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Art occupies its own niche in the world.

But art is capable of so much more. Art is the language of emotion, and emotion is essential in every person, in every situation.

Art must also do so much more. Art is communication without words. With words alone, people only half understand one another. Composer and theatre maker Merlijn Twaalfhoven creates his work at the heart of the world. He is not alone. More and more artists are realising that a concert hall, theatre or gallery is not always the best place to allow their audience to experience something unique. When exhibiting their work in unusual locations or working with non-professional participants, they are regularly confronted with unanticipated dilemmas and problems that can sometimes prove problematic, but that are also the source of a great deal of inspiration and adventure. This book is a collection of the personal experiences of Merlijn Twaalfhoven and others. It is neither a method nor an instruction, but a gentle prod (or digging in of the heels) for creators and appreciators of art. Practical food for discussion for anyone who feels that art is more than entertainment for serious people.

merlijn twaalfhoven • art in the world

It can be found in majestic buildings, has its own special page in the newspaper and hangs on the walls of people who have good taste. In this way, the role of art in the world has been neatly defined. Art can be beautiful, moving and even shocking, but within clear boundaries. Artists often feel at home within this definition. They ‘do their thing’ and as an audience we are free to choose from a wide range of options.

MERLIJN TWAALFHOVEN

ART

IN T HE

WORLD


MERLIJN TWAALFHOVEN ART IN THE WORLD

INTRODUCTION This book is inspired by unforgettable experiences in factories, on ships, on the beach, at the top of a church tower and amongst football fans. By unique encounters with dockworkers, bus drivers, UN soldiers, prison inmates and gypsy children.

People look at an oil painting and admire the use of brushstrokes to convey meaning. People look at a graffiti painting and admire the use of a drainpipe to gain access. Banksy

This book is also inspired by pain. Pain at the thought that so much talent and hard work by artists often has so little impact. Pain on witnessing so much inspiration and refined emotion being held captive between the white walls of a gallery or the black curtains of the theatre. Pain on seeing wonderful discoveries and brilliant observations fizzle out due to the apathy of a sated audience who, on watching the curtain fall, return to their daily lives. And all this while it is genuinely not difficult to break out of your box as an artist and step into the world!

3


MERLIJN TWAALFHOVEN ART IN THE WORLD

INTRODUCTION This book is inspired by unforgettable experiences in factories, on ships, on the beach, at the top of a church tower and amongst football fans. By unique encounters with dockworkers, bus drivers, UN soldiers, prison inmates and gypsy children.

People look at an oil painting and admire the use of brushstrokes to convey meaning. People look at a graffiti painting and admire the use of a drainpipe to gain access. Banksy

This book is also inspired by pain. Pain at the thought that so much talent and hard work by artists often has so little impact. Pain on witnessing so much inspiration and refined emotion being held captive between the white walls of a gallery or the black curtains of the theatre. Pain on seeing wonderful discoveries and brilliant observations fizzle out due to the apathy of a sated audience who, on watching the curtain fall, return to their daily lives. And all this while it is genuinely not difficult to break out of your box as an artist and step into the world!

3


CONTENTS

Art . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 In the world Where and why are you going to create something? . . . . . . 32 Presenting your idea to authorities and funds. . . . . . . . . . . 34 Presenting your idea to potential participants. . . . . . . . . . . 35 Building up a network . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 Your team . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 Working with inexperienced participants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42

4

Rehearsals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 The organisation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 The performance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55 Afterwards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59 Finally . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61

5


CONTENTS

Art . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 In the world Where and why are you going to create something? . . . . . . 32 Presenting your idea to authorities and funds. . . . . . . . . . . 34 Presenting your idea to potential participants. . . . . . . . . . . 35 Building up a network . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 Your team . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41

4

Working with inexperienced participants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 Rehearsals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 The organisation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 The performance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55 Afterwards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59 Finally . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61

5


6

7

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam


6

7

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam


art

I want to understand what made the artist decide to create his work; I want to experience his inspiration – to get to know him. I often experience something that is already familiar to me (and that I enjoy in itself), namely a work of art. The origins of that work remain a mystery to me.

I often hear artists say: ‘I just do my thing – people are free to think what they want about it.’

That sounds innocent enough. But in truth it is a tragic admission of weakness. Does the creator perhaps see his work as a product that his audience can figure out? By doing so is he not failing to acknowledge the very thing that makes art special: mutual communication?

Works of art are things. A painting sits in a frame, a sculpture on a plinth. The conductor waves his hands and the music begins; at a specific point a dance performance or novel is over and finished.

8

An artist often limits himself to his ‘thing’. He therefore settles for a defined area on a stage or within another frame, creates his work there and presents it as his work of art, his artistic property. As a spectator I can then observe. I am free to think whatever I want about the work of art, to feel whatever I want to feel. If I open my mind, I can enter a world of imagination, memories and symbolism. I can discover the multiple layers of daily reality and by doing so give my life depth.

This sounds wonderful, but an artist’s inspiration often completely evades me. I see a work of art - OK. But the genuine amazement and fascination that inspired the work end up in a non-committal situation in which I am often not at all amazed or fascinated, but where I think my own thoughts.

But I don’t want to think my own thoughts! That’s not why I came to a concert, theatre or museum.

I want to feel something different!

