Residencies at Ekeby. Reflecting Practices

How can you document artistic or academic practices? How can you talk about or keep records of working processes? And how can you communicate multilayered creative processes? At Ekeby we exactly try to do this! We talk about how we work. And we are very proud about all the different practices, ways of working and points of views which make us different. But what connects us? And what do we share together?

Live and work at Ekeby. Interviews with different actors. A documentation of our work.

IKER ARRUE (EUS) - Choreographer/Dancer

Being Alienated. Dancing in the Forest


M: Welcome Iker. Can you tell us more about you and your work?

I: My name is Iker Arrue. I am coming from the Basque Country. I am a choreographer and founded my own company in 2009. Still I am also collaborating with other choreographers, working as a dancer and also teaching quite a lot.

M. How would you describe your research here at Ekeby?

I: Recently, I applied for funding for a new creation which we will premiere next year in the Basque Country on September 30th, 2018. It is the beginning of my research which will be a collaboration with different companies. The original idea is to work in three different blocks. For each block one choreographer will be in charge. I will be in charge of the whole dramaturgy of the evening.The idea is not to create three independent pieces but to create a full evening piece.

Exile. And the notion of not getting rid of the past

M: And you have one connecting theme? Can you tell us more about the whole structure of the full evening piece?

I: Yes, the theme is exile. We would like to explore different ideas: What does it mean to leave your country for any reasons? What does it mean of not fitting in a particular group of people; society for instance. What are the reasons forcing one person to jump out of this group or societie? What are actually the rules you are supposed to follow? What are the consequences of following (or not following) these rules? Is there any punishment if you don’t obvey, and why? We would also like to explore the “impossible exile“: the idea of not being able to get rid of your past, of your thoughts, your history. We will also focus very much on the figure of Stefan Zweig.Discussing the work of the Austrian writer, I was very much interested in why and how he went away from Austria and Germany and the fact that he committed suicide, even-though he managed to get away from Europe and settle in Brazil during the Second World War.

M: Can you tell us a bit more about how you create movement?

I: When I am creating movement, I use very much images and objects. When I have read Stefan Zweig’s biography; it created many images in my head. I though, it would be interesting to put all those images together to create a piece. As a first research on this theme, I have worked with students of the Folkwang University of Arts in Essen with some ideas. Now I would like to develop all those first ideas further.

M: What can you say about the time working at Ekeby? Did you have a particular focus regarding your theme: on movement or just gathering other material?

I: I came with the idea of creating material. First, Ekeby is located in the middle of nature. So, I gave it a try and went to the forest to look for information to create… and I ended up dancing in the forest, which was a very interesting experience for me.

M: ..meaning dancing on your own in the forest!

I: Yes. As I mentioned before, I am usually working using images and objects when I am creating movement. Movement is like a language for me. Instead of talking you move to express something. Once I have the language, I transform this movements according to the ideas I am developing. I usually work - first creating a bunch of choreographic material - and then transform it. When I teach it to another dancers for example, we see what is not comfortable for them and we adapt it. What I liked here at Ekeby was very much the input that I had from nature: outside in the forest I was surrounded by mosquitos and I had very different reactions to the ones I would normally have or find in a studio. I also realized that in the forest, as we had rainy days, I totally avoided the contact with the floor. So I have ended up with a choreographic material which is… mainly standing, and actually it fits with this first idea of the set that we had, since there will be a clear limitation on using the floor.

An Interview by Marc Wagenbach

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(c) ??

Photo: Oliver Look

A new way of feeling


M: How did you approach your work at Ekeby?

T: We locked ourselves away in the fantastic “rehearsal room” and commenced with a tour de table – as Pascal refers to it – a round table. I had never worked like this before, but we actually sat down and read Samuel Beckett’s The Lost Ones (“Le Dépeupleur”) together. In other words, we read the book aloud, alternating paragraph by paragraph, which is not an easy task when it comes to Beckett. At times we had to read a particular passage twice in order to grasp its meaning. The strength of this approach was apparent in hindsight through the imagery conjured by the text. As we read, Pascal asked that we take careful note of the images evoked by Beckett’s writing. The aim of the exercise was to visualize the text as we read. Prior to this I had never developed work for the theater and this approach opened my eyes to a new and interesting way of feeling.

