My encounters: Group Works #3

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The performance part of the festival program has ended. The body of the audience at Dansehallerne have been witnessing a lot of examples of what group work(s) in the black box can be and do, but not yet encountered a lot of articulated perspectives on what group work is as a working method/condition for artists. Addressing this aspect of the festival has mainly been happening in the media coverage of Works at Work. Today, Monday, the symposium will be a platform for reflecting on this topic, but somehow the two conceptual lines of the festival seem quite separated from each other. Maybe it is natural result of the fact that group work as a method for artists to create a sustainable professional working life together is a very different thing than group work as a collective process towards an aesthetic expression/performance. Since this is my first year attending the festival I don’t know if the link between the working conditions of the artists and the artistic works has been more obvious. When reading the posts of one of the former writer in residence it seems like the connection was most present in the first edition with its’ focus on solo works. The artistic director of the festival Cecilie Ullerup Schmidt has said that the concept of three festivals with separate focus on solo, duo and group works and the working conditions for artists has been the plan from the beginning. It makes me think about concepts and their relation to changing conditions.

In the following I will reflect on my encounters with the group works in the understanding of performance producing unites, but before I begin I have to express a wonder about where the light designer, the sound designer, the scenographer are in the idea of group works. Of course “Scripted reality” is a group of people with, as they said themselves, very different backgrounds (fine arts, philosophy, performing arts, music) and some of the other groups have also worked in the post-dramatic/post-modern landscape, but non of the curated examples of group works are groups that include other disciplines of stage art than the performer/dancer. I ask myself why.

During the festival I have been presented to the idea that when working in a group not only the practical sides of making a performance (sharing tasks, sweet talking technicians, not taking the rejection of an application personal etc.) becomes easier, but also that you dare more when you are not alone. This statement made me curious. Did I as an audience experience a daring in the group works when watching their aesthetic expression/performance? And what kinds of group works has the festival team chosen to include in their program?


To be continued

(My writing has the pace of a group work)

My encounters: Group Works #2

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Opening statement Collective Pace “RISK”

Tonight we enter a new phase.

The collective as a predefined project has drained us.
It has gone too far.
We have let our collective visions become contaminated.
Contaminated by our inherent desires to satisfy the structural mechanisms.
Contaminated by demands of art production.

Our art and wellbeing needs a structural economic detox.

These are not my words, but an excerpt of the opening act from the Danish collective RISK. As a framework both in regards to the collective movement RISK’s future and the focus points of this year’s festival the thoughts presented in opening statement touches upon a lot of the complexity of the structural “building” art works, art audience, art presenters and art supporting systems have to relate to these years. It is of no news that art workers both in the context of their non-employment, no-social-rights and no-social-security freelancing has become a wet dream for the neo-liberalistic working model. At Works At Work the search of new ways of organizing artistic practice and artistic work is concerning the “workers” in the field of art: the artists. It is a bottom-up “revolution” where the workers/artists change their working modes to set a good example for society and thereby change the system in a positive direction – no more gentrification and neo liberalistic wet dreams. Somehow it makes me think about the already existing structural landscape that surrounds the artistic modes of living. The structural piece-eater that demands to be feed like production houses,  venues, festivals, art councils, cv’s. How to change that? RISK is going to have a year of contemplation.

A year of not writing artist bios that make us look economically attractive.

A year of acknowledging that through our actions and productions, we have maintained the same structures that we are criticizing.

The opening statement of RISK and of the festival makes me look forward.

My encounters: Group Works #1

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Artist talk “Samlingen”

We are lying on the floor with our eyes closed at Forsøgsstationen in Copenhagen. A small group of people who are all interested in the work of the Swedish choreographic project “Samlingen”. I think the light is turned off because I think I heard footsteps and the characteristic sound of the light switch being pressed up. Or down. “Dance seems very wide like this” a female voice behind me says. I get a bit uncomfortable. She seems very close, but our bodies don’t touch. “Is there anything that is very present in the Copenhagen Dance Scene right now?” Somebody asks. I guess it’s a member from “Samlingen” since they are not from here. “Nakedness” a voice answers, and another voice adds “Skin”.  The conversation continues, but I drift off thinking about whether the setup of our verbal exchange allows other voices to be heard. If darkness somehow creates a freedom from the hierarchies in the room, a terminologi “Samlingen” used earlier in their talk, or just hides them. “How often do you have morning training?”. The question reaches my ears, and so does the answer to it “Every morning”. We are now talking about Danseatelieret – a Copenhagen based collective founded by graduate students from the dance education at the Danish National School of Performing Arts. “Wow! Every morning! From when to when?” “10-12” “How many are you?”. It suddenly strikes me that the conversation feels more like an interview with “Samlingen” as the rapporter and some of us as the informants, but I cannot see if it’s true what I’m feeling, and then I have to leave. On my way to my next appointment I keep thinking that I should have asked “Samlingen” about something. That it was my responsibility to challenge or break the hierarchy if there was any to be found. Maybe I could have asked them about the choice of using non factual truths/fiction when making the timeline in their project at “Stadsteatern” in Stockholm a year ago. What was the fictional facts they made up? How did they incorporate them? And why? In these Trump-atized times I think it could be interesting to talk about.

The conversation cited might have been different in reality or in other people’s mind.

Works at Work 2016

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At this time tomorrow the festival has started. Works at Work – Group Works. Third and last edition.

My name is Naja Lee Jensen, and I am this year’s Writer-in-Residence. Working mainly as a practitioner in fine art and performing arts I am looking forward to create a textual painting of our four days together. In my own artistic practice I consider myself as an “I”, but I am curious to meet the possibilities of the “WE”. For that reason my focus of attention will be wondering about what a “WE” can be or do – both when thinking about working methods, social landscapes and esthetic expressions – that the “I” can not be or do and Vice Versa.

If you as I are interested in we, I invite you to join this subjective exploration of us – the artists, the audience and the organizers of Works at Work 2016.