full interview appeared in: Aenne Qui ones (ed.): Gob Squad – What are you looking. at? Postdramatic Theatre in Portraits. Volume 1, 2020. A publication series of the Kunststiftung NRW at Alexander Verlag Berlin, pp. 64 – 74, translated by Lilian-Astrid Geese.


I Dream Therefore I am, #2 – 2021

Virtual reality of human consciousness “The richest, most maximally robust and near-perfect VR experience we currently know is our very own ordinary, biologically evolved form of waking consciousness itself. VR is the best technological metaphor for conscious experience we currently have.” Thomas Metzinger In the virtual reality installation “I AM (VR)” Susanne Kennedy and Markus Selg, in collaboration with Rodrik Biersteker, explore new immersive theatre dimensions. The audience is immersed in a virtual world with the help of a VR headset: only after the awareness of this new reality has been raised over several stages is the time ripe for the audience to meet the oracle. The future appears in the algorithms of the fractals. What question do we want to ask the oracle? Against the background of the analogy between the structure of human consciousness and VR experiences, old questions appear under new auspices. Since its beginnings – from Plato’s Allegory of the Cave to the questions of Buddhism and far beyond the Cartesian cogito – the history of philosophy has been concerned with the epistemological problem of distinguishing the truth of things from the way they appear in our perception. Who would choose the red pill, who the blue pill? In a present in which the boundaries between virtual and supposedly real reality are becoming increasingly blurred, human life appears like a large-scale simulation that is increasingly capable of generating images, creating new realities and modulating emotions. Is what is depicted in our perception reality or one of many realities? Do we not still watch fascinated a shadow play on a cave wall? Or have we long since become part of a computer game in whose glitches the truth about ourselves is revealed? “Gnothi seauton” (“Know thyself!”) – as the inscription of the temple of Apollo in Delphi, the imperative accentuates the limitedness of human existence and at the same time points beyond it as a philosophical and spiritual educational mission. Just as the truth-seeking Oedipus set out for the Delphic oracle, the hope for knowledge and enlightenment manifests itself in a digital oracle in the context of “I AM (VR)”. “I AM (VR)” was developed with VR technology and can be experienced exclusively in virtual space. The audience travels through virtual space in search of an oracle, just as the ancient Greeks once visited the temple of Delphi to have their fortunes told. What do we encounter in virtual space? The history of mankind, artificial intelligences or an avatar of our own self? Or something completely unexpected? “‘I AM (VR)’ is a journey that takes you to a place that is hidden within you,” Kennedy explained. “A kind of online dreaming where you are a wandering spirit without a body. It’s a dynamic inner simulation where you are both observer and observed.” For the theatre director, who works in Berlin, virtual reality technology enables people to become aware of their real lives in a new way. “It’s a technology that shows us how we interact with reality, our normal lives,” she said in an online artist conversation on the occasion of the digital world premiere of “I AM (VR)” at the Commons Theatre in Tokyo. “It is a tool that lets us realise what reality is in the first place”. Susanne Kennedy studied theatre directing in Amsterdam, from 2011 she worked at the Münchner Kammerspiele, received invitations to the Theatertreffen, the Ruhrtriennale or the Wiener Festwochen, among others. After “Coming Society” (2019) and “Ultraworld” (2020) at the Berlin Volksbühne, Kennedy’s current work “I AM (VR)” is another dystopian, enigmatic investigation of identity and subjectivity, dream and reality, which she conceived together with Markus Selg. Markus Selg is a multimedia artist who explores the dynamic between archaic myth and computer technology through digital painting, sculpture, immersive installations, theatre and VR. Together with Rodrik Biersteker, he was awarded the Faust Prize in 2020 for “Best Stage/Video Design”. Rodrik Biersteker studied design for virtual theatre and games in Utrecht and, as an interdisciplinary artist, primarily conceives, researches and develops video and interactive technologies in a theatrical context.


HYBRID PLAY #RealityCheck, 22. – 31. October 2021, #2 – 2021

Playing means gradually updating the rules. Or creating rules that require constant updating. There is a continuum between gaming and play. Both need rules. At one end of the spectrum is the loop. At the other end, an open form. (Hito Steyerl, in: A Tank on a Pedestal, 2018) The 10-day festival HYBRID PLAY focuses on interactive installations, interdisciplinary and participatory theatre and music performances as well as game formats that engage with digital forms of storytelling in a curious, risk-taking and above all speculative way, experimenting with digital aesthetics and opening up new spaces of interaction. In mixed forms of digital and analogue spaces, audience and artists meet and can take on changing roles in different settings: Spectator, Player, Observer … Programmatically, HYBRID PLAY subjects theatre to a #RealityCheck, (under)searches art in the age of digital transformation processes, in the midst of rapid developments of virtual worlds, avatars, epic games, metahumans or AI storytelling. In selected works and concepts, viewers can explore unknown perspectives, can act and decide, playfully and without fear of consequences: How can complex challenges like climate change be mastered? What skills will politicians of the future need? In weltuebergang’s hybrid utopia game “New Radicare”, invited guests play with and against each other in a situation room for joint public thinking and testing of social strategies. In the interactive card game “I want to believe”, K TV deals with the complex of themes of opinion-forming and the public sphere. The focus is on the visitors, who appear in the talk show setting as experts on the podium or as followers. The music show “Songs of Cyborgeoisie” by BBB_ is written from the point of view of various artificial intelligences that report on a world of the near future – to be experienced as a single-player game or as an interactive installation with live music. Chez Company send avatars from a control centre into the outside world – what kind of cityscape emerges from the subjective stories they transmit to us? What are translation errors and what are discoveries? The smartphone game “Loulu” by onlinetheater makes manipulation tactics and discourse shifts of “new right” networks tangible and shows that social internet platforms can be perfect germ cells for targeted radicalisation. Robert Henke’s and Anna Tskhovrebov’s current project “CBM 8032 AV” for five Commodore computers from 1980 combines a special curiosity about current as well as historical techniques of electronic music and digital art, about the aesthetic peculiarities of fascinating “black boxes” and “toys” such as synthesisers or computers. For the entire duration of the festival, the Great Hall of the Festspielhaus will be both an immersion space and a stage setting: the performative installation “No Man’s Land” by Swiss artist Dimitri de Perrot transforms the stage into a place of reflection and inspiration with a hybrid play between theatre, concert, installation and party. In his “disco of everyday life”, the audience can move freely and at the same time experience the play between DJ and audience as a stage play without words. Also for the entire duration of the festival, the collective ArtesMobiles will present, test and further develop the project “System Failed” in a try-out show. In cooperation with ZKM | Karlsruhe, CCC, CTM, Akademie für Theater und Digitalität Dortmund and NEXT LEVEL – Festival for Games, among others, a participatory performance will be created in the following months that deals with structures of power in the so-called smart age and makes algorithmic government techniques playfully tangible.


The Followers of Ø – Trond Reinholdtsen in conversation with Harry Lehmann and Christine Wahl, #2 – 2021

Mr Reinholdtsen, you are working on the music of the future! With your Norwegian Opra, you develop large-scale philosophical opera projects in which the music is played entirely with virtual instruments. Now you are coming to the Dresden Contemporary Music Days at HELLERAU. What will you be showing there? It’s about a strange, mystical group of losers: inside and outcasts from the lumpenproletariat, the precariat. They call themselves “The Followers of Ø” and will perform their affirmative agitprop oratorio “To arms! To arms!”. For the (few) of you who don’t know the background: “The Followers of Ø” are hyper-enthusiastic and sometimes somewhat radicalised viewers who very often watch my YouTube film series “Ø” and try to interpret it. One part of this “Ø” series could be experienced at the Munich Biennale in 2018: Troll-like creatures with construction foam heads sang key sentences of philosophy with great fervour. The protagonists of the “Ø” films have voluntarily and completely isolated themselves from bureaucracy, decadence, digital noise and the whole idea of an “outside” in general. They call it “the system” and have barricaded themselves from it in the basement of a remote Swedish village. There they plan “The Event”, a mystical action of world-changing proportions. Unfortunately, their preparatory research,their philosophical and political deliberations, their methodological experiments in art and alchemy have come to a centripetal, semi-incestuous dead end; their “project” has become somewhat lost in theory. You call your Norwegian Opra “the birth of opera from the crisis of contemporary music”. What does this crisis consist of? To be honest, it’s a very boring crisis. Who cares about it? Maybe a few Germans. And me, of course. It is a real and catastrophic crisis, but also a tedious and redundant one. The bottom line is that contemporary music is in a sad, dark state, and I’m not really in a position to analyse how it got that way. Isn’t it that the whole scene is lacking in inventiveness, and has been since the seventies? When visual art entered the phase of dematerialisation and lost its media specificity, music followed very slowly. There have been individual exciting outbursts, but our beloved genre always seems to fall back into a counter-revolutionary position. Can you please describe this music-specific conservatism in a little more detail? For me, the contemporary music world is very academic, in the worst sense of the word. There are certain codes and unspoken rules (what is sometimes mistakenly called “craft”). You have to follow those to show that you belong to that system. But academism is always a sign of fear – fear of the anarchy of invention, novelty and dilettantism. That’s why we guard contemporary music with super-strong institutions: with academies, festivals, ensembles, orchestras, the concerto and commissioned works. But institutions driven by the logic of fear always end up choosing the most pragmatic projects and supporting the works of least resistance. Indeed: a catastrophic crisis. How is Norwegian Opra going to get out of it? The attempt is to question precisely these institutional coordinates, that is, the infrastructure of production. And with that, logically, I had to start all by myself: No money, no audience, everything was produced in my living room. On an existential and personal level, the crisis was thus solved; everything else remains to be seen. According to the “Theory and Propaganda Department”, Norwegian Opra has a lot planned: It wants to be a kind of parallel action to Richard Wagner’s famous Festspielhaus in Bayreuth. What fascinates you today about Wagner’s idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk? The reference to Wagner is, at its most basic and banal level, a nostalgia trip: a longing for a time when music was at the centre of the arts, politics and philosophy and helped construct and reinterpret the defining myths of humanity and progress. This is the music before the crisis – at least that’s my fantasy. The idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk was formulated – as readers know, of course – at the height of Wagner’s revolutionary activity, more or less during the flight from Dresden, where he, Bakunin and the rest of the gang had erected barricades and published dangerous pamphlets. In his text “Art and Revolution”, which he wrote a year after Marx’s “Communist Manifesto” appeared, Wagner introduces the concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk, signalling that there is a strong connection between the idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk and the political awakening. But he also dreamt of a link back to the Greek drama of Aeschylus, where art was closely connected to public life, religion and the state. As you can see, there is much here that is exceedingly fascinating: I intend to do all that, of course. Would there actually have been a professional alternative for you? No, I was always a monomaniac. Abridged version; the full interview appeared in Theater der Zeit, March 2021.