An artist who has no interest in what his audience thinks or feels is a coward. After all, the audience is inclined to stay within a defined area. This means that in many cases, experiencing a work of art is not at all an artistic experience, but a repetition of something that is familiar, a confirmation of something that already exists and not the discovery of something new. When I see or experience a work of art, I often think about a wide range of things. Whether it is well produced, whether it is innovative or original. That is all well and good, but also limited. Am I truly opening my mind? In this situation am I not primarily listening to my own thoughts, I am not merely seeking confirmation of my own beliefs? Am I not simply living in my own little world?

Many artists only allow their work to have a limited impact. Have they simply become accustomed to having only a small audience? Is it shyness or are they perhaps not aware of the power of their profession?

9


art

I want to understand what made the artist decide to create his work; I want to experience his inspiration – to get to know him. I often experience something that is already familiar to me (and that I enjoy in itself), namely a work of art. The origins of that work remain a mystery to me.

I often hear artists say: ‘I just do my thing – people are free to think what they want about it.’

That sounds innocent enough. But in truth it is a tragic admission of weakness. Does the creator perhaps see his work as a product that his audience can figure out? By doing so is he not failing to acknowledge the very thing that makes art special: mutual communication?

Works of art are things. A painting sits in a frame, a sculpture on a plinth. The conductor waves his hands and the music begins; at a specific point a dance performance or novel is over and finished.

8

An artist often limits himself to his ‘thing’. He therefore settles for a defined area on a stage or within another frame, creates his work there and presents it as his work of art, his artistic property. As a spectator I can then observe. I am free to think whatever I want about the work of art, to feel whatever I want to feel. If I open my mind, I can enter a world of imagination, memories and symbolism. I can discover the multiple layers of daily reality and by doing so give my life depth.

This sounds wonderful, but an artist’s inspiration often completely evades me. I see a work of art - OK. But the genuine amazement and fascination that inspired the work end up in a non-committal situation in which I am often not at all amazed or fascinated, but where I think my own thoughts.

But I don’t want to think my own thoughts! That’s not why I came to a concert, theatre or museum.

I want to feel something different!

An artist who has no interest in what his audience thinks or feels is a coward. After all, the audience is inclined to stay within a defined area. This means that in many cases, experiencing a work of art is not at all an artistic experience, but a repetition of something that is familiar, a confirmation of something that already exists and not the discovery of something new. When I see or experience a work of art, I often think about a wide range of things. Whether it is well produced, whether it is innovative or original. That is all well and good, but also limited. Am I truly opening my mind? In this situation am I not primarily listening to my own thoughts, I am not merely seeking confirmation of my own beliefs? Am I not simply living in my own little world?

Many artists only allow their work to have a limited impact. Have they simply become accustomed to having only a small audience? Is it shyness or are they perhaps not aware of the power of their profession?

9


What makes something a good work of art?

Contact requires courage. Your work must communicate something. That sounds logical, but communication is more than just understanding one another. It is opening yourself up to the other person. The audience are no fools. If you don’t have the courage as an artist to open yourself up to your audience, your audience will not be open to your work.

A thought-provoking story, a sophisticated gesture, subtle and completely in balance – it does nothing for me if I merely admire or respect it. It only affects me if there is contact, if I can get up close. When it becomes intimate.

Intimacy only occurs when you are seduced - if you have the courage to open your mind. Intimacy can be gratifying, stimulating, but also disturbing. Intimacy is contact and trust. It is never a competition, never a fight – if sometimes a confrontation.

It is cowardly if an artist keeps his audience at a safe distance from his true story.

10 To take the audience for granted as non-committal observers is cowardly, however sincere and democratic though this may sound.

11 Wim T. Schippers creates a floor using peanut butter in the Centraal Museum. Visitors don’t find this strange: after all, it’s art. Does the work communicate effectively because the audience evidently understands it and doesn’t find it strange, or, on the contrary, is the ‘strangeness’ of the work ruined by the safe context of a museum? Wim T. Schippers, Pindakaasvloer, Centraal Museum Utrecht, 1979

Artistry without a strong impulse to make contact, to want to move or at the very least reach others is no more than glorified occupational therapy, innocuous embellishment or commercial entertainment. Does the work have a purpose after all? Is it inspired by passion? Do you want to convey something that inspires you? (I should hope so!)

There is nothing non-committal about that. Contact is therefore essential.

Art is not a trick. A work of art does not mean anything if it does not move the audience. Naturally a work can be attractively designed, cleverly thought-out or nicely executed – which I then often find attractive, clever or nice. But I don’t consider that to be art. The true value, the quality of a work of art is determined by the quality of the experience it provides. An experience arises from an interaction between yourself and your environment.


What makes something a good work of art?

Contact requires courage. Your work must communicate something. That sounds logical, but communication is more than just understanding one another. It is opening yourself up to the other person. The audience are no fools. If you don’t have the courage as an artist to open yourself up to your audience, your audience will not be open to your work.

A thought-provoking story, a sophisticated gesture, subtle and completely in balance – it does nothing for me if I merely admire or respect it. It only affects me if there is contact, if I can get up close. When it becomes intimate.

Intimacy only occurs when you are seduced - if you have the courage to open your mind. Intimacy can be gratifying, stimulating, but also disturbing. Intimacy is contact and trust. It is never a competition, never a fight – if sometimes a confrontation.

