categories / Janna Pinsker

Afterthoughts: How do research question and artistic process go together?

Hello everyone. This is Janna. Unfortunately I could not be in Mannheim last weekend. But I was part of the team Het Veem Amsterdam visiting FFT Duesseldorf as a student from Giessen. And as a contribution to the discussion and a reflection of my time in Duesseldorf I want to share some thoughts I had about my time and about how the research questions influenced the artistic process.


What are we doing exactly?, I often thought before I left to Duesseldorf.  Mannheim, Tallinn, Groningen, Duesseldorf, Amsterdam, Warsaw. There was a flyer and a homepage with clear questions and words on it… but I still didn’t quite understand what the project was really about. In an art process I would not ask for clarity and a clear cut out pathway. You don’t start out and know, which process to follow. Maybe rather you have a question, sth. you want to explore and understand – which is also true for OTB. Nevertheless, it was somehow hard to accept the same openness for OTB. Weren’t there questions to be answered? Were’t there things that needed to be tackled? What exactly is an open research process? Does it mean you are free in your instruments so to say but stay on your questions  or can you really go wherever the experiment takes you? I think it was at first confusing to me to relate such concrete questions of a mixture of private and public interests of one theatre with an open artistic research.

The two weeks at Duesseldorf passed crazily fast. When I arrived, Sarah and Andrew had already been there for a week collecting film material from the carnival. My first impression of the little production room we were assigned during the time at FFT was a live moving mirrow: Sarah and Andrew discussing in the production room, their bright green and not to miss outfits hanging on chairs, the editing screen with hundreds of clips of two green walking “environmental activist burkas” or “outer space aliens” as some people called them. They tried to get a grip on the city: What was this city all about? How does  it respond to experimental formats in the performing arts and  how do the structures of politics, public interests and growing privatization act out in the realm of the city? And where do the arts come in there? Big stuff. On paper it seemed clear that FFT pursued formats and strategies that would facilitate a direct dialogue between politics and the arts. That to me seemed the “mission”.


So whereas in the first week it was filming and participating in the carnival as two figures that later on screen could disappear, the second week was packed with interviews with  local politicians and heads of museums and art schools. Duesseldorf is known for its high-end visual art scene, but what about the performing and more experimental art forms? I was participating as an observer, a blog writer, a transcriber, a film editor and a sound editor. The presentation at the end then was taking all the information into account the two artists had gathered and discovered in Duesseldorf. Sarah and Andrew were creating imaginary maps of Duesseldorf and connecting arguments and logics, personal experiences, body material  and linguistic signaling to explore their interactions within this city.


To me the most interesting question for the market regarding my time in Duesseldorf is how artistic process and research question could interact. In a way I feel that the artistic process and its material outcome (i.e. the performance) have to be thrown back once more onto the research question. Of course the question that the individual theatres posed have a concrete material reality that is reflected in the relationship between the theatre and the public. And these questions shouldn’t be loosened – there must be something at stake, something that reflects the embedment in a subjective environment and that which surrounds us. FFT is facing concrete challenges that are reflected in these questions.  But a research question to me is also always the attempt to capture a certain part of social reality. So maybe the artistic processes at OTB and the performances that were developed can also be once more returned to the research questions. What do the artistic processes and performances tell about the research questions? How can these questions maybe be altered without blurring the subjective challenges? How can one thus continue asking these questions, evolving them and being involved with them?

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