Witte de With Contemporary Art
Our Program—Performance Project
M
Performance Project
23 January – 16 March 2012

From Thursday 31 January until 16 March 2012 a selected group of ten young adults (aged between 19 and 26) have worked together on “Performance Project,” a peer-led project where they collectively experience and research the multiple dimensions of creating performance. Participants worked together on content, develop ideas and, most importantly, as peers they learn from each other’s ideas, knowledge and experience. The project was also interdisciplinary, combining music, literature and visual arts. All participants followed several workshops led by professionals, who guide them as they work towards making their own performance. The weekly workshops and brainstorm sessions have culminated in the staging of this performance, which was presented during the Rotterdam Museum Night (10 March 2012) alongside Angela Bulloch’s exhibition. The disciplines of music, literature and visual arts play an essential role in Angela Bulloch’s practice and in her exhibition SHORT BIG DRAMA, 21 januari – 9 April 2012 on view at Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art.

Two participants of the performance project, Merel van der Graaf and Lindy Kuit, have subsequently investigated peer education projects in the Netherlands and developed this into an article. From Witte de With, they were given the task of placing the performance project within a broader context and with the aim of informing future participants in peer education projects about its aims and scope. Download the article “Peer Education Within Cultural Institutions: Comparing Apples and ‘Peers’?

Weekly Updates
During the performance project, participant Lindy Kuit wrote a weekly update on its progress, while participant Michelle Elsen took pictures of the entire project.

Weekly updates

1. Monday 23 and Thursday 28 January 2012

This week, introductory meetings were held and extensive applicant interviews took place. Applicants were asked about their motivation to participate in the project, what they expected from a performance experience and the disciplines they operated within. The ten selected to participate in the project represent: Codarts, Rotterdam; the Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam; ArtEZ Institute of the Arts, Arnhem; the University of Amsterdam; the University of Utrecht and KASK School of Arts, Ghent. They all felt that this performance project could offer them the opportunity to learn more about performance and wanted to use this knowledge to create a unique final product within a collaborative group of students. The content and form of the Rotterdam Museum Night performance on the 10th of March is yet to be determined. But it is most likely that with such a variety of qualities and so much creativity in art, literature and music, these inquisitive young adults will present an intriguing event.

2. Thursday 31 January 2012

For the participants, this week is the official launch of their collective performance research. On Tuesday 31 January the first meeting between nine motivated, emerging performers took place. After an extensive introduction, spirited discussions began, and participants talked together about what performance means from the diverse positions of the visual artist, actor, musician and academic. The results of these discussions were transcribed, using a mind map for structured reference.

Following the fruitful brainstorm session, associate curator Amira Gad took the participants on a tour through Angela Bulloch’s solo exhibition SHORT BIG DRAMA. The performative character of the installation Vanishing Waiting Room (2008), where visitors are invited to see themselves disappear slowly in a bus shelter-like waiting room, formed an important step in the performers’ research. Other Bulloch works also inspired profound interest among the participants as the tour continued. For them, as interdisciplinary researchers, artworks like Disco: 18 and the Drawing Machine works represented the ultimate fusion of sound and image.

Overwhelmed and perhaps a little bit overloaded by their first meeting and the exhibition, the aspiring performers left Witte de With full of enthusiasm. At least they received enough food for thought. Next week their first workshop will be given by Rotterdam-based performance artist Nina Boas.

3. Monday 6 February 2012

Since the last update, the participants of the performance project have had their first workshop. During this workshop, with the guidance of performance artist Nina Boas, they had the opportunity to learn about the basics of performance art. After a brief introduction to her work, the ten enthusiastic students moved upstairs with Nina to the exhibition spaces to start the workshop. They began with an intensive warm up, and then the first improvisation sessions were set in motion. The students divided themselves into two groups and alternated individually between the role of the audience and the role of the performer. This activity raised crucial questions for the participants, such as: to what extent do performers want to involve the public in their performance? What are the concepts that play a crucial role in performance? How can sound and movement, for example, be combined to create an interesting performance work?
Eventually, the workshop resulted in a fifteen-minute performance, filmed by the team of The Third Tuesday, a monthly, live show about the ins and outs of culture in Rotterdam. Reviewing their performance, the participants regarded the workshop as very successful, and they look forward to their next workshop with the internationally celebrated composer George van Dam.

4. Wednesday 15 February 2012

Today the second workshop for the Performance Project participants took place. The internationally-renowned composer George van Dam traveled from Brussels to Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art to work with the ten eager students. During the first part of the workshop, George gave them extensive opportunity to ask questions. The questions posed were partly about the collaboration between him and Angela Bulloch, and students asked: In what form did the composer receive the instructions from the artist and how did he establish the final product, the music piece for Short, Big, Yellow Drawing Machine?