No one can give anyone a voice, #2 – 2021

Golnar Shahyar in an interview with VAN editor Merle Krafeld about the musicality of different languages and the diversification of the music business. Reports about you say that you refer to Persian music in your songwriting – what is meant by that? Persian folk? Persian classical music? Golnar Shahyar: Folk still has a very strong ceremonial function in Iran, it is archaic. The sounds differ considerably from region to region, just as the languages differ. Iran is culturally very diverse. You study classical Persian music, you learn it from a master. The music has a higher social status, just like European classical music here. But at some point, this music was also part of folk music. And what of it finds influence in your songwriting? That’s very difficult for me to say. In Iran, after the revolution, there was a ban on women singing. Live music was also often forbidden, I really didn’t experience concerts very often in Iran. We had the revolutionary songs and war songs. And Tasnif, that’s something like a very old Iranian songwriting. And then MTV came along [laughs]. But this music was not representative of my generation. For me, it’s extremely difficult to categorise. You sing in many different languages, especially Farsi and English. What else? I also have pieces in my repertoire in Kurdish, Sephardic and in an imaginary language that I like to use when I feel that songs are not ready for lyrics. Sometimes they are never ready. And some compositions only become round through the textual message. Does the language change the way you compose or sing – because the languages work with different sounds, for example, or with different images in terms of content? Absolutely! Every language has its own sound and its own feeling. I also love singing in Arabic and listening to Arabic. The sounds of this language are incredibly beautiful for singing. German is difficult for me [laughs]. In Farsi, for example, many things remain open, have several meanings. Every language offers other spaces, other images, other sounds, other ideas. Are language and musical material connected for you? For example, do you also use the Iranian dastgah system when you sing in Farsi? I can sing Iranian scales to an English text. But it sounds so funny! [laughs] Our ears are simply not used to that. There is already something like a language melody through which the scales are connected with the languages. Apart from composing my own music, I am also looking for my own interpretation of the old Iranian traditional and folk music as well as the old tasnifs. This means that I sing according to the Iranian dastgah system, but with new vocal colours, vocal and arrangement approaches. In my own compositions, I sometimes think from the perspective of the dastgah system and develop the melodies in this system. However, it is my conscious decision to find my own interpretation and expression, which does not categorise me as a typical Iranian classical singer. To me, your pieces sound very lively and free, I feel there is a lot of improvisation. Our songs are composed: the structure and certain melodies. But how I get into a melody, for example – that changes at every concert. And there are always parts that I leave completely free for myself, where I let myself be surprised on stage what happens. You recently wrote an open letter about the media’s disregard for musicians with a migrant background in Austria … I have been working in Austria for almost ten years. In the music business there are clichés of cultures that have nothing to do with the actual cultures. This forces artists to present their own culture as exotic as possible – because otherwise they simply can’t perform. The education system also plays a role: you can only study European classical music, American jazz and Anglo-Saxon pop. We are often overlooked by music journalism. When we do appear, we are not regarded as artists, as specialists, but as exotic objects. It is also never discussed that “world music” is a problematic, discriminatory term. The term was invented as a marketing tool, but it is simply impossible to describe so much diverse music under one term. Do you have any concrete suggestions? This topic actually deserves its own interview. The marginalised cultures need more space and power in the musical ecosystem as a whole. And that has to develop organically. No one can give anyone a voice – people already have a voice. They know who they are and what they want. They just need the space, time and belief that they can do it. This is where education plays a crucial role. Music colleges should open their doors to these marginalised cultures as soon as possible. We need more musicians who understand musical diversity, respect it and can practice it. Then we could collectively develop an understanding of what our contemporary musical language is, because it is certainly not just the white European and American musical identity. Abridged version; the full interview appeared in the online magazine OUTERNATIONAL on 7 October 2020. www.van-outernational.com


Über die Mauer, #2 – 2021

The title says it all: In “Über die Mauer” (“Over the Wall”), Kandinsky, known to most only as a painter, surprises us with a piece for the stage that tells of the creative process of a work. In a fictional dialogue between artist and spectator that is as serious as it is amusing, he provides an insight into the painter’s point of view, breaking out of the two-dimensionality of the painting and expanding it into the three-dimensional spatiality of the theatre. Kandinsky makes word and sound, movement and dance, light and colours – in other words, hearing and speaking, seeing and feeling as well as the transcending element – equally experienceable as a theatrical art action. A multi-layered, theatrical event emerges. Choreographer Arila Siegert realises this text together with the artistic team with whom she staged the internationally acclaimed performance of Kandinsky’s sound opera “Violett” at the Anhaltisches Theater Dessau in 2019. The singer and dancer Isabel Wamig, the actors Kerstin Schweers and Jörg Thieme will perform. The music is composed by Ali N. Askin, the set and costumes are designed by Marie-Luise Strandt, and Susanne Auffermann is responsible for the lighting design. The artist Helge Leiberg counterpoints and expands the scene with live painting. Arila Siegert on choreography The urge to choreograph has always been there and was encouraged by improvisation in the NKT. This self-discovery is the starting point. People wanted to express themselves through movement. And through the growing skills, also from classical technique, one could move more and more freely and extremely. Choreographing is a bundling of movement impulses from thoughts and emotions that one cannot express otherwise. For me, this is also a basis for staging. Together with the actor/singer, I try to filter out the underlying emotional situation of the characters, which cannot be put into words, through movement choreography and make it visible. / The impulse for me comes from within, and the aim is to bring this inner life outwards, into a dialogue, to make the invisible visible. This materialisation, this shaping is a very exciting process. First there is nothing – and then something has emerged and become visible. The most important thing is invisible anyway. / The first inspiration for me comes from music. I simply enjoy dealing with how, for example, an argument, a confrontation can be expressed choreographically under the most diverse aspects so that it appears funny, tragic, sad or absurd. In film and television, I am particularly interested in editing and camera technique, insofar as they reveal a thought pattern and rhythmise the processes. I like to read a lot. I also need reading to find silence and to think. Without music / At that time I already wanted to found a dance theatre where the individual gets more of a life of its own. Breaking the individual out of the masses was always my theme. In the GDR, one ran the risk of becoming a real number. The individual was seen as something uncontrollable. But even today it is “expensive” to be individual. From: Regine Herrmann (ed.): Arila Siegert. Dancer, Choreographer, Director. 2014. commissioned by the Akademie der Künste, Berlin, p. 96

Im Umbruch, #2 – 2021

A dance documentary about three East German women artists between everyday life and revolution, art and the culture industry, self and community spirit and the question of what remains of yesterday in today. With Fine Kwiatkowski, Daniela Lehmann and Cindy Hammer. A society in upheaval: that is the diagnosis of our time. But what does social upheaval feel like? For the Italian sociologist Barbara Lubich, this film began with a research project on subversive dance in the GDR. She moved from northern Italy to eastern Germany in 1998. During her research she met Lutz Dammbeck, Christine Schlegel, Hanne Wandtke and many others. And there was always talk of a special woman. A dancing icon. Fine Kwiatkowski. Fine was considered provocative, experimental, non-conformist and was a projection screen of political rebellion for artists and the public alike. Barbara Lubich visits her in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Fine begins to talk about her life in long conversations. Scientific interviews become filming for a long-term observation, questions about the past become questions about the now. At the same time, Barbara Lubich meets Daniela Lehmann, born in 1979, in Dresden. She too is a dancer. In the GDR she was supposed to become a high diver. But at some point she didn’t want to jump any more. Today she commutes between worlds, between Dahab, where the revolution has come to a standstill, and Dresden, her hometown, between her profession as a dancer and her role as a mother. And then Cindy Hammer appears on the scene. She was born in the year the Wall came down. At 11 she went to boarding school at the Palucca School, at 16 she continued her education while her parents ventured a new life far beyond the former border. In her dance she combines ballet and street dance with the imagery of Hollywood, inventing something new, humorous and at the same time deeply irritating. She knows what she wants. The world is open to her. But how do you know when a new act begins?


Residency Programme HELLERAU, #2 – 2021

Artists research, test, reject, create, present. In cooperation with the Fond Darstellende Künste, HELLERAU provides space and time for 95 #TakeCareResidencies. The writer and filmmaker Jovana Reisinger and the trio “Patterns of Paradyze” with Kathrin Dröppelmann, Margarete Kiss, Leon Lechner provide insights into their research process on the following pages.


By Jovana Reisinger, whose research deals with the concept of home and anti-home art (version of 31 May 2021). L.L. once sent me a photo of himself on a mountain, surrounded by mountain pines, low-hanging clouds and other mountain peaks. His hair was tied in cute braids and he made a cute face while coyly blinking at the camera. I found him very attractive, not at all a catalogue nature boy. This portrait came abruptly with a line that made me think of mothers and photo albums from the 1990s (“Am riding high”). Still, this man seemed made for the summit (for all summits!) and I immediately replied, “You look good in the landscape”. And although I wrote him that, he never went hiking with me (whew!). Instead, L.B. and I took a rental car and drove out of the city, into the mountains. The excitement of the impending nature experience made us giggle delightedly and a pop song playlist fuelled the mood further. Fortunately, it had been raining steadily for days and the weather only promised to improve from midday onwards, so we could confidently sleep in and relax (hearty lunch!) before setting off on the hike (cf.: “The way is the goal”, “Even the longest path begins with the first step”). L.B.’s blue Patagonia down jacket not only nestled elegantly into the landscape of the rushing mountain river we were hiking upstream, but blended quite smoothly into the mass of other thin, dark blue down jackets that started with us from the hikers’ car park that was actually so signposted – which amused us as much as it repelled us. My aunt’s discarded hiking clothes suggested without a doubt that I was not only a regular tourer (complete misjudgement), but also that I value quality and brands – and have the necessary capital (No!). So I passed for a pro. Unfortunately it was pleasantly cool, so the trousers with all the zips didn’t come into play, which would have shown me to be one with a sense of permanently changing weather patterns. I like the idea of going out in a pair of long trousers, zipping up in between at knee level and then at the thighs and unzipping the lower parts each time. Three-pants-in-one I think is great. I love practical things, but I especially like the feeling of security that (high-tech) functional clothing gives off. However, the promise of being equipped for any situation (survival mode: on) must be worn with the attitude of never being ashamed of being overequipped (motto: “forewarned is forearmed”). I’m annoyed by the constant greeting each other on the mountain, which I do either over-committedly or furtively mumbling – which in the end will probably always out me as an insecure city dweller. For a while I stood on a hill looking at the people happily consuming at the hut in their survival couture style, happily chatting to each other as if they were all known to each other. L.B. was almost impossible to spot with his outfit and at some point joined me at the vantage point with a beer, which made me happy – because such a drink would taste especially delicious after such an effort. Not only did it turn out that for most of our companions this pretty hut was the end of the hike (nice destination!), but also that the rest of the time the mountain river had to be crossed again and again to reach the waterfalls in the gorge. The initial uncertainty gave way to an unexpected sense of adventure and we jumped from stone to stone, nimbly finding our way across the icy water (only one foot landed in it, but stayed dry thanks to the high quality shoes, thank you auntie). I felt my heart pounding and liked to be faster than L.B. on the other bank sometimes, but he usually held out his hand to help me over tricky passages. On this day, the clouds were racing as fast as the river was rushing along and the last few metres we thought we were going to run into a terrible thunderstorm (here we are in nature for once!) but kept going. But then, just as we were climbing onto a rock in front of the waterfall to eat our snack, the sun broke through and the surroundings showed themselves in the most beautiful kitsch. The rocks, caves, pines, mountain flowers, medicinal herbs and the roaring sound made me think that I urgently needed to move to a mountain village to be truly happy. I took many photos. Overwhelmed and happy. Totally high. Lonely in the gorge. We had lost the others. All of nature just for us. I sent one of them to L.L. He replied: You are beautiful in the landscape. And I knew it was true. Because this one was perfect. L.B. laughed and I didn’t know why. I laughed and remembered a moment in the alpine part of the botanical garden in Berlin when L.K. and I found the most beautiful tree (teardrop pine) and vowed to stay together forever. Nature triggers the funniest and finest feelings in us. Pining, I thought: Dear Drama, I’m all in! Show me what you got. And L.L. has already cancelled the next walking day. #TakeCareResidencies is a funding programme of the Performing Arts Fund within the framework of NEUSTART KULTUR. Realised by the Alliance of International Production Houses, the association of the 7 largest institutions for the independent performing arts in Germany, funded by the Federal Government for Culture and the Media.

