BER-AMS-BXL – An investigative conference
In the frame of the project activity Performance Situation Room, Het Veem Theater is inviting you to join
BER-AMS-BXL – An investigative conference on the conditions and responsibilities for flourishing artistic biotopes in the city
Thu 05, Fri 06 and Sat 07 September / Het Veem Theater and Flemish Arts Centre De Brakke Grond
In the framework of the project activity Performance Situation Room, Het Veem Theater presented the conference BER-AMS-BXL, in Amsterdam from 5-7 September 2013. With the conferecen we created an environment where urgent issues concrening artistic biotopes as Berlin, Amsterdam and Brussel, could be detected, discussed and reformulated.
BER-AMS-BXL was conceived and curated by Marijke Hoogenboom, Bojana Mladenović, Piet Menu and Tom Rummens, in a collaboration and co-production between three Amsterdam-based organizations: Het Veem Theater, Flemish Arts Centre De Brakke Grond and the Theatre and Dance research group at de Theaterschool, Amsterdam.
In BER-AMS-BXL we gathered to think together and learn from each other about current structures, urgent concerns and effective strategies to understand, problematise and influence the environment for healthy, inspiring and buzzing artistic biotopes in the city – particularly in relation to the small-scale investigative contemporary performing arts scene. The list of invitees consisted of artists, politicians, (heads of) schools, activists, and philosophers.
The model for investigating was borrowed and inspired by Pascal Gielen’s essay “Artistic praxis” art education in the neoliberal condition. To structure the conference we used four domains as described by Pascal Gielen in his text 'Artistic Praxis': the domestic domain, community (peer) space, the market and civil space.
Domestic Space Third year SNDO (School for New Dance Development) at de Theaterschool Amsterdam hosted the first day that was dedicated to Domestic Space. The domestic domain is where artists design their own environment and are in charge of their interests and discourses. The relevancy of housing and it’s problematics in Amsterdam was made physical sensible by the format of inviting the audience into several containers the students live in, in a harbor close to HVT. After an afternoon spent in those small living spaces, one would be literally out of breath by the conditions students are left in.
Directors of the performance schools from the three cities: Jan Zoet – Theaterschool Amsterdam, Nik Haffner – Inter-University Centre for Dance Berlin (HZT) and Theo Van Rompay – P.A.R.T.S went into discussion with the students. Asked what the role of schools can be to demand from the city better housing and learning situation for their students, the Dutch director took distance from the responsibility of such a demand, of more financial support or finding audience; the students themselves were invited to take more action.
Artistic domain The second day started with laying out the idea of the artistic biotope, with the keynote lecture ‘Creating Art in a Flat Wet World’ by Dr Pascal Gielen, and reactions by Michiel van Iersel (NL), Florian Wuest (DE) en Leen de Spiegelaere (BE) , that contributed to our core concern: How do these domains interact? Again the reality check came from Amsterdam, that as van Iersel did put it rapidly losing it’s position as the city ‘where the vanguard feels at home’, as a place with ever raising rents, and no time, money and space for young artists to develop in a protected and stimulation environment.
Peerspace. In the afternoon the conference set was completely changed to a format for peerspace or community space; a group of 21 artist were seated in a circle with the audience around, and the space in their middle was used for a dialogue across disciplines and environments. The focus lay on voicing artistic and other concerns, and exchanging strategies for overcoming eroded conditions for creating work and reaching audiences. In the round that was moderated by Ann Demeester participated; Stichting Nieuwe Helden, Sarah van Lamsweerde, Jette Schneider, Andrea Božić, Julia Willms, Diego Gil, SPIN, John the Houseband, Siegmar Zacharias, Edit Kaldor, Alice Chauchat and Art of Lawlessness. Having this ‘multitude’ of voices was an interesting experiment. It made visible that as facilitators we can not treat all artist in the same way or tackle issues in a generic way; it also showed again that artistic field doesn’t function as a ‘we’ or a collective. One of the biggest issues in trying to form an opposition against attacks on art. Nevertheless the most urgent issues eventually came to surface; standard underpayment of artists, scattered processes, and the neglectance of flowering mid-careers of artists by programmers and funds that stare blind on the young and emerging. (just to name a few).
For the programme of the last day we all moved to theatre De Brakke Grond, where the to last domains were tackled; Market Space and Public Space.
On the Market Space strong women from the field gathered: Delphine Hesters (researcher at VTI), Charlotte Vandevyver (Workspacebrussels) and Barbara Raes (De Vooruit Gent) from Belgium and Aenne Quiñones (dramaturge Hebbel am Ufer) and Claudia Feest (Dachverband Tanz) from Germany. The dialogue, moderated by Bojana Mladenović, investigated the relationship between producing and presenting art, on the one hand, and the underlying and necessary economies, on the other. For artist the most attractive place for a fruitful artistic environment is, as this round made clear, by far Belgium. Although Berlin has the tasty artistic flavour and attractiveness that causes the extreme growth of artists basing there, there is very little money for the ‘free scene’ that remains overshadowed by the big city theatres that are heavily subsidised. In Belgium then the only scene is the ‘free scene’, subsidies are still available and the young, avant-garde, emerging artist finds is way by growing up in workspaces and residencies– like Workspacebrussels and WPzimmer. An environment that Amsterdam lost only a few years ago.