It is cowardly if an artist keeps his audience at a safe distance from his true story.

10 To take the audience for granted as non-committal observers is cowardly, however sincere and democratic though this may sound.

11 Wim T. Schippers creates a floor using peanut butter in the Centraal Museum. Visitors don’t find this strange: after all, it’s art. Does the work communicate effectively because the audience evidently understands it and doesn’t find it strange, or, on the contrary, is the ‘strangeness’ of the work ruined by the safe context of a museum? Wim T. Schippers, Pindakaasvloer, Centraal Museum Utrecht, 1979

Artistry without a strong impulse to make contact, to want to move or at the very least reach others is no more than glorified occupational therapy, innocuous embellishment or commercial entertainment. Does the work have a purpose after all? Is it inspired by passion? Do you want to convey something that inspires you? (I should hope so!)

There is nothing non-committal about that. Contact is therefore essential.

Art is not a trick. A work of art does not mean anything if it does not move the audience. Naturally a work can be attractively designed, cleverly thought-out or nicely executed – which I then often find attractive, clever or nice. But I don’t consider that to be art. The true value, the quality of a work of art is determined by the quality of the experience it provides. An experience arises from an interaction between yourself and your environment.


The most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten was a plate of porridge after walking for five days in the Norwegian mountains (of which four days were spent with blisters on both feet). There was probably nothing too special about that porridge, but the circumstances made it taste divine.

If an artist wants to make his audience experience something, he must be aware of all factors that influence this experience: namely the setting of the work. You yourself are the most important setting – your background, knowledge and history largely determine what you experience. What is just as important is the location, the situation in which the work is presented.

Context plays a different role in each art form. An architect will need to know everything about the environment before he starts on a design. An artist is often involved in setting up an exhibition, but once a work is sold, his role is usually over. A composer creates a piece not for one specific auditorium, but rather for all auditoriums in the world. It is just humiliating when an artwork is described as a work ‘for the occasion’.

There was once a time when each work of art had a clear context. Its purpose was to arouse a sense of religion, or to glorify an individual or historical event. Music, theatre and dance were linked to a specific ritual or a specific occasion. Everything therefore had a function and a reason. Art was the language with which people and the environment entered into an intimate dialogue. Art had an obvious necessity: it provided access to a world of symbols and meanings that helped to make up the essence of life.

12 Wout Berger, Uiterwaarden, Olst Hengforderwaarden, 1989.

For over one hundred and fifty years now, art has withdrawn itself increasingly into its own domain. This in itself is a wonderful development, as it means that the influence of the outside world has become smaller and smaller, thus minimising its disruptive effect on the pure experience of art (in the artistic universe where only the laws of art apply).

Imagine the scenario: you are here reading ‘Thinking about Holland…’

This enabled the language of art to become more and more abstract (more innovative, more radical), but spoken and understood by fewer and fewer people. Art became increasingly introvert, and increasingly irrelevant to outsiders.

Imagine the scenario: you are here reading ‘Thinking about Holland…’

13


The most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten was a plate of porridge after walking for five days in the Norwegian mountains (of which four days were spent with blisters on both feet). There was probably nothing too special about that porridge, but the circumstances made it taste divine.

If an artist wants to make his audience experience something, he must be aware of all factors that influence this experience: namely the setting of the work. You yourself are the most important setting – your background, knowledge and history largely determine what you experience. What is just as important is the location, the situation in which the work is presented.

Context plays a different role in each art form. An architect will need to know everything about the environment before he starts on a design. An artist is often involved in setting up an exhibition, but once a work is sold, his role is usually over. A composer creates a piece not for one specific auditorium, but rather for all auditoriums in the world. It is just humiliating when an artwork is described as a work ‘for the occasion’.

There was once a time when each work of art had a clear context. Its purpose was to arouse a sense of religion, or to glorify an individual or historical event. Music, theatre and dance were linked to a specific ritual or a specific occasion. Everything therefore had a function and a reason. Art was the language with which people and the environment entered into an intimate dialogue. Art had an obvious necessity: it provided access to a world of symbols and meanings that helped to make up the essence of life.

12 Wout Berger, Uiterwaarden, Olst Hengforderwaarden, 1989.

For over one hundred and fifty years now, art has withdrawn itself increasingly into its own domain. This in itself is a wonderful development, as it means that the influence of the outside world has become smaller and smaller, thus minimising its disruptive effect on the pure experience of art (in the artistic universe where only the laws of art apply).

Imagine the scenario: you are here reading ‘Thinking about Holland…’

This enabled the language of art to become more and more abstract (more innovative, more radical), but spoken and understood by fewer and fewer people. Art became increasingly introvert, and increasingly irrelevant to outsiders.

Imagine the scenario: you are here reading ‘Thinking about Holland…’

13


Art has been given its own niche. Both on a physical level, in dedicated buildings where disruptive influences are kept to a minimum, and on a mental level, in a distinct part of our brains. Art has its own rules, its own language that you must learn to interpret and that is not so easy to understand. What’s more, every art form has its own special audience that knows the right codes. The world is divided into pigeon-holes. This ensures that everything is properly organised – you choose what suits

QUIZ: WHERE IS THIS GALLERY? a – Cape Town b – Tehran c – New York d – Tokyo e – Rio de Janeiro

14

you and do what is expected of you according to established codes and patterns. This is easy and convenient.