Paradyze Me

Kathrin Dröppelmann, Margarete Kiss, Leon Lechner (Patterns of Paradyze) We are researching heterotopic designs for inter-specific communication in contemporary gardens against the background of resistant practices of animals, plants and (non-)humans. What forms of a common language develop when humans no longer determine? Where can examples of this be found in the gardens of Hellerau? Starting from the concept of paradise, we develop a multifaceted methodology consisting of reading theory together, walks and fence talks in Hellerau. We will use the HELLERAU cultural garden to make our growing knowledge and exchange visible: Through the performative act of planting a field of nettles, we want to illustrate a parallel growth process to our thoughts. Not in the sense of a finished product or with a claim of objectivity, rather we are interested in questioning aesthetic practice for its knowledge: what kind of knowledge can art produce? Collectively, we negotiate ourselves and our approach. Negotiating in this sense means listening to each other, enduring, caring, discussing, arguing, giving in and being able to laugh about it. Private property vs. other forms of property, community land trust, cooperative,… Garden A garden is a demarcated piece of land in which plants or animals are cultivated by humans and thus cared for (cultivated). Unlike parks, gardens are usually private areas. Who are the owners? John Locke says: “The labour of his body and the work of his hands are, we may say, in a proper sense his property. Whatever, therefore, he removes from the state which nature has provided and left it in, he has mixed with his labour, and added to it something of his own. He has thus made it his own.” (TTG II 27, 216 f., John Locke: Two treatises of Government, England, 1689). Garden as shelter The garden as a space of control or as a community of relationships? Vegetation communities (non-)human/animal/nature Vegetation community describes the type of plant stand that has a very similar species composition. It arises because only a specific group of plant species can settle and persist under certain site conditions. The species are interrelated. Factors for coexistence are climate, mutual support and also competition. If the site factors change, the plant communities change into others. This process is called succession. Paradise The word “paradise” comes from ancient Iranian and means “enclosure”. “Chortos”, from which “garden” is derived, is Indo-European and means a fenced, sheltered place. Who is allowed in and who is not? Fence The fence can form a boundary to the outside or enclose an area. In the case of the garden, it protects a man-made space, a living space that explicitly excludes and includes people as well as non-people. Our interest in a wall led to a conversation with the owner. She explained to us why this wall was built in GDR times: it was to keep the exhaust fumes of the Trabants and Wartburgs that drove up the street recently out of the pie plate. Intervention: field of nettles We build a 7-metre fence of weeds. “Unkraut” in German: the “un-” always has the potential to be resistant and important. The nettle and its rhizomes grow and develop in parallel with us and our knowledge, networking and branching out. The first month has passed and our fence is not growing. Perhaps because the nettle does not want to be instrumentalised by us to build the fence? We don’t know. “If the Earth is Planet Garden [Gilles Clément] we should all be gardeners […]” Maria Paula Diogo, Ana Simões, Ana Duarte Rodrigues and Davide Scarso, Gardens and Human Agency in the Anthropocene, p.96,.l. 8, First published 2019 by Routledge


Voices: Victoria Lomasko, #2 – 2021

Victoria Lomasko was artist in residence at the festival “Karussell – Contemporary Perspectives of Russian Art” in January 2020. At the time, hardly anyone suspected that the following year would be so eventful: the pandemic, the protests against the rigged presidential election in Belarus, the poison attack on Alexei Nawalny. Johannes Kirsten, curator of “Karussell”, spoke with Victoria Lomasko about current events on the occasion of her drawn diary, which was published regularly from January to summer 2021. How did you perceive the presidential elections in Belarus and the protests that followed? For me, it is part of a big issue. A few years ago I started collecting material for a book about the post-Soviet space. During the pandemic, when the revolution started in Minsk, I changed my attitude towards the book. Before the pandemic, it was more driven by nostalgia towards the Soviet Union. But during the pandemic I suddenly got tired of being in that country with its regime and I understood so well what was happening in Belarus. Suddenly I knew what story I wanted to tell, the story of a complete liberation from the Soviet Union, a final farewell to the Soviet Union! I then went to the Belarusian embassy in Moscow. There were mainly very young people there on a solidarity action for the Belarusian protests. The whole story with Belarus and also with Nawalny is not about Putin being a thief and him having a palace and Ljosha Nawalny being a big shot, no – it’s about a generational change taking place. There is the Soviet generation, there is the post-Soviet generation and there is a new generation that knows nothing at all about the Soviet Union and wants nothing at all to do with it. They want to live a different life and have nothing whatsoever to do with the Soviet legacy. Those who still come from the Soviet Union are resisting it with all their might. You went not only to the Belarusian embassy in Moscow, but also to Minsk to see what was happening with your own eyes. Can you tell us about this trip? I really wanted to go to Minsk. When I sat down in the minibus, I saw that I was the only passenger. The driver said that no one would come because the borders were closed because of the pandemic. No one would be allowed in and because he was unsure whether my work invitation was really enough, I should rather sit in a large travel bag at the border. I was travelling day and night to arrive in Minsk. “You can’t draw if there’s always the feeling that you’re about to get hit.” There, the artist Nadja Sayapin was arrested, another activist was convicted and I was present at the court hearing. The next day I left for the rally, where I saw women being beaten up for the first time. It was brutal. It looked exactly like what happened later here in Moscow on 31 January 2021. People were just thrown on the ground. I spent part of my time looking at the city. I wanted to see how the city had changed and what signs of the partisans still remained (meaning signs of the opposition, the numerous graffiti and white-red-white flags and ribbons). I wanted to see how ordinary life had become extraordinary and waited for this big demonstration that always took place on Sundays. Actually, everything happens spontaneously. Where people meet, where they set off to – everything happens spontaneously. The activist who hosted me had to go somewhere else that day. Her sister, who had nothing to do with the protests and rallies, still wanted to accompany me. We were scared. Nothing was clear. If I am arrested, will I be sent back, banned from entering the country, or will I face legal proceedings? I saw on Instagram that you were also at the “Square of Change” (a square called by the protesters, a courtyard between apartment buildings, where graffiti was sprayed on a transformer house, which has become a symbol of the protest). Yes, I have been there. I was also at a court hearing against the organisers of the strikes. I made a lot of drawings and a local newspaper published news and put my drawings on them. In September 2020 we had a very different world. Big demonstrations. Now we don’t know at all what time will dawn. But I believe that certain changes will take place – not only from below, not only that people will take to the streets. There will also be changes from above.


Faces in HELLERAU – Elisabeth Krefta, Artistic Assistant to the Programme Director, #2 – 2021

How long have you been working at HELLERAU and what are your tasks? I have been working at HELLERAU since the 2018/19 season and am part of the programme team. I am one of the first points of contact for companies and artists. We follow their work, see their pieces or they have requests or send us concepts, which we then discuss in the team and see if and how the pieces fit into the overall context of a season. I communicate with artists, go into contract negotiations, conceive festivals and focal points together with the entire programme team. An important part of my work is also contact with the independent scene in Dresden. I am in contact with many artists and support them in their productions at our house. What does a typical day at HELLERAU look like? First of all, I process the many emails that miraculously landed in my inbox overnight. I also have a lot of meetings. My job is very communicative, I am always in conversation, whether with the HELLERAU team or with artists. For example, we talk about content-related topics, artistic formats, planning or contracts. How does a piece get into the programme and what is your task? There are two possibilities: For world premieres, artists send us their concepts, which we read carefully. Then we meet with them, for example for a coffee, and talk about where they want to go with the piece, what the production timeframe is, etc. We then decide on the concept. If we decide on the concept, we accompany the artists and co-produce the piece together. We often set a premiere date, give feedback during rehearsals and stay in touch throughout the process. In addition, as programme managers we also travel to festivals or to individual performances and watch productions. If something excites us or if we think it could fit well into the season or one of our next focal points, that the Dresden audience should see, then we ask for a recording, talk to the production office and the artists and initiate the cooperation. We get a lot of requests and unfortunately can’t realise everything. That’s why cancellations are also part of the process. And we apply for a lot of third-party funding to finance the programme. Can you remember a particularly impressive experience? I find it difficult to pick out a single event. For me, the cooperation with everyone is particularly impressive. It doesn’t matter whether I think the piece that comes out in the end is just great or super great. It’s just nice when you create something in good cooperation and bring it to the premiere. What do you particularly like about HELLERAU? I like the plays we perform, the different genres, approaches and themes and the openness towards art. Contemporary art is produced here as well as discourse. I enjoy that and that’s why I’m in HELLERAU.