M: And how did you go about transforming this imagery into work?

T: I found the process rather unstructured to begin with. Our first improvisation exercise consisted of simply performing an action that had moved us or improvising to a passage that still lingered with us. I had taken copious notes during our reading – words, images, associations. And then Pascal just sent us into the room and watched what happened. I found this very difficult as I don’t feel comfortable improvising in any case. I much rather prefer to develop work on the basis of specific themes and questions. But Pascal had set up three neon lamps in an otherwise empty room, creating a very distinctive atmosphere. When I didn’t know where to go next in my improvisation, those lamps were the anchors that I could hold onto.

M: So effectively the lamp was another actor within the work?

T: Yes. It was in a way. A partner. We were quite insular to begin with. Isolated figures. This reflects the awkward nature of Beckett’s text, which is quite dark and somber. At first its complexity confounded me and I was uncertain whether the object of our explorations was a social phenomenon, a particular nuance, a mood, or the individuals described within the text. Pascal offered us his encouragement whenever he saw something that he liked. Then he would announce in a loud voice: “Yes, do that.” Or: “Go to him.”, “Stay where you are!” Those were our first steps. Then he asked us to each write down five sentences. He refers to this exercise as ‘automatic writing’. It didn’t matter what we wrote, he said. We were simply to write down whatever we happened to be thinking about. It was an exercise in acting on impulse and associative thinking – things that I have always struggled with. The more freedom I have, the more constrained I feel. Not setting myself any limits was a good exercise for me. There was no wrong or right in this exercise – it was all about setting aside your inhibitions. We learned to read and to listen. And to ask for an explanation when we didn’t understand something.

M: It sounds like a very intimate process.

T: Yes, it was. Perhaps all the more so because my background is in movement and the physical. To then suddenly find yourself grappling with words as the foundation for your work is like stepping into another world. But it’s a very interesting experience.

M: How did you go about translating this in a physical idiom?

T: The effects of Pascal’s reading and writing exercises immediately found expression in the physical. At times he steered developments through instructions such as: “A state in which you are confined.” Or, “A state in which you are propping yourself up.” Sometimes he would come to us with the book while we were working on the movements and say: “OK. Now try reading a passage while you do that. Or read something to the others while they perform.” He also worked with language – deconstructing the text and stripping the meaning out of the words. He asked us to treat words as sounds, for example. Or to focus solely on the vowels in order to lend the voice a particular nuance. This was all new territory for me. Language does play a role in dance theater, but not to the degree that you might suddenly find yourself dealing with language as sound, as music or as your partner.

Interview by Marc Wagenbach

Clémentine Deluy (FR/DE) - PERFORMER


How do you create a piece based on your own memories? How does movements change when you remember them? States of remembering. Transformations of the past. Clémentine Deluy talks about her work with Pascal Merighi. A residency at Ekeby

M: How did you work during your time here at Ekeby?

C: This week we actually tried to enter the world of each other. We started with the text of Le Dépeupleur from Samuel Beckett. Working with a written reference, was a very new process for me. It was the first time, I took a text as a starting point for a new production. In a way this was kind of safe. Because you have a reference, you can always go back to, when you feel the need to go back there. How we worked with the text was very specific. We understood the word “text“ more as a musicality - with feelings inside, dynamics, places to go, experience to explore. What we did, was something very new, very interesting for me. We learnt a movement phrase from Pascal. And the next day he said: "Just try to remember the phrase.“ Of course we remembered the phrase. It was not long ago. But he said: "No. Just try to put yourself in the state to remember.“ For me it was like: when you see a movement and it is blurry, you don’t have the sharpness. You have to bring the sharpness with your own movement inside. This awareness produced a completely new layer for me. And that was good. Because my head was busy with something. Because i had a frame of movement. A codification. But somehow, it was bringing a completely new approach of moving for me. I am used to create movement through feelings. But this was more about a “state“.