Art stands out neatly from the rest of the world. It stands on a plinth, hangs in a frame or comes with a programme. This is very useful since, after all, you may sometimes find yourself admiring a power socket, for instance, on the wall of a modern museum, or applauding the tuning of the instruments at a concert.

Page 14:

QUIZ: WHERE IS THIS CONCERT HALL? a – Oslo b – Rabat c – Zagreb d – Nairobi e – Jakarta

Ari Versluis & Ellie Uyttenbroek, Exactitudes, Homeboys, Rotterdam 2002

Page 15: Ari Versluis & Ellie Uyttenbroek, Exactitudes, Gabberbitches, Rotterdam 1996

15


Art has been given its own niche. Both on a physical level, in dedicated buildings where disruptive influences are kept to a minimum, and on a mental level, in a distinct part of our brains. Art has its own rules, its own language that you must learn to interpret and that is not so easy to understand. What’s more, every art form has its own special audience that knows the right codes. The world is divided into pigeon-holes. This ensures that everything is properly organised – you choose what suits

QUIZ: WHERE IS THIS GALLERY? a – Cape Town b – Tehran c – New York d – Tokyo e – Rio de Janeiro

14

you and do what is expected of you according to established codes and patterns. This is easy and convenient.

Art stands out neatly from the rest of the world. It stands on a plinth, hangs in a frame or comes with a programme. This is very useful since, after all, you may sometimes find yourself admiring a power socket, for instance, on the wall of a modern museum, or applauding the tuning of the instruments at a concert.

Page 14:

QUIZ: WHERE IS THIS CONCERT HALL? a – Oslo b – Rabat c – Zagreb d – Nairobi e – Jakarta

Ari Versluis & Ellie Uyttenbroek, Exactitudes, Homeboys, Rotterdam 2002 Page 15: Ari Versluis & Ellie Uyttenbroek, Exactitudes, Gabberbitches, Rotterdam 1996

15


Art is the language of emotion. Emotion is everywhere, it is not restricted to specific pigeon-holes! Art is an open mind, it is making contact. That is relevant to everyone. In every situation.

Artists sometimes produce work that is an exact replica of everyday things. Because it is being exhibited in a museum, it takes on the status of art. The pigeon-hole therefore determines what something is: the context is the identity or function of the thing. Andy Warhol, Brillo Box (Soap Pads), 1964

18

As soon as you become aware that something is a work of art, you immediately place it in a separate category and it no longer belongs to the normal world in which everything has a role and a function, but to an artistic universe that is governed by its own laws. Within this pigeon-hole of art, critics and fans passionately agree in a common language (for instance that the other is wrong). Worlds are built up and torn down within defined frameworks, independent of the circumstances outside these frameworks. But artists are not by definition unworldly - quite the contrary. Many artists are deeply interested in the world around them. Art comes from people, their stories and emotions – it is about everything to which people have a connection – namely the whole world, including the past, future, fantasies and dreams. But what happens to what they create? Is the message conveyed? I know so many great artists with an exceptional talent for observation and reflection, who content themselves with a position that is safely on the sidelines of society and who subconsciously avoid direct confrontation with the world. What a terrible waste!

If it doesn’t broaden someone’s outlook and doesn’t change or refresh (someone’s view of ) the world (even just a tiny bit), a work of art, however beautiful and sincere, is no more than sophisticated entertainment or an interesting topic of discussion for connoisseurs.

A work of art is like cut glass. Beautiful and cleverly produced, but only truly special when light passes through it, when it transforms your view of the outside world. It is only then that art is created, an experience. The vivid colours, the sparkling of the light, are not produced by the cut glass, but are created by the fact that the glass has come into contact with something from outside, for instance the light of the sun. It is therefore sad that so many artists cut wonderful glasses (sometimes even from crystal or diamond), but forget to hold them in the sun. They limit their pleasure to the admiration of customers and colleagues at the International Fine Glassware Trade Fair. Sometimes, by chance, something glistens briefly in the light, but everyone is too busy to notice. Customers safely store the glasses in their cases, because otherwise they could be damaged. The interaction between object, observer and environment is often forgotten in all the commotion, not out of arrogance or apathy, but out of ignorance. What a waste of effort and skill!

Art is Perception with a capital P. Art can change your outlook and, by that means, your life. Is art something that is only relevant to the art-viewing public? Something for the ‘highly educated’, who are able to place a work of art in the right context and understand why one work is revolutionary and another a cheap imitation? Or is art something that can have a place in everyone’s lives? There is no humankind without an inner world, without emotion. And those who go through life without questioning it, without wondering at the world, are not truly living. Art expresses the unspeakable, communicates the irrational. Without art your emotions are stuck in clichés.

Without art the world is flat.

19


Art is the language of emotion. Emotion is everywhere, it is not restricted to specific pigeon-holes! Art is an open mind, it is making contact. That is relevant to everyone. In every situation.