New Spaces for the Arts, #2 – 2021

The east wing at the Festspielhaus is brought back to life By Michael Ernst Hellerau is the future. After all, that is how the garden city was once designed: A harmonious living space for the healthy development of people in harmony with nature. An important centre of this was and is the Festspielhaus by Heinrich Tessenow, built in 1911. Here, education and culture came together, creative development was promoted and for a time downright celebrated. A European centre of the arts emerged from this haven of the Lebensreform, a meeting place for renowned representatives of the avant-garde of the time. Until – yes, until – the ensemble was desecrated and virtually abused for decades. First as a police school for the German Nazis, then as barracks for the Soviet army. What followed is well known. A Sleeping Beauty slumber that was ended in good time by wide-awake enthusiasts in order not to let the potential of this area go to waste. But it took until well into the 1990s before the Festspielhaus, which is on the UNESCO list of buildings worthy of protection, could be renovated in a manner befitting a listed building. In the meantime, the public has become accustomed to the imposing sight as they stream across the large forecourt towards the European Centre for the Arts HELLERAU, founded in 2004. A classical gable and open doors in the centre, on the left the pretty visitor centre and on the right – a ruin. An eyesore, but its ramshackle masonry conceals a treasure that is now finally to be unearthed. Carena Schlewitt, the artistic director of HELLERAU, is therefore already looking forward to 8 October: „Then we will celebrate a kind of laying of the foundation stone and the reconstruction of the east wing will finally begin.“ Dreams of the future The east wing. Until now, the former officers‘ mess has been used as a storage room, for performances for a short time and as a design space for street art. In the future, a studio stage and a rehearsal studio are to be built here, and there are also plans for an expanded restaurant (which will benefit the audience as well as employees and participants) and for residential flats for guests working at the Festspielhaus. The state capital Dresden and the Free State of Saxony have reached a long-term agreement to restore the original view of the entire ensemble in a transformed form. Jens Krauße, whose company Heinle, Wischer und Partner Freie Architekten has already designed the campus of the 84th primary school in Hellerau in an exemplary manner, is dealing with the implementation of the project. „Back then, we were already thoroughly involved with the history of Hellerau. After that, this tender naturally appealed to us in particular.“ The Dresden architect was immediately hooked on the project. „Originally, these were two individual buildings. The fact that they are now to serve culture again is most welcome to us.“ The architect’s office won the tender and absolutely wanted to restore the spatial breakthrough of the east wing, but without turning back history, Jens Krauße explains the planning design. Once there were two separate buildings on this site, with access to the festival grounds‘ courtyard in between. „The current building with its two floors was only built in the 1930s,“ says Krauße, „if we now create a new entrance in it with a large public foyer, we are picking up on the earlier ideas.“ A roof-high space is planned in the middle of the elongated building, which will serve both as an additional entrance to the European Centre and as a connecting path from Gartenstadt to the Festspielhaus area. The view all the way under the gable is significant: „We really wanted to make the listed Kroher trusses visible, so we even hired a lighting designer to set the scene for this special roof construction,“ says Jens Krauße, describing the future views in and out. This preserves geometrically and graphically imposing design features of the house that were once developed by Ludwig Kroher in times of wood shortage. Such board trusses hardly exist nowadays, but are absolutely worth preserving and should therefore remain visible in the future. „We build until the house is usable“. In the course of the roof renovation, this impressive construction was refurbished; only parts that were no longer structurally sound were repaired. The fact that the east wing is to be divided into two almost identical halves on the left and right is based on an idea by Heinle, Wischer und Partner, explains Jens Krauße. „The existing rooms seemed too small to us, so we developed the proposal to cut the foyer free, so to speak.“ A transparent bridge is to connect the two parts of the structure and continue the central corridor on the upper floor. Krauße found a lot of approval for this design and praises the intensive cooperation with the various contact persons. „It was all very cooperative, I’m sure we’ll get the best solution for the available financial resources. Particularly when it comes to cooperation with the monument preservation authorities, a lot of coordination is needed, because we are possibly talking about a future world heritage site.“ This is one of the reasons why the decision was made to apply a one-to-one scale sample on site long before construction began, in order to present the future impression of the façade to the responsible committees. „When you have the chance to work in Hellerau as a Dresden office, it’s a stroke of luck,“ Jens Krauße is pleased to say. „We’re building until the house is usable, which is exhausting, but a lot of fun, because everyone is euphoric about this project – and with the Intendant there’s a wind in it that opens up the whole centre to Europe. You can feel that they have a vision! We owe them a work.“ Again and again, the architect marvels at the modernity of Hellerau and at the historically significant paths that were taken at the time. „These were well thought-out designs at the time, one can only marvel at that. What was built in just one year at that time is something we can’t do today with all our 3D designs and prefabrications. That was already very pragmatic, you can only learn from that.“ Restoring the old architectural axis Of course, the advanced project could not be realised without thorough coordination with the future users as well as with various offices. The Office for Structural Engineering and Real Estate Management of the state capital of Dresden acts as a kind of liaison, whose tasks Romy Eichler outlines as follows: „We deal with all the public buildings in the city, approach the task to be worked out strategically and look at the objects in their entirety as far as possible. This can sometimes be an entire area, as here in Hellerau. When the user notifies us of his or her needs, we determine the structural and financial feasibility. The East Wing, as the last unused and not yet renovated building in the Festspielhaus area, is of course an outstanding and complex project.“ It is true that not every public building is a listed building, but if that is the case, the institutions have to coordinate intensively with the preservation of historical monuments at the municipal and state level. The basis for awarding the building contract for the east wing was a so-called VgV procedure. There were several bids for this public award procedure. The contract was awarded to the Dresden office of the architects Heinle, Wischer und Partner. As the client’s representative, she wanted to understand the idea behind the proposals. The basis for the planners is a spatial programme for which concrete solutions have to be worked out, which then have to be substantiated in terms of costs. „So there is always the question of whether it is realistic. With this outstanding building, the premise was clear that the old architectural axis should be restored. But then we also wanted to tease out the planner’s creativity and see how he will deal with the future studio stage, for example.“ „More than ever, we want to be a house for the artists and for the audience.“ Start of construction as a milestone In the meantime, the project has received final support from the Dresden City Council. So the first step has been taken, a big step, at the end of which there will be a fully usable studio stage, a rehearsal studio, a foyer, residence flats and a restaurant. „Everything that doesn’t need to be retrofitted structurally will then be ready,“ Romy Eichler assures us, „including the residency rooms, but not yet their furnishings, seating and stage technology.“ There is currently no budget available for these subsequent steps or for the redesign of the forecourt – landscape architects are already indulging in Tessenow’s thoughts and thinking of the former fountain in front of the building. The value of the site, however, is reflected in the five million euros The value of the site, however, is evident in the approved five million euros from the federal-state programme for the protection of historic buildings and monuments, plus another two million euros from the so-called PMO assets (of parties and mass organisations of the GDR), says Romy Eichler, for whom the start of construction on 4 October is already considered a „milestone date“. The Dresden Office for Culture and Monument Protection does not see it differently, and the head of the office, Dr. David Klein, welcomes the renovation of the east wing: „On the one hand, it restores the entire building ensemble in its heterogeneous history and makes it experienceable again, and on the other hand, it significantly improves the working conditions of the European Centre of the Arts HELLERAU. More than 15 years after the reopening of the Festspielhaus, this is another milestone for this outstanding cultural monument. For Dresden’s culture and especially for the performing arts, the planned residence centre will increase the opportunities to experience international positions in Dresden, to engage with artists from all over the world and to work together.“ David Klein sees this as an essential contribution to the goals of Dresden’s cultural development plan: „To act internationally, to promote excellence and experimentation, and to live out contemporaneity in the arts.“ Markus Franke, Head of the Arts Department at the Saxon State Ministry of Science, Culture and Tourism, also sees great prospects in the building: „The measures are a commitment by the state capital to the influential cultural site and to the preservation of this unique building ensemble, which is a progressive idea in stone.“ As a member of the board of the Cultural Foundation, Markus Franke is convinced that „the construction work in the neighbourhood of our Cultural Foundation is a good sign for the vitality of Hellerau, which is also the venue of the Dresden Frankfurt Dance Company, which we as the Free State of Saxony help to support.“ The redesign of the east wing will create more space for what Hellerau is all about and what enriched Saxony more than 100 years ago: „Thinking outside the box, reflecting on social issues and social developments locally and globally with artistic means and networking with the world outside Saxony. This requires an infrastructure that is now being developed in Hellerau, giving the European Centre for the Arts, which is as effective as it is successful, a further, important impulse and scope for development. This is just as profitable for the cultural city of Dresden as it strengthens an important landmark in the profile of Saxony as a cultural state.“ Artistic Director Carena Schlewitt is pleased to be coming much closer to the idea of HELLERAU as a lively production house and to be able to give new structures to the theatre operations in the Festspielhaus and the Studio Stage: „More than ever, we want to be a house for the artists and for the audience. HELLERAU has a lot of potential for the future.