After lunch it was time for the more practical part of the workshop: making music together as a group. Musically inclined or not, each participant was given the opportunity and space to contribute. With the mural Seven Deadly Whims (2011) (from Bulloch’s Rules Series) as inspiration, the aspiring performers were asked to individually compose a music piece of a few seconds and to display this visually on a piece of paper. Their visualizations were collected, copied and finally performed in succession by the group. The whole music piece was recorded and later played.
With humor, but certainly surprised by their own abilities, the group, along with George, judged the final production of the day. They decided that this form of creating music could certainly be a potential strategy for their final Rotterdam Museum Night performance. Next week the third and last workshop will take place, with Rotterdam-based screenwriter Elfie Tromp.

5. Wednesday 22 February 2012

In the meantime, the last workshop took place. Under the cheerful leadership of screenwriter Elfie Tromp, the participants made the most of their writing talents. The Rotterdam-based writer had adapted her workshop program perfectly to the group’s collective research on performance.
Elfie began the workshop with a short theoretical introduction to the field of writing and theatre and the group discussed, among other things, the book New Performance/New Writing by John Freeman, Aristotle’s unity of action, place and time, and naturalistic theatre. The rest of the workshop was filled with numerous fifteen-minute writing assignments: from monologues and dialogues to fictional biographies of Angela Bulloch. The up-and-coming performers were listening and writing intensively but most significantly, each participant had fun in doing it. The workshop culminated on stage in the auditorium, where the participants recited their own pieces to each other.
The Performance Project participants wish to thank Nina Boas, George van Dam and Elfie Tromp for their instructive and inspiring workshops. For them, it’s time to stand on their own and give a final shape to their performance. The Rotterdam Museum Night approaches!

6. Wednesday 29 February and Friday 2 March 2012

Now the workshops are done, it’s time for the performers to give a solid and final shape to their performance. But there is a great deal yet to be done in the two weeks that remain and time is moving on.
Last week was the first week in which the performers were working independently, unaided by the workshop supervisors, on their performance. The participants came together two full days to ventilate and try different ideas and concepts. Wednesday was filled with animated discussions and moreover, the first step towards collecting clear-cut ideas was being made. A foundation was laid of the next meeting that would take place on Friday: the day that was planned to be the ‘cutting-the-knots’-day.

If many knots have been cut that day is questionable. However, the participants have suggested and tried as many ideas as possible. Halfway through the day they were also assisted by Witte de Withs curators Amira Gad and Hessel de Ronde, who took the time to listen to the ideas and concepts and provide them with feedback. The research is certainly in full swing and without doubt, the performers are going to deliver an exciting and interesting performance during Rotterdam Museum Night 2012. To be continued!

7. Saturday 10 March 2012

After six weeks of workshops, research and many rehearsals, the time had finally come: Rotterdam Museum Night 2012. On Saturday afternoon at 4 pm sharp, the participants gathered for their final preparations before the event that evening.
The first ´Do Not Touch´ performance took place at 8:30 pm. The performers marched in a row to the third floor wearing adhesive beards (after Bulloch’s assertion: “Conceptual artists usually had beards”), accompanied by their specially composed and catchy song titled Conceptual Art, booming from a ghetto blaster. During the second part of the performance, Silent Musicians, you could have heard a pin drop amongst the audience. The third part, a combination of projection and lecture performance, also aroused awe in the spectators.

The ´Do Not Touch´ performance was repeated three times. The last performance, at 10:30 pm, was the icing on the cake of the project. There was an extraordinarily large audience, the performers were playing their roles exceptionally well and the performance went completely as planned. When the participants returned to the library/dressing room of the Witte de With after this last performance the sense of release was great.

The participants will meet next week for the last time to evaluate the project and their performance, but a preliminary conclusion can be drawn for the Performance Project: mission accomplished!
The participants would like to thank all the staff of the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art for this unique opportunity and their trust. Special thanks go to Karin Schipper, without whom the Performance Project wouldn’t have taken place, and Hessel de Ronde, who stepped in at the last moment to replace Karin when she became unwell. It was a fantastic and very instructive experience that the participants will never forget.

8. Tuesday 13 March 2012

Now that the evaluation is over, the end of the Performance Project has, unfortunately, really arrived. Last Tuesday evening the ten participants and project leader Karin Schipper gathered together for the last time as the Performance Project. What did the participants learn from this experience? Were all their expectations fulfilled during Museum Night? How are the participants reflecting back on the event? These and a several other questions were answered by the performers individually, with detail and enthusiasm. It became immediately clear that they all felt they individually learnt from the project, but also from each other.

There was a big surprise when Karin handed out ten parcels: a gift of the book 20+ Years Witte de With for all the participants! Grateful and elated, they left Witte de With to have a few beers together at a local bar. Cheers to Karin and Witte de With for the success of the Performance Project!

Text: Lindy Kuit
English text edits: Marnie Slater
Photographs: Michelle Elsen