On June 19th, Anna Ádám will premiere her new dance performance UTOPIA/DYSTOPIA in A4, after a two week-long residency. During this residency, she did research to create the performance, partly by leading the UTOPIA/DYSTOPIA Summer Creative Training, a 7-day workshop. We had the chance to speak with her about her work, inspirations, and practices.
Minke ten Berge (MB): Could you introduce yourself and your new work?
Anna Ádám (AÁ): As a performance maker with a visual arts background, my practice blurs the boundaries between choreography, image and object, with the body and movement as central elements of expression. I also consider transmission and community building activities as part of my main artistic medium.
Through three dance solos performed simultaneously inside of an immersive environment, my new work, UTOPIA/DYSTOPIA, explores the psychological consequences of climate change on those people who will bear the worst consequences of processes they did not initiate, and over which they have little or no control: the youngest.
MB: You have an interdisciplinary approach combining drawings, videos, photo series, zines, performances… What attracts you to dance? Do you believe in ‘art for art’s sake’ or do you think contemporary art should have a ‘message’, whether moral, political, etc.?
AÁ: I am not particularly attracted to dance, I use it when I think this is the most coherent and pertinent form to question, defy, underline, express, challenge etc. what I am working on.
“Contemporary” is not something that has set rules, and yes, you can definitely contest those intellectual dinosaurs who would have you believe that there is a recipe for being a good contemporary artist and making good contemporary art.
Contemporary art whose works can only be received by the viewer through mediation, for example through descriptive texts, guided tours or art education sessions, is not for the general public, but for a privileged segment of society. What is missing is a radical reform of contemporary art, a more sincere, more generous, more accessible and more interesting contemporary art that is open to a wider public, rather than initiatives that seek to promote it and make it more widely accessible. My conviction is that this reform can only happen through the reinvention of art education.
AMB: You have significant teaching experience in art and performance education (Academy of Fine Arts Vienna (AT), Conservatory of Dance and Choreography (AM), University of Artois (FR), University of Novi Sad (SRB)…). What would the art school of tomorrow look like for you?
AÁ: For a school of tomorrow, I want to create an environment that is above all joyful and positive, where students are accepted, respected, challenged, where beyond constructive criticism they receive encouragement. Where students are neither put in boxes, neither criticized, nor judged. Where students can express themselves openly, courageously and simply. Where they are taught autonomy and independence without being abandoned, where they are accompanied and supported in their projects and in their dreams. Where students not only have the right to go against canons, traditions, conventions and norms, but where they are encouraged to do so. Where other forms of knowledge than theoretical are also considered and taught. Emotions, intuitions, feelings, sentiments. Personal stories, life experiences. In the school of tomorrow teachers do not tell students what to think, what to believe in, but open doors for them and offer them a multitude of possibilities, knowledge, ways of doing and ways of seeing things. Teachers do not take advantage of the young age and the extreme sensitivity of the students to influence them, to transmit their personal convictions and struggles. Rather they teach them critical thinking, doubt and skepticism. Open-mindedness, curiosity, empathy. Authenticity, sincerity, tolerance. This school would then be human, warm, positive, encouraging and generous. This school is going to raise students, teach them to trust in themselves, believe in themselves, be themselves. This school will make students become beautiful people. This school’s name is “School of Disobedience“.
MB: On the intersection of creation, research, education and activism, “School of Disobedience” is an interdisciplinary, socially and politically engaged sustainable community art project, dreamed by you and co-developed with the company Gray Box. What is the school’s main message to students?
AÁ: Stop wanting to prove yourself, stop wanting to be validated! Stop being manipulated by the market, stop creating for open calls, stop adapting your art, stop responding to trends! Dare to be you: defy self-doubt, fearlessly follow your own path and be confidently yourself!
MB: Is there an artist/person (or more) that inspired you to work in the field of arts and dance in particular?
AÁ: Overproduction and overconsumption are as common in our profession as in any other market: there is too much new work being made, not enough venues, the audience is fragmented, the attention is scattered.
How can the intensive production that characterises the performing arts sector be rethought? Is there such a thing as “sustainable art”, or what makes a project sustainable? What should be done to make the performing arts conscious and responsible, and who should play a role in bringing about change? What new strategies would be needed to redress the distorted relationship between supply and demand that also characterises the performing arts sector, and what changes are needed to find a “market balance”?
Those who inspire me the most are people, collectives, projects and initiatives working on the development of a more socially responsive and solidarity-based cultural economy. Projects which support spaces outside the institutional system, grassroots initiatives which try to find new forms of interaction between audiences and artists, people and organizations who think and work on alternative, experimental solutions of restructuring the system in its entirety. Check FREIRAUM – TANZPAKT (co-working space for the arts) or the non-profit OFF Biennale Budapest.
MB: What is your preferred way of working on a project?
AÁ: The two key components of my working method would be horizontality and experimentation.
Regarding horizontality, I do my best to create non-hierarchical, safe, judgement-free working conditions, in which every team-member can express themselves honestly, freely and openly, while receiving reciprocal support, knowledge and tools to build and strengthen collectively the project.
So far as experimentation, I love risks, going beyond my limits, pushing myself out of my comfort zone, taking the path of the non-conform, the “other”, the unusual, the risky, the unfamiliar, the uncanny…
MB: Could you elaborate on what you mean by “experimental working method” in art?
AÁ: An experimental working method is when you start something but you have no idea what it will turn into. You’re also using tools you’re not used to using. You try things that you have no control over at all, because you either have no routine in the medium or you don’t know how it’s going to turn out, what it’s going to be. The experimental work process is risky, you’re not looking for what looks good, what’s beautiful, what’s effective, you’re not reproducing what you know, what’s tried and tested, you’re paddling into unknown waters. Risk, a sense of loss, lots of failures, but wonder, realisation, adrenaline, a series of surprises, that’s the experimental workflow!
MB: How did you start working on the performance UTOPIA/DYSTOPIA and how does the process of developing the idea work?
AÁ: At the first step, I worked with my three dancers one by one in the frame of artist-in-residences (ARTU in France, Mediterranean Dance Center in Croatia, ZFinMalta in Valletta…) to develop the three solos separately. At A4 I will work on the final step of the creation in which I will fix the global dramaturgy of the performance, create the articulation between the three solos in terms of space and time.
Coming from the visual arts, I practiced the technique of collage for years. Today, as a performance maker I still use this technique, except that I am creating compositions not on paper but in space. The three solos can both be considered as three single performances, but put together, they compose one. During this last phase of the creation, I will make from the three solos one performance, I arrange them in space and time as if they were ‘cut-outs’, I reconsider them as fragments of a whole, part of a coherent composition both in terms of concept and aesthetic.
The Summer Creative Training will happen on 7-13 June. You can find more information about it here.
The premiere of the performance UTOPIA/DYSTOPIA will be on 19 June. On 20 June, there will be a reprise. For more info and pre-sale click here.