I am all about the social force that moves people, #2 – 2021

HELLERAU is dedicating a portrait to the Tel Aviv-born artist Reut Shemesh in October and presenting three selected stage works and two installations. The weekend takes place as part of the anniversary year “1700 Years of Jewish Life in Germany” in cooperation with the Jewish Music and Theatre Week Dresden. Wolfram Sander (HELLERAU) met Reut Shemesh for an interview. You come from a dance background, have trained as a choreographer, work as a photographer, filmmaker, poet and author. Your interests are obviously very complex. I read that you describe yourself as an artist who creates transmedia work. Is that still accurate? I certainly wouldn’t call myself just a choreographer. That’s a bit boring. You grew up in Israel, were in the military there, then moved to the Netherlands to study. Later you came to Cologne to do a Master’s degree. Since then you have been living there. Can you describe what drives you? I think it’s the combination of content and aesthetics. I see things that interest me, often pictures – and they are always related to a certain theme. I then very quickly think of further visualisations for this theme. This aesthetic of the actual image is a driving force for me. Can you describe the process of finding a form for this interrelation of content and aesthetics? Do you start with the body or in theory? What does your research look like? Each piece is a little different. With LEVIAH it started with the text and then it became first a film, later a stage work and finally a real film. Each play has different forces. The work with the Funkenmariechen (COBRA BLONDE) started as a mere photography project. It was not at all clear that it would ever become a stage play because the images felt so strong. But at some point I was just curious and wanted to know what would happen if I restaged the photos. Right now, for example, I’m interested in doing a play about ultra football fans at a Belgian theatre and I’m going to try to investigate the ultra fan club scene here in NRW and re-enact that with young people from Belgium. Of course, there is also a political content to it. I want to go to the clubs, observe these people and talk to them. I am sure that photography will also be an essential tool in this. Here again we have intersections of aesthetics and subject matter. In order to learn the aesthetics of the UItras, I have to record or film them. In this case, my work will again start from a kind of documentation. And then this material seeks its own form? ATARA initially started with confessions only from religious and secular women. There was a lot of text that was not clear in which direction it should develop at all. I documented something in a certain way and then I let it sink in. Later I come back to it and think about what direction, what format it could take. I think it’s a bit like a journey. I’ve read that you explicitly go to spaces you’re not invited to. And then doors open. This is obvious in your work, for example with the Funkenmariechen or the Jewish-Orthodox Women’s Community (ATARA) – also now with the Ultra. So far, your work has mainly been about the role of women. That won’t necessarily be the case with the Ultras, because of course the majority there are men. There are also women in these clubs and it would be great to include them, but it won’t focus on women. I’m also a bit annoyed by this women’s issue. At ATARA, for example, there is also a man. I feel it would be a shame if we approach feminism only on the basis of women. Let’s practise it with men as well. Keeping it just between us would be far too easy. In LEVIAH I discovered a lot of violence, which is intensified by the repetitions. Aggression plays a role in LEVIAH and I think it has to do with my Israeli upbringing. I find a lot of my Israeli colleagues work in a very edgy and aggressive way physically. I think we are very used to that in our aesthetics. Maybe also because of the everyday tension that is quite obvious when you live in Israel. That produces something, too. Then there is the implementation of the military in society. Yes, but I also think it’s something like a tension in the body. In Israel, everything is much more acute and much more in the now, more stressful, more energetic, more alive – an excited beauty. It’s reflected in people’s bodies and of course in the work they create. There is a power there. When I came to Europe, I remember it clearly, I was shocked by this different temporality that prevails here. Do they really take an hour and a half now to plan who holds the camera and when? I was alienated by the fact that they talk so intensively about details that I would never have the time to think about. Today I find that beautiful. But the energy level, rhythm and tempo are completely different in Israel. This can also be seen in our work: in the need to be in a certain physical state. Fun Fact: I was in Dresden as a teenager, by the way. In Israel, you can do your Abitur in dance. Our teacher then took us on an exchange to Dresden. We stayed with families and went to a dance school somewhere in the city centre. We also went to the Palucca School to take classes and even had a performance there. I still remember it very clearly. That was 20 years ago. The first encounter with Dresden, my first stay abroad. In almost all your plays, there is an interesting group dynamic created by uniforms, masks, wigs, which helps to dissolve the individual in the group. There is then this moment in COBRA BLONDE when a performer takes off her wig and it becomes intimate in an almost painful way. Is it also about the struggle to find one’s place in the world, to assert one’s identity? For me, it’s about social power as power and as movement. And how do people find their way in such structures or not? What exactly is the individual supposed to be? I am convinced that we are extremely pre-formed by the circumstances in which we grow up and are brought up. We always carry so much around with us. So it is already a question of entering into a kind of self-talk about the relationship between oneself, one’s own upbringing and the forces of society. In COBRA BLONDE I am also interested in showing how the dancers criticise the environment in which they work. You watch them and you are very confused. I like this blurring between the belief that the performers are transforming themselves into contemporary dancers on the one hand, but that they are actually part of this traditional folkloric dance culture. This irritation, this complexity is something that appeals to me more and more. I don’t see the dance girls as victims of anything. They are very strong on stage, master their craft perfectly. They are at the top of their game, sometimes more than some of my colleagues from the contemporary dance scene. The idea that the world can be divided into black and white and that people are good or bad is something I want to question more and more in my work. After ATARA, it remains unclear whether this group is oppressed by orthodox women or not, whether they think modernly or not. I will not answer these questions. I am more interested in how the people in the audience feel about their own family structure or their own situation as hipsters. Let people work through their own preconceptions about dance girls in COBRA BLONDE. When you look at yourself, you find so much controversy and so much friction, and that’s where the future of theatre lies. Looking at these controversial figures and understanding that they exist in each and every one of us is really interesting to me. After all, most of the cultural content we consume is based on a black and white schema. This construct is very unfeminist in my opinion, because it’s not about compassion or understanding the other side. The best example is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s so complex and so controversial that you can’t just say here are the assholes or there is the oppressed group. That no longer exists. We can’t get to the complexity of a conflict and its entanglements that way. Keeping the complexity and not limiting it in black and white patterns – that throws me back to the question of how we as a society in Germany can think of difference as part of something appealing that we want to have. Let’s take the concept of “integration”, which I think is completely outdated. It means embracing difference until it disappears. Can we sustain complexity as the coexistence of many differences that are in a very dynamic flux with each other? Perhaps we will never be able to live with these differences, and I think this is because we always look at ourselves in the mirror of the Other. Our perspective is always that of the other. It’s so hard for us to accept differences because it says something about us. When I see a very classical German family, I’m also a bit scared because it does something to me, to my otherness, my being different. But why does it actually have anything to do with me? It shouldn’t trigger any emotions in me. So that’s also the question: why these mirrors? I think it’s something that lies at the bottom of humanity. We can’t get rid of it.


Dancing About, #2 – 2021

As a prelude to the new season, the festival “Dancing About” will premiere a total of 10 dance productions at HELLERAU and VILLA WIGMAN from 22 September to 3 October. The festival is also the conclusion of the two-year project TANZPAKT Dresden. Freelance choreographers, dancers and artists from Saxony were given the opportunity to participate in this process. They were able to carry out research residencies at partner institutions such as the Sächsische Dampfschiffahrt, the Fraunhofer Institute for Transport and Infrastructure Systems or the Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau, participate in the digital winter academy and develop projects that are now being premiered. Throughout the entire TANZPAKT process, the artists were in close contact with each other. In a chain interview via Messenger, they ask each other about their work and respond with a photo from their working process. Christoph Bovermann TANZPAKT Dresden Christoph Bovermann @Maria Chiara de’ Nobili For your research you decided to work with the three partner institutions Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, vigevo – The Network for Sign Language Services and TU Dresden/Professorship for Technical Design. What was it like to link these different influences? Maria Chiara de’ Nobili Connecting the inputs from the three partner institutions allowed the research to swim into very different fields. After some initial wandering, I found that curiosity and the capacity to adapt to the consequences of the pandemic were the key-points to succeed: staying open to getting creative with all instruments available, switching the point of view when needed. Maria Chiara de’ Nobili @Isaac Spencer @Franz Ehrenberg How did the viewers connect and react during the live performance situations that you proposed? Isaac Spencer, Franz Ehrenberg Impressions from our partners were: ~very emotional ~like a day in the life of the performer ~breakable ~soothing ~many associations ~like being in a stranger’s flat. Isaac Spencer @Johanna Roggan @Benjamin Schindler Due to travel restrictions, movement and “moving” had to find other expressions. In what ways has movement nevertheless entered into your research, or what has moved? Johanna Roggan, Benjamin Schindler Our movement plans could not be realised last year. Instead of travelling through Europe and interviewing people, we had to constantly readjust, move, adapt. The residency in Poznań made us all the happier. Above all, the residency moved us emotionally. The stories of the artists fighting for freedom and against discrimination in the repressive political situation in Poland made us humble. Without haste to leave for the next journey, we were able to give them and ourselves the space to linger. Johanna Roggan @Nora Otte @David Le Thai What did you not find in your research/search and how does that influence your view or approach to what you found? Nora Otte, David Le Thai In petitions for mercy from Dresden families from the 19th century, old addresses were listed that we looked up. None of the nine houses can be found any more. War and urban development measures have greatly changed the cityscape. At today’s empty spaces, a wife, daughter, mother sat in a quiet chamber at that time to formulate the plea for mercy for husband, son, brother. If there had been more deserters, some of them might still be found today. Nora Otte @Caroline Beach @Ernst Markus Stein What role does the movement of the voice (between head and hands) play in your research? Ernst Markus Stein Hands make the apparatus or write the protocol, but actually they are the bearers of history. Caroline Beach I think there is a lot of unchartered territory between the head and the hands. Most states, most bodies, focus on these as control centres and enforce an illusion of order to keep them that way. The voice can help to show all the broken roads between these two sites of power, to decentralize so that the guerrillas can descend from the mountains once again and fight. Caroline Beach @Rosalind Masson How will you use the research from your residency in your proposals of paradises? Rosalind Masson Mainly through blurring the boundaries of performance and participation: Audience members will be invited to take part in interspecies somatic practices developed in the residency, entering into their own perceptual experience of plants and the surrounding ecology. I don’t think such a thing as paradise exists but imaginary ones, perhaps. Rosalind Masson @Fang Yun Lo How is your research into the art of puppets and puppet making influencing your choreographic approach for “Nano Giants”? Fang Yun Lo Choreographically, I find the tipping points interesting: When does an object become alive in the eyes of the audience, when does it become inanimate again? Who moves whom? Can a human being also appear inanimate? How do puppeteers use gravity? How do we as audience members deal with differences in size and changes in scenery, because in puppet theatre we often have very different dimensions and “worlds”. These are all very interesting questions for choreographic work with human performers. Fang Yun Lo @Anna Till @Barbara Lubich Your research was a lot about time and different speeds. How do you work with your audience timewise? Anna Till, Barbara Lubich In “Experiencing Time” we want to invite the audience to reflect on their own perception of time and to play with it. While they are on the move as flaneurs in the garden and the large hall of the Villa Wigman, they act as agents of time. They will be part of a never-ending yet transforming loop, they will enter a black hole, interrupted by time sequences created by sound, images and performers. They will forget time and remember time. Barbara Lubich @Cindy Hammer @Joseph Hernandez In your research you met your audience on the street. Where and how will you engage with the audience in your performance? Cindy Hammer, Joseph Hernandez The mission of our research and the project is to create awareness of the behaviour of our own bodies and other bodies in public and open spaces. So we will keep making small and “simple” suggestions to the audience and the spectators that can change or contextualise their experience and perception of the performance and the performing bodies in the open space. Perhaps the audience will become performing bodies themselves. Cindy Hammer @Lotte Mueller With reference to your artistry and circus background, how does your artistic approach influence the mobile/immobile performative setting of your production “Im/Mobility”? Lotte Mueller We explore “Im/Mobility” in vertical space as well as the encounter between performers and audience in shared horizontal space. Lotte Mueller @Alexander Miller What was your first impulse for your creation? Alexander Miller After observing the breaking scene in recent years and hearing how dancers from this environment are perceived by outsiders, it was my impulse to show a different perspective. I also always wanted to create a group piece with dancers who are able to switch fluently between styles. Alexander Miller @Katja Erfurth How important is the “outside eye” to you in the process of creating your choreography and how do you work with the challenge of being a dancer and a choreographer at the same time? Katja Erfurth I am familiar with taking inside and outside views, as I have been choreographing for myself as a dancer for over 20 years. Staging for an ensemble and myself is new. In doing so, I think in different levels and images, which I later superimpose. Through video recordings during rehearsals and through exchanges with Helmut Oehring, I can mirror, transform and further develop my intentions in the most diverse forms of expression. Katja Erfurth @Irina Pauls Does your artistic work for the TANZPAKT production “facing zero and one” with the preceding residency differ from your previous ways of working? And if so, in what way? Irina Pauls Yes, it is clearly different. I surrender part of the staging to the effect of the “technical processing” of human movement by the machine. This is exciting new territory for me and means even more risk than artistic work already entails. The production team is also newly assembled – all quite exciting. Irina Pauls @Heike Hennig In your social opera, which you are developing for TANZPAKT Dresden, you work together with the audience and artists. How do you describe your way of working? Do you rehearse together, are there different questions? Heike Hennig After a year without festivals, we invite you to a festival ceremony with intoxicants and tricks on the square in front of the Festspielhaus. Join in, copy it, do it better … lots of questions, songs, brass, violin, accordion and choreographed forklift on the grounds. You are welcome to come by bike and dressed up. 22.09.- 03.10.2021 Dancing About TANZPAKT Dresden Festival Wed 22/Sat 25.09.2021 social opera hennig & colleagues (DE) A “social opera” opens the festival on the forecourt of the Festspielhaus with music, art pieces and dance, celebrating life, together with you. Wed 22/Thu 23/09/2021 PACK Miller/de’ Nobili (DE/IT) Six dancers, six guys, 40 °C in the studio. Urban, breaking, contemporary and everything that fits in between. One group, one PACK. Thu 23/Fri 24.09.2021 Sailor on Aisle 5 Caroline Beach (US) This multimedia production explores the inner workings of objects, people and ideas as they search for connections in an increasingly incomprehensible existence. Fri 24/Sat 25/09/2021 Experiencing Time situation productions (DE/IT) The interdisciplinary parkour through the hall and garden of Villa Wigman with listening stations, video, performance, sound thematises the individual perception of time. Sat 25/Sun 26.09.2021 facing zero and one Irina Pauls (DE) Five dancers playfully engage in various experiments, questioning how the interaction between man and machine works. Wed 29/Thu 30.09.2021 Im/Mobility Lotte Mueller (DE) The performance between contemporary circus and dance questions social orders, the rigidity of structures and the potential for change through one’s own physical and mental flexibility. Thu 30.09./Sat 02.10.2021 Occupying Eden Anima(l)[us]/Rosalind Masson (GB/DE) This durational performance invites the audience to the Kulturgarten HELLERAU to create an imaginary ecological paradise together. Fri 01/Sat 02.10.2021 Nano Giants Polymer DMT/Fang Yun Lo (TW/DE) In this play for the whole family, Polymer DMT/Fang Yun Lo explore the value of community on a journey through a theatrical wonderland. Sat 02/Sun 03 Oct 2021 KASSANDRA | Zunge: reißen Katja Erfurth (DE) Katja Erfurth combines the theme of deafness with concrete and associative gestures and is accompanied by AuditivVokal Dresden to a composition and sign choreography by Helmut Oehring. Sat 02 / Sun 03.10.2021 ASPHALTWELTEN Part 3 go plastic company (DE) The third and final part of the project “Asphalt Worlds” deals with the artistic thesis of a utopia: a group that renounces stability and security: a life without walls, without insurance, without rootedness. More information on the residencies, productions and the Dancing About festival: tanzpakt-dresden.de