M: But did your movement also changed?

C: Of course. The movement changed completely. Because it became my own signature.

M: So basically it is a translation of movement.

C: Yes. But really of your own sensation. You took time to remember. Maybe how the feeling was? The breathing? And this was very new.

M: And what did you do with the new movement?

C: Because you have to show the new movement, you choreograph it. You fix it. That’s it. Then you are able to recall it. Pascal was talking about a particular "state" and then later to see what you might build on this. This approach was very interesting for me. Yes! It was new.

Interview by Marc Wagenbach


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Foto: Mitja Arzenšek

Everyone has a role to play


M: How did you approach the development of this work?

P: The first thing that I did was to assemble a hand-picked team. I knew precisely who I wanted to have on board and the expertise that I wanted to bring together. And I knew where I wanted to work in terms of the setting, the lighting and audience layout. I had a very clear idea of the set-up that I wanted. Only then did we begin to write and develop the work together. I felt that it was important to make the stage a part of the development process. We rehearsed and lived on the stage for three whole days. This experience of collectivity was an important part of the artistic process. We didn’t have any set rules as to when we would begin or finish our day’s work. In fact there was no schedule at all. We only took breaks in order to dine – the rest was work.

M: How did you select your subject matter and on which areas did you originally wish to focus? P: I knew at the outset that I wanted to work with themes such as desire and instinct.

M: Did the project have an over-arching thematic focus?

P: Yes. The city where we came together to produce the work: Wuppertal – its history and significance. It was important to me that all of those participating in this project were familiar with the location and so I sent them a copy of a TV program about Wuppertal. I wanted to ensure that everyone knew a little about Wuppertal’s history – both during the war and the post-war era – and its struggles. Wuppertal has always struggled... and it has risen from the ashes time and again.

M: Could you tell us a little more about the role of the various participants in the development of this work?

P: Each participant brings their experiences into the rehearsal process and the work is developed within this living context. And the participants bring a lot to the table – their enthusiasm, their energy and their passion for the work. And that is the reality that we share throughout the development process. It is the space within which we meet and begin our collaboration – that’s very important. I have no idea what people will bring with them in terms of their experiences. All I know is how it works. And that it works. The French director Joël Pommerat employs a similar approach. In his case, he begins the rehearsal and development process with the stage set and lighting. Then come the actors, and then he writes the work. The theme and mood of the work are also predetermined, but the actual work is created on location or, to be precise, through the location. It’s an approach that I like a lot. I enjoy grappling with reality – with a situation created by a specific time and location and the people on site.

M: What particular challenges do the participants face?

P: I assign multiple tasks to everyone involved in this process, not just the performers. There are dancers who work with their voices. Ivan, for example. He has a good voice for sounds. Roberto is an actor, but he is also a great rapper and it was only natural that he should work with his voice and with language. He also has an interesting physical presence and his talent for movement is well developed, so I thought that he and Ivan would work well together. And so now they improvise together on the stage as part of the work. I asked another participant, Florence, to write something. She is very good at structuring improvisation work. I told her that I would like her to explore on paper her fantasies about the other protagonists and to write about Ivan, Roberto, Thusnelda, Clémentine, and Volker. Whatever took her fancy. And then Roberto went and wrote a text as well, even though I hadn’t asked him. A brief excerpt from his text is included in the work. Our DJ – Volker – was originally brought in to attend to the music. But he had his own particular way of moving that caught my eye... This equitable approach to creating work facilitates a shift in our understanding of roles and areas of responsibility during the rehearsal and development process, allowing new connections to emerge in a state of constant cross-over.

M: How do you work? How would you define your approach?