Artists sometimes produce work that is an exact replica of everyday things. Because it is being exhibited in a museum, it takes on the status of art. The pigeon-hole therefore determines what something is: the context is the identity or function of the thing. Andy Warhol, Brillo Box (Soap Pads), 1964

18

As soon as you become aware that something is a work of art, you immediately place it in a separate category and it no longer belongs to the normal world in which everything has a role and a function, but to an artistic universe that is governed by its own laws. Within this pigeon-hole of art, critics and fans passionately agree in a common language (for instance that the other is wrong). Worlds are built up and torn down within defined frameworks, independent of the circumstances outside these frameworks. But artists are not by definition unworldly - quite the contrary. Many artists are deeply interested in the world around them. Art comes from people, their stories and emotions – it is about everything to which people have a connection – namely the whole world, including the past, future, fantasies and dreams. But what happens to what they create? Is the message conveyed? I know so many great artists with an exceptional talent for observation and reflection, who content themselves with a position that is safely on the sidelines of society and who subconsciously avoid direct confrontation with the world. What a terrible waste!

If it doesn’t broaden someone’s outlook and doesn’t change or refresh (someone’s view of ) the world (even just a tiny bit), a work of art, however beautiful and sincere, is no more than sophisticated entertainment or an interesting topic of discussion for connoisseurs.

A work of art is like cut glass. Beautiful and cleverly produced, but only truly special when light passes through it, when it transforms your view of the outside world. It is only then that art is created, an experience. The vivid colours, the sparkling of the light, are not produced by the cut glass, but are created by the fact that the glass has come into contact with something from outside, for instance the light of the sun. It is therefore sad that so many artists cut wonderful glasses (sometimes even from crystal or diamond), but forget to hold them in the sun. They limit their pleasure to the admiration of customers and colleagues at the International Fine Glassware Trade Fair. Sometimes, by chance, something glistens briefly in the light, but everyone is too busy to notice. Customers safely store the glasses in their cases, because otherwise they could be damaged. The interaction between object, observer and environment is often forgotten in all the commotion, not out of arrogance or apathy, but out of ignorance. What a waste of effort and skill!

Art is Perception with a capital P. Art can change your outlook and, by that means, your life. Is art something that is only relevant to the art-viewing public? Something for the ‘highly educated’, who are able to place a work of art in the right context and understand why one work is revolutionary and another a cheap imitation? Or is art something that can have a place in everyone’s lives? There is no humankind without an inner world, without emotion. And those who go through life without questioning it, without wondering at the world, are not truly living. Art expresses the unspeakable, communicates the irrational. Without art your emotions are stuck in clichés.

Without art the world is flat.

19


There is art that is not disrupted by the environment, that does not create any scope for objectivity but that, on the contrary, establishes a connection with or is even created by the world. This art does not distance itself in order to observe the world more clearly, but instead wants to experience and gain a sense of the world from within. It is not just art about the world, but also art in the world, art with the world, art by the world. But how far does this go?

Here the confusion is slightly more subtle. Everyone will be in doubt (even if only for a moment). This is not a person, but a plastic figure. It is positioned in a museum, but simply on the floor amongst the visitors, and therefore in a no man's land between art and the world. John Cage created music controlled by chance.

Gilbert and George stood on a table and were themselves

Duane Hanson, Old Couple on a Bench, 1994

He wanted to remove himself as a controlling, creative

their art and at the same time their everyday selves. It was

force from the equation. But with these ideas he was keen

great because nobody had done it before. It was brilliant

In a beautiful, polished print, Olaf Nicolai

to present himself as a brilliant artist and the scores of his

and confusing; that was what made it a great work.

(1962, Halle an der Saale) invites his

chance-controlled music are very expensive.

But the idea was also immediately and entirely clear: it

audience to look at the sky at a specific time

John Cage, score of Variations VI, 1966

was a performance, a thought-out action safely enacted

of night. At this time there will be a good

within the boundaries of the art world.

chance of spotting shooting stars. How

Gilbert & George, Singing Sculpture, Sonnabend Gallery,

much of a megalomaniac do you need to be

New York, 1991

to present the entire cosmos as your work of art? Or are you in fact hugely modest, and see it simply as your task to open your audience's eyes? Olaf Nicolai, Welcome to the ‘Tears of St. Lawrence’. An appointment to watch falling stars


There is art that is not disrupted by the environment, that does not create any scope for objectivity but that, on the contrary, establishes a connection with or is even created by the world. This art does not distance itself in order to observe the world more clearly, but instead wants to experience and gain a sense of the world from within. It is not just art about the world, but also art in the world, art with the world, art by the world. But how far does this go?

Here the confusion is slightly more subtle. Everyone will be in doubt (even if only for a moment). This is not a person, but a plastic figure. It is positioned in a museum, but simply on the floor amongst the visitors, and therefore in a no man's land between art and the world. John Cage created music controlled by chance.

Gilbert and George stood on a table and were themselves

Duane Hanson, Old Couple on a Bench, 1994

He wanted to remove himself as a controlling, creative

their art and at the same time their everyday selves. It was

force from the equation. But with these ideas he was keen

great because nobody had done it before. It was brilliant

In a beautiful, polished print, Olaf Nicolai

to present himself as a brilliant artist and the scores of his

and confusing; that was what made it a great work.

(1962, Halle an der Saale) invites his

chance-controlled music are very expensive.

But the idea was also immediately and entirely clear: it

audience to look at the sky at a specific time

John Cage, score of Variations VI, 1966

was a performance, a thought-out action safely enacted

of night. At this time there will be a good

within the boundaries of the art world.

chance of spotting shooting stars. How

Gilbert & George, Singing Sculpture, Sonnabend Gallery,

much of a megalomaniac do you need to be

New York, 1991

to present the entire cosmos as your work of art? Or are you in fact hugely modest, and see it simply as your task to open your audience's eyes? Olaf Nicolai, Welcome to the ‘Tears of St. Lawrence’. An appointment to watch falling stars


Architecture is both art and the world.

