How Do We Work It - Performance Situation Room Berlin June 2014
Uferstudios Berlin organised and hosted this Think Tank event from June 27 – 29, 2014 in the Alte Kantine Berlin. 20 invited choreographers from 11 different countries were informed about the design thinking method as a tool to analyse and compare artistic working methods. The wish to share working methods and develop better working conditions continued after the first workshop with monthly meetings and activities like establishing a “shared office” for writing applications together and a “reading group” to enlighten the work with theoretical input. The session was conceptualized by Daniel Almgren Récen, Barbara Friedrich and Jörg Koslowsky and moderated by Design Thinking Methodology.
Juli Reinartz (Choreographer), Rosalind Goldberg (Choreographer), Sonja Augart (Choreographer, Curator), Aline Landreau (Choreographer), Kai Simon Stoeger (Choreographer), Miriam Jakob (Choreographer), Jeremy Wade (Choreographer), Zeina Hanna (Choreographer), Clement Layes (Choreographer), Veronika Boekelmann (Choreographer, Researcher), Anne-Mareike Hess (Dancer and Choreographer), Carlos Oliveira (Choreographer, Researcher), Lisa Milloy (Dancer, Teacher), Ivo Manuel Serra (Choreographer), Dragana Bulut (Choreographer), Camilla Milena Feher (Choreographer), Flavio Ribeiro (Filmer, Choreographer, Writer, Translator), Inge Koks (Creative Producer), Marie Schmieder (Researcher), Daniel AlmgrenRécen (Choreographer, Researcher), Lukas Licht (Expert Design Thinking method), Jörg Koslowsky (Expert Design Thinking method), Lea Martini (Choreographer), Barbara Friedrich (General Manager Uferstudios)
The session aimed for exchange on production strategies of individual artists, by using the provocative question: What is the ideal production strategy? Realizing fully there is no such thing within the performance arts, the idea behind such a challenging question was to go beyond the existing modes of production and avoiding sticking too much to the reality of our times and the conditions we come to know. Design Thinking is a methodology born in the realm of the corporate design industry and has had positioned itself as successful method in boosting creativity and innovation in product design. They developed a process based on defined time slots, team diversity, and the phasing of the process in several parts, such as research, feedback, testing etc.
Evaluation How do we work it?
The first part of the work session was intended for an introduction of the Design Thinking Method and getting to know each other. The Friday evening however turned out into a big clash in thinking. In response to the presentation of the Design Thinking practitioners, the participating artists ventilated a strong outcry not willing to adapt to the conditions and terminology of the methodology. They perceived it as neoliberal and too product orientated, issues they try to undermine in their own work. What followed was a night of long and heated debate. Interesting issues coming out of this evening:
Conflict might be something we shy away from. For this event it was highly productive. Immediately our discussion was at the root of things, highlighting also our different strategies – which was the theme of the session! The following days people reflected on their own emotional responses and were able to use this realization for their conduct and reactions. It helped in having more patience in following discussions and using more the technique of question and referring to own opinions instead of aggressively trying to explain one’s one stand. Interesting idea, brought in by Kate McIntosh: how can we design conflict in our discussions and in our ways of working, without them being counterproductive?
The following Saturday it was democratically decided we continue with the Design Thinking Methodology.
It started with two groups in which each of the members would answer three questions:
- What is important in your work?
- Is there a common language?
- What do you want to get out of this session?
During the talks we could write important key words on a big, shared paper, which would later be presented to and shared with the other group. The good thing about this strategy is that everybody is involved and has to do say something. Length: 45 – 60 minutes
- Crisis of production (conditions, project-based, no security etc)
- Felt need to relate and feeling isolated (community)
- Redefining relation to institutions (hiërarchical relation now)
- Connecting with other people not necessarily seen as new audiences (avoiding art bubble)
All topics were collected, some put together and place on the wall:
1. How to keep working
2. Crisis of production & beliefs
3. How do we support each other?
4. Project temporality/crisis of meaning
6. How do we work collaboratively?
7. Where to live?
9. Out of the bubble
These were reshuffled and we created bigger `containers’:
1. How to keep working in the current system
2. Coping and resisting: how to produce alternative values and structures
3. Where to live?
4. Supportive community?
We continued working in two groups and used the interview technique. All groups split up in pairs of two and they interviewed each other in relation to the topic they chose for. The main questions should be orientated towards the needs of the other one, using mostly open questions. After these sessions, each one should explain to the group they started with each others needs, positions, values and ideas. This representation of the other is implemented to show how different people can understand your ideas. It is not about right of wrong, but about what you understand and how can come closer to a shared understanding. Each interview was about 20 minutes. The format of interviewing allows to dive quickly into a subject. The duration of 20 minutes prevents a too detailed conversation, but challenges to exchange quickly on the most important parts of somebodies ideas. In the group session also the big sheet of paper is again on the table, for each to write the important topics down.
The following Sunday started with a group discussion and evaluation of the day before. Everybody was very positive of this opportunity to sit together and share experiences, knowledge, worries and information. There was also shared agreement on the interesting topics already addressed and the big need to continue.
The next phase dealt with a certain way of describing the two main topics we discussed yesterday by adding adjectives. In this way we progressed from the general to a more layered and diversified content. The two main topics were: supportive community and a new institution. The adjectives could be written on yellow post-it notes to add to the sheet of paper already produced yesterday. This phase ended with a presentation of the ideas to the other group.
With supportive community topics about production support, financial support came up, but also exchange on artistic views. They discussed initiatives of collectives abroad. With the new institution topic, there was discussion on the fictional institution, the transformation of present institutions and the need to speak out as a group to show what we want from them.
After lunch and an introduction of future plans of Uferstudios in Life Long Burning, the working session continued with a warm-up. The remainder of the day was then used for thinking how to proceed. All members felt it very necessary to continue talking and thinking and getting more concrete. They split up again in two groups to find more concrete threads to work on.
- Coming together every first weekend of the month to discuss and share
- Reading Group (Start: reading The Field of Cultural Production by Pierre Bourdieu
- A shared office to write applications in an atmosphere of togetherness while competing
- A radio as instrument to keep artists not in Berlin informed about our ideas (to be developed)
26.06.14 - 29.06.14
Uferstudios Berlin / Germany