Civic space As the public space has become increasingly threatened under the reign of neo-liberal capitalism, public institutions and independent media take a more and more marginalized position being limited in their critical power. We exercised our awareness of the present situation and searched for alternatives – offline and online. Mark Fisher (GB), Lonneke van der Velden (NL) and Ana Vujanović (RS/DE) contributed to this part of the conference by each giving a lecture that related to the subject but all form their own field of research. Mark Fisher, elaborated on his so called ‘non-time’ of our time; not only do we sell our time, and have no time, also our time is not particular for anything, he stated. Lonneke van der Velden, showed us the online space to the freedom of alternative social network formats, that give independency but needs the investment of time to learn dealing with it’s techniques (-which are the weapons that more and more people will learn to use?)
Performances Performances were presented every evening. Students of the SNDO in Amsterdam have been coming to Berlin to show their bachelor graduate work for years. This year for the first time this exchange was reciprocated in a public context: HZT students came to Amsterdam to be a part of the BER-AMS-BXL programme, and performed during the day and evening of the first day. John The Houseband, a project born in the Amsterdam Theaterschool from a group of dancers and choreographers from Sweden, Iceland, Belgium, Spain and Germany, shared their new sounds with us on day 2 of the conference, by premiering a lot of their new songs that rocked the house. Closing of the last evening was Adva Zakai with ‘Regarding Yesterday’. The performance is not one but a series of shows in which today’s audience influences what tomorrow’s audience will see. With the audience in Amsterdam we determined what a public in Beijing will experience coming autumn.
Setting Agenda With BER-AMS-BXL we brought together the international alliance of venues, production platforms, artists and theatre schools, that formed an average audience of 160, visiting the programme, and evening performances during the three days. Goal was detecting what in the current sea of political, economic, identity and public issues that the artistic field is dealing with, are the most urgent ones to tackle. After three days we can set an agenda where at least the following topics are on high priority: dealing with structural underpayment of artists / making politics/economics of house/school/institution more transparent, getting more attention to strong developing mid-careers (and not drop artists after they are not young/emerging anymore) and create more domestic space; base-camp – for artistic practice to flourish.
September 5 (Het Veem Theater)
10:00 – 17:00 Domestic Space: At Home in the City?
The domestic domain is where artists design their own environment and are in charge of their interests and discourses. The participating students are invited to consider this day their ‘home’ and take responsibility for the way they want us to spend time together, for the way they want us to meet, and the issues they would like to address. Curated and hosted by third-year students at the SNDO (School for New Dance Development) at de Theaterschool, Amsterdam.
19:00 – 21:00 Performances by students from the Inter-University Center for Dance Berlin (HZT).
20:30 Sonic Soirée (at de Brakke Grond)
September 6 (Het Veem Theater)
10:00 – 13:30 Artistic Biotope
In the keynote lecture Dr Pascal Gielen will introduce his thoughts on the four domains that influence artistic practice. Followed by responses that contribute to our core concern: How do these domains interact? What are the requirements for a productive biotope for artists in the city? What are the current challenges? We will ‘unpack’ Amsterdam, Brussels and Berlin and present specific positions – with concrete practices and visions – while also speaking from a place of responsibility for engagement with the local situation.
14:30 – 17:30 Peer Space: The Collective Unknown
The community space is a reflexive and discursive environment for interaction among peers. This session will be curated in collaboration with a diverse group of artists and artist’s initiatives. The focus will be on voicing artistic and other concerns, and exchanging strategies for overcoming eroded conditions for creating work and reaching audiences. This is the space for curiosity, tips, agreements and disagreements, and dialogue across disciplines and environments.
20:30 Concert performance by John the Houseband
September 7 (de Brakke Grond)
10:00 – 13:00 Market Space: Rich Discourse on a Tight Budget
The market space investigates the relationship between producing and presenting art, on the one hand, and the underlying and necessary economies, on the other. Female leaders who direct networks, centres and programmes across Europe will engage in conversation with each other and examine the forces that influence artist’s careers, formalized infrastructures and the growing demand for creative entrepreneurship. What choices have to be made?
14:00 – 16:30 Civic Space: Impossible Conditions; Possible Public
Civic space has become increasingly threatened under the reign of neo-liberal capitalism. Public institutions and independent media take a more and more marginalized position, and economic standards and strict policies limit their critical power. Rather than embarking on yet another justification of the importance of arts and education, we will engage with what we do as cultural workers. We will exercise our awareness of the present situation and search for alternatives – offline and online. Is the paradigm shift caused by the rise of the Internet and social media playing a crucial role in addressing new possible publics?
16:30 – 17:00 Pascal Gielen: conclusions, reactions and further thoughts
20:30 Performance Regarding Yesterday by Adva Zakai
BER-AMS-BXL is a collaboration and co-production between three Amsterdam-based organizations: Het Veem Theater, Flemish Arts Centre De Brakke Grond and the Theatre and Dance research group at de Theaterschool, Amsterdam. Supported by Goethe Institut, HZT Berlin, Amsterdam’s School for New Dance Development (SNDO) and Amsterdam Master of Choreography (AMCh). BER-AMS-BXL events - The Performance Situation Room and Critical Practice - at Het Veem Theater are part of the Life Long Burning (LLB) project, supported by the Culture Programme of the European Union. This conference is supported by the AFK (Amsterdam Fund for the Arts) and promoted by the Nederlands Theater Festival 2013.
Conceived and curated by Marijke Hoogenboom, Bojana Mladenović, Piet Menu and Tom Rummens. Grateful thanks to Gabriël Smeets, Jeroen Fabius, Barbara van Lindt and Loes van der Pligt. Special thanks to Ania Harre.
05.09.13 - 07.09.13
Amsterdam / The Netherlands