22 Koen Vanmechelen has been crossbreeding chickens for

Koen Vanmechelen, The Cosmopolitan Chicken,

ten years now and sees this as a major work of art, symbo-

Museum Het Valkhof, Nijmegen, 2008

perception of space, the feeling you experience when you

But who stops to think about the building? Almost

enter and leave, the interaction between use and design,

everyone walks in and out oblivious, and without taking the

that make a building fascinating?

time to look at the interesting concept. However, it is not

Architecture is by definition a part of the world, part of our

the tourists who give the architect his or her due by photo-

daily existence, and everyone is free to have their own

graphing the building. Because is it true to say that archi-

opinion about it, regardless of how much expert knowledge

tecture is a purely visual art? Is it not, in actual fact, your

they have. Frank O. Gehry, offices, Düsseldorf, 1994-1999

23

lising the world of man. Nevertheless he makes the natural chickens the subject of all sorts of artworks, such as photographs, installations and sculptures. (Perhaps to safeguard his identity as an artist?) That is logical, because it is not so easy to get into a gallery armed solely with a chicken, let alone to sell the ‘work of art’. But it is also a shame. The crossbred chicken has a strong message, but my attention is immediately drawn to the photos and pictures, which turn the whole thing back into a conventional exhibition. I therefore immediately draw a clear boundary for myself

Is this art? There is no plaque alongside it.

between art and the world.

Perhaps the artist didn’t publish it?


Architecture is both art and the world.

22 Koen Vanmechelen has been crossbreeding chickens for

Koen Vanmechelen, The Cosmopolitan Chicken,

ten years now and sees this as a major work of art, symbo-

Museum Het Valkhof, Nijmegen, 2008

perception of space, the feeling you experience when you

But who stops to think about the building? Almost

enter and leave, the interaction between use and design,

everyone walks in and out oblivious, and without taking the

that make a building fascinating?

time to look at the interesting concept. However, it is not

Architecture is by definition a part of the world, part of our

the tourists who give the architect his or her due by photo-

daily existence, and everyone is free to have their own

graphing the building. Because is it true to say that archi-

opinion about it, regardless of how much expert knowledge

tecture is a purely visual art? Is it not, in actual fact, your

they have. Frank O. Gehry, offices, Düsseldorf, 1994-1999

23

lising the world of man. Nevertheless he makes the natural chickens the subject of all sorts of artworks, such as photographs, installations and sculptures. (Perhaps to safeguard his identity as an artist?) That is logical, because it is not so easy to get into a gallery armed solely with a chicken, let alone to sell the ‘work of art’. But it is also a shame. The crossbred chicken has a strong message, but my attention is immediately drawn to the photos and pictures, which turn the whole thing back into a conventional exhibition. I therefore immediately draw a clear boundary for myself

Is this art? There is no plaque alongside it.

between art and the world.

Perhaps the artist didn’t publish it?


If you don't know for certain whether or not it was created by an artist, is it still art? How much certainty do you need to open your mind to something, to look at it, or listen to it carefully? How recognisable must art be to achieve its goal?

Does it make a difference if you know that this fish really

Is your admiration of the beauty of nature

exists? Was it Keith Haring or the Creator himself?

an artistic experience?

24

25

Keith Tyson designed a hexagonal structure that produced an electronic humming noise. A vague concept, but extremely amusing if you are aware that it is a modern version of Rodin’s The Thinker. The title does not provide one single meaning, but ‘triggers’ your knowledge, thus generating electricity in your head. The work is brazen and clever because it plays with your expectations. Keith Tyson, The Thinker (After Rodin), 2001


If you don't know for certain whether or not it was created by an artist, is it still art? How much certainty do you need to open your mind to something, to look at it, or listen to it carefully? How recognisable must art be to achieve its goal?

Does it make a difference if you know that this fish really

Is your admiration of the beauty of nature

exists? Was it Keith Haring or the Creator himself?

an artistic experience?

24

25

Keith Tyson designed a hexagonal structure that produced an electronic humming noise. A vague concept, but extremely amusing if you are aware that it is a modern version of Rodin’s The Thinker. The title does not provide one single meaning, but ‘triggers’ your knowledge, thus generating electricity in your head. The work is brazen and clever because it plays with your expectations. Keith Tyson, The Thinker (After Rodin), 2001


Art in the world is about the little everyday things in life. But not about the triviality of life.

Mark McGowan lay down in the street dressed as a soldier.

Comment by a passer-by: ‘I’m an artist myself – I studied

He gave no explanation and the public were free to think

at UCE. This is conceptual art – I respect it and I find it an

whatever they wanted. It triggered a great deal of

interesting art form – but I don’t think the general public

discussion (particularly when journalists reported that

will understand it. I think anything that pulls a crowd is

he received £4000 of ‘public money’ for the stunt).

good, but after the performance he should do a talk so

He was ordered by the police to erect a sign stating

people know what it was all about.’