P: I work instinctively. The composition of the team and the design of the production process are perhaps the most fundamental aspects to my approach. I consider myself a director/producer, rather than a director/choreographer. I’m not the guy who tells people what they should do. I want to create work that is informed by the ideas of my performers and crew. Of course I make suggestions – I tell people to “come over here” or to “keep doing that a bit longer” – my role is to shape the work as a whole after all. But everyone has their own role to play. As the director, my role is to infuse the work with my sensibilité or flavor. I try not to get too involved during the rehearsal process so that I can get a better feeling for what is happening on the stage. I have to identify what works for me. Observing the process at a remove allows me to see whether a particular element works on stage and whether everything fits together. What the situation subsequently reveals is no longer my responsibility.

M: Does your work seek to convey a particular message?

P: What director can claim to know what his or her audience is thinking? Each member of the audience approaches my work with his or her own personal history Expressing a particular message is not what matters to me.

M: What is it that connects us? What connects audiences with the work on stage?

P: Living as we do in the same society and the same period, we are automatically connected. This is especially so in Europe. As a result of this, everything that we bring to the story – as performers or viewers – makes a statement about everyday life and the society in which we live. Post-narrative theater breaks with the illusion that the spectator has to understand what a director is attempting to achieve. After all, the only history that we have in common is the reality that we share together within this space during the performance. I believe that the audience has a job to do. The audience is a part of the work and its production. That’s why I insist on creating work that reaches out to the audience and involves it in a discussion.

M: What are the rules of your “game”?

P: It is important to me that everyone does their job and fulfills their responsibilities. The rest is out of my hands. All I do is create the conditions for the work. The creative process itself is collective and highly collaborative. I want everyone to have a good time. I’m not a dictator, right? And the director is not God. He is just a part of the process – a process within which everyone has a role to play.

Interview by Marc Wagenbach


(c) Marc Wagenbach

Writing work


M: How did you work during your residency at Ekeby?

E: I worked on a concept for a new piece. It’s not quite finished and the structure of the individual scenes is yet to be finalized. At the moment I’m working on a monologue together with Jessica Sinapi. I’ve assigned her various texts for each specific scene, creating a context for her improvisation. I’m trying to identify the moment when the figure begins to embody what I consider to be the essence of my story. Once I have pinned that down, I will begin work on the theatrical production itself in a process that seeks to achieve a state of congruence between the concept I developed at my desk and the work developed in the rehearsal process. What we are doing now is laying the foundations of the work by finding the figure.

M: And this collaborative approach helps you to carve out the work that you want to create?

E: Exactly. I have a fairly clear idea of what I want to create. But what I need from the person on stage is the readiness, the will and the ability to provide as much feedback and inspiration as possible in order for me to realize the production as planned or to identify the necessary revisions. This input enables me to identify whether the focus of the work needs to be shifted within individual scenes. I need to see the artist on stage in order to work on the theatrical production. I need to feel their presence and to develop a feeling for the figure on stage during the rehearsal. That is what we are doing here at the moment.

M: Why do you actually make art?

E: Because I often feel uncomfortable with reality. And when I concern myself with the arts, I tend to feel more at one with myself. For me art is a way of reflecting upon an idea or a subject – whether it is incidental or the subject of ongoing interest – through a particular form. In my case, through theater and language. I approach art as a practice for the reflection of the world around me. I feel that art is very subjective – and that’s what I love about it. Art is free. I am fascinated by the fact that the freedom available to us in artistic practice is also its greatest limit. Art is a source of great frustration and passion, but rarely one of satisfaction... Except perhaps during its development. And in the moment when art sheds its personal context to conjure within my mind an interpretation that perhaps has nothing in common with the artist’s actual intentions. That moment when a new world is revealed – that is art.

M: What do you expect the future to bring? Who will you be in 2033?

E: I hope to be a contented and inquisitive woman in 2033. I would be delighted if I were to discover that the trees I have planted have since grown.

Interview by Marc Wagenbach

Our Mission

Dr. Marc Wagenbach

Listen. Develop a unique voice.

Less talk, more understanding.

Without fear.

Be bold and develop new formats in artistic practice and research.

Be now! Be ear!

Ekeby Art and Research B.V.
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The Netherlands

Executive Director Dr Marc Wagenbach

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