#TakeCareResidenzen, #1 – 2021

Artists research, test, reject, create, present. In collaboration with the Fond Darstellende Künste, HELLERAU provides space and time for 80 research residencies. Some artists have already begun their work in the fall of 2020, others will start their projects in the first half of the year. Many of the artists will sooner or later be seen at HELLERAU. The Dresden artist Max Rademann, known to HELLERAU visitors through the Tuesday Salon, will devote his research to the participatory moments of listening to music together. The illustrations of the #TakeCareResidences presented here are from Rademann’s hand. Nora Al-Badri Multidisciplinary artist Nora Al-Badri researches artificial intelligence and museums, Big Data, and the performative moment of the black box, negotiating them within the framework of a speculative and decolonial archaeology. Hecke/Rauter: Stuff The World With “Stuff The World” the theater makers Hecke/Rauter examine the effects of anthropogenic climate change on the German-wide unique training program for taxidermy at the Bochum Vocational College. Which transformations is the job description subject to due to ecological changes? Are the aspirat:ers becoming witnesses to species decline or are they themselves witnessing a profession that is becoming extinct. Robert Lippok: Space. Object. Movement. Robert Lippok explores the links between performing and visual arts. He will collect material and freely experiment with it in the stage and outdoor areas using stage and lighting technology in HELLERAU. Sarah Ulrich: Writing About. Discourses of writing about performative arts Sarah Ulrich questions the possibilities of exchange between performance on stages and the reporting on these forms of performance. What discourses, tensions, and visions are negotiated on stages? How can performative, visual, complex arts be mediated through the media? How can they be written about? How can non-discriminatory reporting be established? THE HOUSE (Tanja Krone + Johanna Kluhs): Underground Tanja comes from Saxony, Johanna belongs to the Ruhr area. In an open-ended research they want to investigate the obvious and puzzling similarities between East and West, read Werner Bräunig’s “Rummelplatz” and have biographical conversations with people here and there. What, for example, do mine closures in the Pott region and the end of Wismut have in common? And who transcribes all this? Christiane Hütter: The strategy machine The pandemic is not over. Thinking in terms of states makes no sense. Neither does inventing a new strategy. We need several. A strategy machine for plans from A-Z. Thinking supplies! What can theater contribute? A research at the world transition of offline/online, science, art and urban society. Claudia Basrawi: Robotron Claudia Basrawi goes on an expedition and researches the future vision of the information technology of the former GDR, which was based in the VEB Kombinat Robotron in Dresden. Who belonged to the avant-garde of GDR computer technology and what did their visions of the future look like. What has changed in the meantime, what does the view of the future look like after 80 years of computer technology. What criticism and what alternatives are there? Banda Internationale: GAGA and the effects on music and society The artists of Banda Internationale ask themselves: Does music determine movement or does it work the other way around? What is the interaction between dancers and musicians? Jule Flierl: SPEAKERS Jule Flierl wants to find out about the transformative presence of women speakers in public discourse, using the examples of Rosa Luxemburg, Angela Davis, and Regine Hildebrandt. How did the way these prominent female politicians used their voices influence the perception of the content of their speeches? Armada of Arts: playground without rules The Armada of Arts wishes for a “playground without rules” as a counterpoint to today’s restless times and wants to create a utopian place wherea anyone and everyone can try themselves out. More about #TakeCareResidenzen


To See Climate (Change), #1 – 2021

Romuald Krężel and René Alejandro Huari Mateus report on their Artist-in-Garden Residency at HELLERAU. To See Climate (Change) is an artistic research project that we initiated in early 2020 at Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, developed in June 2020 at LAB Frankfurt and from August to September 2020 at the Artist-in-Garden Residency at HELLERAU. Starting from questions about ecological sustainability and environmental degradation, we have searched for different performative and choreographic strategies that allow us to make the invisible – the climate – and its changes speculatively visible. We have tried to build a landscape of images, affects and choreographic sequences, all based on the possible exchange between humans and “non-humans”. List of residents/participantss/materials/entities involved in theResidency: House A greenhouse (6.5 m2). Assembly of polycarbonate panels with aluminum poles. Placed on an aluminum frame with 4 wheels so that it can move freely in the performance space.

  • 16 aluminum rods
  • 25 polycarbonate panels
  • 112 screws
  • 132 nuts

Plants 26 potted plants, bought in plant stores in Stuttgart and Dresden. During our stay, the plants lived in a room with sufficient access to sunlight. For the time of the samples, they were placed in the greenhouse in the Nancy-Spero room. Although the distant ancestors of the potted plants originally came from places near the equatorial line, the plants from our project were mostly born in huge greenhouses for reproduction purposes in the Netherlands and Germany.

  • 1 yucca
  • 1 Croton
  • 1 Dieffenbachia reflector
  • 2 Fittonias, also known as nerve plants (red and green)
  • 1 Alocasia California, better known as Elephant Ear (with many spreading leaves that grow in all directions, so moving this plant requires a real virtuosity)
  • 3 Dracaenas (Dracaena Fragrans and 2 Dracaenas Marginatas).
  • 1 Homalomena Rubescens,called Maggy
  • 1 Fern (withered)
  • 3 Kalatheas (Orbifolia, Zebrina and Triostar)
  • 1 Kentia palm
  • 1 Areca palm
  • 1 Dieffenbachia summer (withered)
  • 1 Carex oshimensis “Everest
  • 2 Spathiphyllum laurettas (with two white flowers looking at you as viewer:in)
  • 1 Schefflera arboricola, also known as dwarf umbrella tree
  • 3 Ficusse (1 Exotica and 2 Anastasias)
  • 1 Guzmania Optima (a replacement for Guzmania Diana, which has stopped blooming and will not do so again for about three years)
  • 1 Epipremnum aureum, also known as Marble Queen.

People 2 artists:inside supported by Rosa Müller – Residency Program HELLERAU.

  • Romuald
  • René Alejandro

Living/dead matter

  • 45 kg of soil
  • 1,5 liters of fertilizer (vermicompost)
  • 2 mobile platforms made of wood on wheels, made of wood chips and synthetic resin
  • Dozens of liters of boiled water, which must always stand for 3 days until it can be used for irrigation, so that part of the chloride contained in the tap water has evaporated
  • 18 movable boxes
  • 4 books

“Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World” by Timothy Morton; “Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene” by Donna J. Haraway; “The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption” by Dahr Jamail; “The Ends of the World” by Déborah Danowski and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro. Stuff

  • 4 plastic boxes
  • 4 fluorescent light bulbs inside the greenhouse
  • 2 large warm light lamps inside the greenhouse
  • 1 growing light lamp for plants
  • 2 laptops

Unexpected visitors  Mealybugs. First discovered by accident on the leaves of the Marble Queen. They infest 12 other plants. The fight against them lasted about 3 months, including the month in Dresden. The fight consisted of washing the leaves regularly, spraying with organic products and finally using strong chemicals. The bugs disappeared at the end of our stay. Fungus gnats. These small black flies were inadvertently transported to HELLERAU. Their eggs lived in the moist soil of the plants. As the fly population increased exponentially, some plants had to be isolated. We controlled them by using butterfly-shaped yellow stickers, on which the flies caught until they died, as well as by clapping hands when the flies flew between the plants, and by adding some sand found in the cultural garden to the pots.