‘art performance’. Mark McGowan, Dead Soldier, New Street, Birmingham, 2006

26

A work of art creates a small ripple in our lives, an extra layer of meaning, that enables the audience to see how fascinating everyday life really is. Creating this small ripple is no mean feat, and requires at least as much craftsmanship as producing art for a museum. Expertise on the part of the actors or musicians does not automatically guarantee a rich experience. In other words: the quality of your experience of art is determined by much more than simply the quality of the execution itself. A good artist can also manage with any random group of elderly people or country brass band (just like Picasso was also a genius without paint). After all, the quality of the participants in a project is not solely determined by what the participants are able to do, but also by who they are as people. And professionals are of course just as human as non-professionals.

every person is a professional when it comes to being himself. In other words:

Has a work of art failed if the audience is inadvertently unaware that it is art? Or, on the contrary, is the work exposed by the announcement ‘this is an art performance’ and stripped of all its power? An explanation turns a confusing, multi-layered work of art into a common object, which is by chance also called a work of art because the creator is an artist, but that differs little from a bunch of flowers or a lamppost. Instead of being encouraged to examine themselves and the situation, the audience is safely guided by the hand of the artist, who is saying: Look! This is how I see the world! Isn’t it interesting? The artist can then be sure that the audience won’t be mistaken (and, for instance, see the sleeping soldier as a demonstration, a drunk or something else from everyday life), but he also loses the subtle confusion, internal conflict or surprise that the work could provoke in the observer. Which is a terrible shame.

Art that is created in the world is therefore not amateur art. As a rule, amateur art is a kind of shadow of professional art: the amateur artist takes a relaxed approach to skills of which professionals have a much better command and the audience comes more for the sake of a social than an artistic experience. (Or do they?) Art in the world is not ordinary art, but it is everyday art. The level depends just as much on the choices made by the artist as it does with conventional art. As well as the power of the idea, the use of materials and craftsmanship are essential, the difference being that the material is the whole world (and specifically the people in it), and craftsmanship comes down to skills in dealing with the world (and specifically the people in it). And that is not easy.

What happens if your basic material as an artist is not paint, textiles or cork, but living people full of stories, opinions and their own ideas? Does it provide added value for the story you want to tell if you work with people who are often untrained in art, not used to complex productions and who are taking part voluntarily and without being paid?

27


Art in the world is about the little everyday things in life. But not about the triviality of life.

Mark McGowan lay down in the street dressed as a soldier.

Comment by a passer-by: ‘I’m an artist myself – I studied

He gave no explanation and the public were free to think

at UCE. This is conceptual art – I respect it and I find it an

whatever they wanted. It triggered a great deal of

interesting art form – but I don’t think the general public

discussion (particularly when journalists reported that

will understand it. I think anything that pulls a crowd is

he received £4000 of ‘public money’ for the stunt).

good, but after the performance he should do a talk so

He was ordered by the police to erect a sign stating

people know what it was all about.’

26

‘art performance’. Mark McGowan, Dead Soldier, New Street, Birmingham, 2006

Has a work of art failed if the audience is inadvertently unaware that it is art? Or, on the contrary, is the work exposed by the announcement ‘this is an art performance’ and stripped of all its power? An explanation turns a confusing, multi-layered work of art into a common object, which is by chance also called a work of art because the creator is an artist, but that differs little from a bunch of flowers or a lamppost. Instead of being encouraged to examine themselves and the situation, the audience is safely guided by the hand of the artist, who is saying: Look! This is how I see the world! Isn’t it interesting? The artist can then be sure that the audience won’t be mistaken (and, for instance, see the sleeping soldier as a demonstration, a drunk or something else from everyday life), but he also loses the subtle confusion, internal conflict or surprise that the work could provoke in the observer. Which is a terrible shame.

A work of art creates a small ripple in our lives, an extra layer of meaning, that enables the audience to see how fascinating everyday life really is. Creating this small ripple is no mean feat, and requires at least as much craftsmanship as producing art for a museum. Expertise on the part of the actors or musicians does not automatically guarantee a rich experience. In other words: the quality of your experience of art is determined by much more than simply the quality of the execution itself. A good artist can also manage with any random group of elderly people or country brass band (just like Picasso was also a genius without paint). After all, the quality of the participants in a project is not solely determined by what the participants are able to do, but also by who they are as people. And professionals are of course just as human as non-professionals.

every person is a professional when it comes to being himself. In other words:

Art that is created in the world is therefore not amateur art. As a rule, amateur art is a kind of shadow of professional art: the amateur artist takes a relaxed approach to skills of which professionals have a much better command and the audience comes more for the sake of a social than an artistic experience. (Or do they?) Art in the world is not ordinary art, but it is everyday art. The level depends just as much on the choices made by the artist as it does with conventional art. As well as the power of the idea, the use of materials and craftsmanship are essential, the difference being that the material is the whole world (and specifically the people in it), and craftsmanship comes down to skills in dealing with the world (and specifically the people in it). And that is not easy.

What happens if your basic material as an artist is not paint, textiles or cork, but living people full of stories, opinions and their own ideas? Does it provide added value for the story you want to tell if you work with people who are often untrained in art, not used to complex productions and who are taking part voluntarily and without being paid?