Creating a better world, #1 – 2021

Since 2018, based on the experience of the EBOLA epidemics in Africa, scientists have been carrying out simulations that have been tested on people in the field (ministers, hospital managers and security forces) in various countries in North-West Africa. All of them are professionals, yet they were all baffled when it came to managing the unmanageable. In the beginning of 2019, we accessed the scenarios used for these simulations. We copied them and used them to develop a simulation game, scientifically validated, in collaboration with the doctor who created the original simulations, and with game developers. The simulation game works for a group of players between 40 and 100. There are no actors, just two coordinators who guide the players through the game. When entering the room, the players choose to join one of the 8 groups listed below and put on a corresponding colored vest, before joining their table, their « base ». The groups are: The groups are:

  • Health
  • Research
  • Security
  • Governmental communication
  • Press
  • Vital ressources
  • Economy
  • Population

Within their group, they receive a charter with their professional imperatives. The game takes place in 3 phases, which correspond to the 3 phases of development of a pandemic. Between each phase, representatives from each group meet at the crisis meeting table to communicate the progress of their group work and make decisions together. The consequences of all these decisions change the course and outcome of the game: 4 possible future scenarios. We finished the creation of the first version of this game in November 2019, before the arrival of Covid-19. Of course, we were impressed by how reality took over. From the very moment Wuhan started to be quarantined, in December 2019, all the things we learned theoretically became true. We thought the game lost its meaning and was to be discarded. But then we went through the material, again and again, to see how and if it still « works ». The game seems completely resilient to the paradigm shift that today’s situation has created. We believe this is possible due to two main things: the precision of the simulation model by Doctor Philippe Cano – everything that has happened or is still happening is without exception in his original simulation from 2018 – and the incredible quality of the adaptation work by the game developers, Théo Rivière et Corentin Lebrat. The meaning of the game is changing though: it is no longer a dystopian anticipation game, but a cathartic, digesting one. We didn’t change anything in the basic material of the game. Everything was and is there. We just added a more complex role to the group of representatives of the civil population. Indeed, in the original simulations they hardly exist – but during the first lockdown we realized how everybody thought about the world to live in afterwards, how everybody had opinions about the ways countries managed pandemics, what kind of lock-down to choose etcetera. Now, VIRUS gives space to utopia, to the prospect that another world can come out of a pandemic. Are we ready to give up flying as often as we used to?  Can we afford not to have seasonal foreign workers growing and picking our vegetables for a paltry wage? Can we do better than the governments in handling a pandemic? Can we establish other forms of government? Can we create a better world? We played so far in The Netherlands, Germany, Swiss-Germany and France. It’s incredibly interesting to see how different societies appear, some ending in dictatorships, others in utopic forms of governing. It is fun to see how popular votes are proposed by the players, or questions or subjects added to the public debates that take place. The most stimulating part of the game is now indeed in how the players take the game over, on how they play WITH the game. That’s something I like a lot, in my work in general, to see how a group of people can USE a piece for or in society. Can we create a better world? Well, in VIRUS, we can. By Yan Duyvendak


The living dead, #1 – 2021

Judith Hellmann, Artistic Assistant at HELLERAU, spoke with Romy Weyrauch and Michael McCrae about the new work of theatrical subversion. What was the starting point of your current work? The pandemic fundamentally hit our working world. A tour and many planned projects were cancelled for the time being. Suddenly we had a lot of time to think. The first weeks in lockdown were quiet and somehow devoid of meaning. When reality shifts in such a way, you first have to understand it and find ways out of your own numbness. It was clear to us that for an indefinite period of time we would no longer be able to work in the same way as before – and that doesn’t just refer to economic issues. In our work, we examine – sometimes more, sometimes less – the preconditions of the present. Now we had to find not only new ways of financing and of reaching the public in the pandemic, but also to develop a different relevance. So we asked ourselves in a double sense: what does theater in crisis mean? How can we respond to the new situation aesthetically and in terms of content? The result of this discussion was the idea for the project cycle “The Living Dead.” The first part of the cycle – the online project – is already running. Could you briefly describe it? Currently, great efforts are being made to combat the pandemic. Some of the measures are leading to sharp social confrontations. But those who are particularly affected by the pandemic are hardly given a voice in the public debate. The “Archive of the Living Dead” is an online platform where people belonging to the so-called Corona risk groups can leave a video legacy for posterity. In addition, with the “Archive of the Living Dead” we are trying to find an artistic way of dealing with the statistics by asking those affected about their personal approach to this risk to their own life or death, which is both concrete and abstract at the same time. How does the project continue? In the second part of the cycle, we are interested, for example, in the question of what a terminal for the “archive of the living dead” might look like, in which the archive is transferred into real space. Such a terminal could be placed in old people’s and nursing homes or in museums. At the moment we are sifting through the submitted video legacies, editing footage for the stage, and contacting the interviewees to ask them about their current situation. And we are currently trying out a lot of technical possibilities, with 360° camera technology. With this we are preparing the third part of the project cycle, the stage play with the working title “Living Minus Dead”. Here we would like to address, among other things, the question of what a commemoration of the victims of the pandemic might look like and what social function this commemoration might fulfill.


Enjoy theater as you are and feel right now, #1 – 2021

HELLERAU and the Landesbühnen Sachsen are starting their work together on Saxony’s first “Relaxed Performance” this year. Leonie Kusterer (HELLERAU) talked about it with Wagner Moreira, director of the dance company of the Landesbühnen Sachsen, and performer Sophie Hauenherm. What is a Relaxed Performance? Is theater not relaxed enough? No. Not always and not for everyone. When you go to the theater, as a spectator you assume that you have to behave quietly so as not to disturb the actions of the artists. Not to speak in between, to show appropriate reactions at the right moment and not to leave the auditorium during an act. This action is a socially recognized sign of respect for art. The Relaxed Performance format, however, allows for a relaxed and natural way of being. It lets people enjoy the theater as they are and as they are feeling. It gives the audience the opportunity to decide what suits them best: sitting, standing or lying down? In the dark or in the light? To take a break in between and relax to process the content or to watch the piece again to get familiar with the material step by step. Attending a tactile tour to experience the stage space before attending the play. Not being exposed to overly strong and/or stress-producing stimuli such as strobe lights or fog. To be allowed to articulate during the performance, to move when it seems appropriate or when one feels the need to do so. Relaxed Performance makes all this possible. What is the theme of your work? The central theme of our work is “Difference”, the English word for “difference”. We investigate and experience differences in various aspects and span a wide field of being, thinking and being able – spatially, physically, psychologically. In the work we celebrate our “differences”, we work on them positively with each other and thus also work on a hierarchylessness. Because differences are the most beautiful and interesting things in life and in the world. Why is it important for you to position such a Relaxed Performance within the professional Saxon theater and dance landscape? The form and practice of Relaxed Performance is unfortunately not yet very well known in the Saxon theater landscape. Together with the Landesbühnen Sachsen and with HELLERAU, we feel a strong need to break new ground in the area of mobility and accessibility. Our aim is to break down barriers and open up the theater to a wide range of audiences who, for various reasons, have so far been unable to visit the houses and plays. Culture is, after all, a human right. Sophie, you are a performer in this work. You studied at the Palucca University of Dance in Dresden. What are your experiences on the subject of accessibility and the stage institution? Accessibility starts in language, especiallythrough the choice of expression of certain subjects. People with mental and/or physical disabilities must not be made to feel that their voices are worth less or even go unheard. Everyone has the right to be a part of the arts with their individual abilities, because dance and movement themselves are are value-free. However, people write the rules for dance, and these are being broken down piece by piece today to counteract the existing stigmatization. Most important is the openness towards the participants, especially on the level of communication. Even if an experience with people with disabilities does not yet exist, it is very possible to find a way together through an exchange between different individuals. I have experienced this through my own situation, in which it became possible for me to graduate from Palucca University despite my physical disability. Wagner, you are a choreographer and the new director of the dance company of the Landesbühnen Sachsen. How did you come to the theme cluster part-have and inclusion in dance? After an engagement as a stage dancer in Zittau, a major injury followed with an invasive operation on my hip joint. This made my further career as a dancer impossible. As a dance teacher and choreographer, I worked with people with disabilities in Brazil from a very early age. The fact that I wanted to continue working in this field was reinforced when I read an advertisement for dancers with and without disabilities for a professional production in Cologne. I felt addressed and located at the same time. Since then I have been working in various mixed-abled contexts in different positions and countries. Mixedability became not only a form for me, it became my artistic aesthetic. How will you design the production process to create real equality between people with and without disabilities? We will develop the piece together in a collaborative artistic process. It is no longer about the signature of an artistic or choreographic director. The director/choreographer simply shapes the individual images into a round evening. The performers and dancers see themselves as part of the creation, they are asked to actively participate in the process.


City. Space. River. Contemporary Perspectives on the City, #1 – 2021

In the area comparison of major German cities, Dresden with 328.28 km2 is in 4th place after Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne. As of December 31, 2019, Dresden ranked 12th in a comparison of major German cities with 563,011 inhabitants. What position will the city of Dresden take in this decade of the 21st century between tradition and innovation, between regionality and internationality, between art and high technology? What kind of social and community life can be established in Dresden for residents as well as visitors and temporary guests? And what relationship is the capital of Saxony developing with its neighbors in rural and regional areas, but also in Poland and the Czech Republic and far beyond internationally? The focus “City.Space.River.” marks the beginning of an artistic examination of current social and cultural developments in the urban space of Dresden and its surroundings. HELLERAU, itself located on the periphery between city and country and in the first German garden city, is dedicated to contemporary interdisciplinary projects dealing with urban and public living spaces. The historical reference to the prefabricated slab buildings and new housing estates of the GDR plays a role here, as do current disputes about affordable housing and existential fears about the preservation of private and public living spaces. With the Elbe and the banks on both sides, Dresden has the inestimable value of a large public space, accessible to all the people of the city. At this place HELLERAU realizes the European project “Moving Borders – Ark of Underestimated Knowledge” and invites residents and visitors alike to art and encounters. Participants inside of Stadt.Raum.Fluss. Maximilian Hanisch/Sarah Methner (DE) with “Plattenbauten – Inseln der Gegenwart”, Prodromos Tsinikoris (GR) with “Ein Kirschgarten”; Xiao Ke & Zi Han (CN) with “Republic of Dance” as well as Margarete Kiss/Leon Lechner (DE) and Kieron Jina (RZ) with installative formats. Participants from ARK Dresden: Ark for Underestimated Knowledge Quarantine (GB) and Katja Heiser/missingdots and Mustafa Hasan (Safy) a.o.

Plattenbauten – Islands of the present

Can a type of building that is often discredited as ugly be a kind of aesthetic link between experiences in different places of the world and bring people from different parts of the world together? Sarah Methner and Maximilian Hanisch were both born shortly before the fall of the Wall in East Berlin and Dresden, respectively. For their generation, the GDR is on the one hand a distant narrative of parents and relatives and on the other hand an inseparable part of everything they grew up with. So inseparable, in fact, that it was only a few years ago that the two really realized they wanted to realize a theater work about this strange East German identity. The idea of making something seemingly genuinely East German the center of the production developed out of their shared interest in architecture and the desire for a thematically narrow focus: the Plattenbau. In the GDR, one in four people lived in a prefabricated building. And anyone who didn’t live there knew someone from the Plattenbau. For some, they stand for dreariness and social decline. Others defend them and with them their biographies and memories. Especially since the rupture of the Wende era and the devaluation of East German achievements can also be seen in the reception of the apartments. Prefabricated housing was in demand in GDR times and had a positive-sounding name: New Housing Estates. Because of their good infrastructure, they were considered proof of socialist achievement and represented progress and modernity. The ideal cities of large panel construction also had a strong symbolic power: Just as the buildings could be planned on the drawing board, socialist togetherness was also to be realized in all areas of life. Prefabricated housing estates are extremely common because of the simplicity of modular construction. They exist all over the world from Moscow to Paris to Copenhagen. And also in places where you would not expect them from a European perspective, for example in Mexico or Vietnam. In all these places, people have adapted, repurposed and appropriated buildings. And even if only a few settlements have a direct architectural connection to the former GDR, and even if not all of them were built in a modular fashion, the external similarity of the buildings triggered a connection to the East for Methner and Hanisch each time. Could the interchangeability and similarity of the prefabricated buildings be an opportunity to rethink an East German idea of home and identity in a sustainable way? Could the Plattenbau be a gateway to the world in which it is possible to understand history as something common? After all, the slabs look similar, but each apartment has different and unique biographies associated with it. The symbolism of prefabricated buildings is also not universal. The view of them is shaped by various factors, such as the economic performance of the respective country, the respective narratives of governments, private actors, residents and architects, the location of the settlements and their external condition: Marzahn-Hellersdorf, once Europe’s largest prefabricated housing area, is located in Sarah Methner’s hometown of Berlin. Forty years ago, the dream of equality for all people was to be realized here with the help of socialist urban planning. Starting in 1977, 60,000 apartments were built here and gratefully accepted by East Berlin’s population. Since reunification, the image of the district has suffered. Marzahn still fails to attract high earners, cultural workers and academics. They prefer the old buildings in the center or single-family homes on the outskirts. Although the shape and construction of the buildings are similar, prefabricated buildings are perceived completely differently in cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong, where Max Hanisch lived for a long time. They are also not located on the outskirts like the Gorbitz and Prohlis districts in Max’s hometown of Dresden, but directly in the centers. The buildings fit into the narrative of the social rise of the Chinese population, which is characterized by a large migration movement from the countryside to the city. Compared to houses in the countryside, prefabricated buildings stand for better infrastructure and progress – as they once did in the GDR. Methner and Hanisch made a preparatory contribution to the theater work through their research trips and contact with theaters in various countries around the world. In their exchanges with interviewees, both were repeatedly amazed by a kind of productive irritation – whether they were talking to people from Moscow, Hong Kong or Basel: each time they heard familiar stories that were at the same time foreign to them. The prefabricated building became a crystallization point for world politics, family history and the everyday drama of living. The interviewees, in turn, were positively irritated when Methner and Hanisch told them what moved them about the subject.

A Cherry Orchard (AT) By Martin Valdés-Stauber

In Chekhov’s work, nothing happens, but everything happens. From the beginning, the end of The Cherry Orchard and the social decline of the protagonists seem inevitable. Ways out are dismissed. But what actually happens to the Ranevskaya family when the play ends? Director Prodromos Tsinikoris traces the fates of Liouba, Anja, Warja and Gajew and documents not only their loss, but above all where this social and biographical break leads the dearly loved characters. Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard provides a brief excerpt from their lives and paints them as figures already condemned. Who are these characters beyond Chekhov’s text? How does the life of the three women Lyuba, Varia, Anja develop from today’s point of view? What does the future of the cherry orchard look like? Will it be cut down to build vacation apartments? Will these serve as retreats during a pandemic or as places to take a breather for an exhausted (Central European) performance elite? Who spends the lockdown and how? Who owns the city? The discussion of Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard forces a discussion about property and capitalism. Greek artists:inside know all too well what it means to give up one’s cherry orchard: they all know the pressure on the housing market caused by large international investors, changing eviction laws, and private individuals who want to secure their place in the South. Good location, good weather, cheap prices. In order to afford rising rents, many people (in Athens, but also elsewhere in the European south) have to offer their apartments on Airbnb – and thus become price drivers and gentrifiers themselves. The current pandemic only suspends this development for a short time and replaces it with another, crisis-like situation. The normalization of the epidemiological situation will re-establish the state of emergency on the housing market and lead to forced evictions again. In keeping with the focus on “Stadt.Raum.Fluss.”, the new work by Prodromos Tsinikoris, in an interweaving of literary examination and documentary work, deals with the right to the city, the conditions on the labor market, and the fate of those affected.    


The thing about cultural appropriation, #1 – 2021

Why does a stupid saying hurt us, even though it’s just words? Why do best friends call each other “bitch” without offending each other? Because it is an unintentional or intentional indication that we belong to a group. Insults and vulgarities, as strange as they sound, help us identify with others and at the same time set ourselves apart. Entire societies and cultures are also structured through various forms of disparagement. Research on invective is dedicated to the different phenomena of public disparagement and slighting, e.g. in art and theater, in the legal system, on the internet or in TV shows. At TU Dresden, the Collaborative Research Center “Invectivity” addresses the topic of disparagement in social, political and cultural contexts in the digital age. The final conference after four years of research will take place at HELLERAU in combination with a performative artistic program. HELLERAU invites thematically appropriate artistic performances and installations by Joana Tischkau, Paul Plamper and Monster Truck. For the HELLERAU magazine Joana Tischkau, choreographer of “Playblack”, talks to the “singing cultural anthropologist” Julian Warner, about whom Der Spiegel wrote that his music could be the sound of decolonization. Together they play a quartet online that Joana developed especially for the Mini Playblack Show as part of her research and sent to Julian in the mail. Joana Tischkau (JT): I’ve already shuffled my cards. We’re splitting the cards now. So in our game there are less categories than in a normal quartet. We could think about something else, for example there is the category Race1, but we didn’t arrange them in a hierarchical way. There is no value system. Julian Warner (JW): Let’s go through some examples. Why does Mariah Carey have “Um” as a race? JT: We have a scene in the play about that. Mariah’s mother was white Irish and her father was black African American. She was often asked “What are you?” at the beginning of her career. And she always had to explain her story. People in the U.S. naturally wanted to categorize her – musically and ethnically. She was considered racially ambiguous and was often asked: Is she black2 or white3? Similarly with Rachel Dolezal4, who also has a card in the quartet. On “The Real,” she was asked, “Why do you want to be Black?” And she replies, “Well, I think that sometimes how you feel is more powerful than how you’re born.” JW: That’s the pop cultural promise, after all, that I don’t have to die or be seen as the person I came into the world as. I understand why in the U.S. you can’t just go and say “I can change my race like I can change my gender,” but basically I would want her to. Or do you think that’s naive? JT: No, I totally empathize with her narrative, for example, that she is also a mother and sister of Black children herself and had to take responsibility for them and position herself as a mother to the racism that existed in the country. Nevertheless, one can ask, why do you still have to put this performance on top of it and also put on the costume? Or rather, just put on the costume, but don’t claim to be black! JW: But what is the threat? Is it a threat that she says there is no such thing as being black? JT: Yes, of course. The slight for Black people is that all of these things that Rachel lists in her book as legitimizing what makes her a Black person are fiction or semi-fiction, a caricature of Blackness. Iat’s about hair. It’s about a certain kind of history of suffering. For example, she equates her story of suffering, of being raised by very Christian, strict parents, with Black people suffering through racism. Of course, her character makes it clear that Blackness doesn’t exist, but these “accessories” and the performance she uses are a reality for Black people who have a very emotional relationship to these things. That’s why there’s the debate about cultural appropriation. JW: So you’re saying appropriation is not the problem – go for it because it’s culture! But their claiming to have a Black identity is the dangerous thing, because it robs other people who are actually Black, or who can’t choose what they are, of resources. JT: Right, but how do you deal with the reality of people who can’t just break free of that, like she can? To date, it’s always been assumed that being black socially is not a bonus, not a cultural capital. Rachel Dolezal has shown that being black now has positive connotations that have to be acknowledged as a reality. JW: I would say that being black has probably always been associated with positive things. The history of ethnology, for example, is also the history of a philia for the foreign. JT: I want to come back to the bridging, to this gesture of empathy or universal humanity in some examples. This also relates to the debate about George Floyd. White Germany suddenly manages to bridge the gap after George Floyd was killed and this video was seen. JW: But how is the bridge being built? Black to black and white to white. Like racism is always just anti-black racism. JT: On the one hand, yes, you would say, thank you for finally waking up. And on the other hand, you’re depressed and shocked that it took that. And there you are again with the question, which images manage to create this kind of empathy and bridge-building and this kind of solidarity? Why didn’t all the arson attacks on refugee shelters in the 1990s or the anti-Semitic attacks manage to trigger such a wave of indignation, solidarity and empathy as George Floyd has managed to do now? JW: It seems like only the vulnerable Black body is able to accomplish this empathy and this invocation of universal humanity. Why don’t racist murders in shisha bars accomplish that? On the other hand, when I look at the Black Lives Matter protests, I think I’ve probably never seen so many politicized Black people in this country. JT: It’s almost a Black Awakening. Whereas I’m also afraid of this effect of hyper-identification with Blackness, that here identity politics is not really taken seriously by a lot of Black people and simplistically said: No, you are only allowed to talk about your pain, your experience, your discrimination and nothing else. This expectation that you also have to perform your identity – that’s also the criticism that was brought to me, with the question: Why do you do this? with the question: Why don’t you make art about your experience as a black woman in Germany? Germany? And in no way am I allowed to abstract that experience and say, ok, I’m doing this too, among many other things. JW: We run the risk of confusing the means and the ends of anti-racist reform. Saying we demand the right to represent ourselves creates voice in the discourse. But this essentialism is a strategy. I think art educator Nora Sternfeld is right when she says movements are always strong when they imagine a goal for all. Navigating this irresolvable tension between the particular and the universal is the task of our time5. Glossary

  1. Race refers to a social construct for the purpose of talking about the suffering and consequences of racism.
  2. Blackness/Blackness is a self-designation and is capitalized to indicate that it is a constructed pattern of attribution and not a “real characteristic” based on the color of one’s skin. Blackness describes a social position affected by racism.
  3. whiteness/whiteness Analogously, the political and social construction whiteness/whiteness describes the dominant and privileged position within the power relation of racism, which otherwise often remains unspoken and unnamed.
  4. Rachel Dolezal is a U.S. cultural scholar and civil rights activist who self-identified as African American, contrary to her actual heritage.
  5. Julian Warner (ed.) After Europe. Contributions to decolonial criticism. Verbrecher Verlag (Apr. 21, 2021).