27


Art in the world is different to art in an art setting. Not just because of the content, the location and the participants, but also because the audience behaves differently out in the world than in a gallery or theatre. The rules in a gallery or theatre are first and foremost: observe. (And then feel or think.) Real life is more complex. You do something, observe, but also react. (And you may also feel and think, but not about everything, as that would be too exhausting.) Life is interactive, but follows a wide range of defined patterns and customs. Art is usually the opposite: it is not interactive, but breaks out of patterns and customs.

Art in the world breaks this definition. It wants to actively invoice the audience, get them to play a role in the work and thus encourage them to step off the beaten track. How do you entice someone who is not prepared for this? How do you draw someone into the unknown?

People are trained to keep their feelings under control. Emotion is permitted, but only in an acceptable environment. A farewell at an airport can be emotional; a sunset on the beach is beautiful and romantic. But what if you sometimes find normal things extremely bizarre? What

if you are deeply

affected by the shape of a drop of water? It is easy to be moved if you know for certain that something is unique, if others around you are

Maintaining a sense of awe at everyday things, allowing yourself to be moved by the magic of the everyday requires courage. The courage to open your mind and perhaps briefly lose control. Watching a Edita Gruberova concert with tears in your eyes is safe, but being deeply moved and confused by something in the middle of the street is considered less acceptable. Both experiences are totally sincere. If you learn to maintain a sense of awe at the world around you, you may unlock the secret to happiness. In any case, it will change your life. doing the same or if the performer is very famous.

28

After all, you will be surrounded by richness and you will no longer need an admission ticket.

Art that breaks out of an exclusive framework and mixes with non-art is therefore no more beautiful, moving or impassioned than autonomous art, but it is more effective. Because: is the purity that makes an isolated experience of art so powerful not at the same time undermined by the fact that you know that it is art? Just like a story remains a story, a fantasy remains a fantasy, art then remains an experience that is separate from reality. But a story that contains an element of truth, or a fantasy that partly becomes reality, makes a stronger impression on you: it is intriguing and confusing. And isn’t that what the artist sets out to do: to intrigue and confuse? If you fail to comply and meet the audience’s expectations according to familiar patterns, but instead playfully or drastically contradict them, you can give reality an extra dimension. A dimension of surprise.

A fresh view of the world around you.

29


Art in the world is different to art in an art setting. Not just because of the content, the location and the participants, but also because the audience behaves differently out in the world than in a gallery or theatre. The rules in a gallery or theatre are first and foremost: observe. (And then feel or think.) Real life is more complex. You do something, observe, but also react. (And you may also feel and think, but not about everything, as that would be too exhausting.) Life is interactive, but follows a wide range of defined patterns and customs. Art is usually the opposite: it is not interactive, but breaks out of patterns and customs.

Art in the world breaks this definition. It wants to actively invoice the audience, get them to play a role in the work and thus encourage them to step off the beaten track. How do you entice someone who is not prepared for this? How do you draw someone into the unknown?

People are trained to keep their feelings under control. Emotion is permitted, but only in an acceptable environment. A farewell at an airport can be emotional; a sunset on the beach is beautiful and romantic. But what if you sometimes find normal things extremely bizarre? What

if you are deeply

affected by the shape of a drop of water? It is easy to be moved if you know for certain that something is unique, if others around you are

Maintaining a sense of awe at everyday things, allowing yourself to be moved by the magic of the everyday requires courage. The courage to open your mind and perhaps briefly lose control. Watching a Edita Gruberova concert with tears in your eyes is safe, but being deeply moved and confused by something in the middle of the street is considered less acceptable. Both experiences are totally sincere. If you learn to maintain a sense of awe at the world around you, you may unlock the secret to happiness. In any case, it will change your life. doing the same or if the performer is very famous.

28

After all, you will be surrounded by richness and you will no longer need an admission ticket.

Art that breaks out of an exclusive framework and mixes with non-art is therefore no more beautiful, moving or impassioned than autonomous art, but it is more effective. Because: is the purity that makes an isolated experience of art so powerful not at the same time undermined by the fact that you know that it is art? Just like a story remains a story, a fantasy remains a fantasy, art then remains an experience that is separate from reality. But a story that contains an element of truth, or a fantasy that partly becomes reality, makes a stronger impression on you: it is intriguing and confusing. And isn’t that what the artist sets out to do: to intrigue and confuse? If you fail to comply and meet the audience’s expectations according to familiar patterns, but instead playfully or drastically contradict them, you can give reality an extra dimension. A dimension of surprise.

A fresh view of the world around you.

29


in the world 30

Only practice itself can show whether presenting your work to the hostile outside world is worthwhile. This book therefore goes on to provide a number of tips, based on experiences with (mainly music and theatre) site-specific projects, in which (often large) groups of inexperienced participants took part. Nothing is as unique and specific as an art project and nothing has such a unique dynamic as a group of individual people, so it would be folly to try to draw up general rules. The tips should therefore be read not as instructions, but as a collection of personal reminders of the many learning opportunities experienced by myself and a number of other artists at the heart of the world over the past few years.

31


in the world 30

Only practice itself can show whether presenting your work to the hostile outside world is worthwhile. This book therefore goes on to provide a number of tips, based on experiences with (mainly music and theatre) site-specific projects, in which (often large) groups of inexperienced participants took part. Nothing is as unique and specific as an art project and nothing has such a unique dynamic as a group of individual people, so it would be folly to try to draw up general rules. The tips should therefore be read not as instructions, but as a collection of personal reminders of the many learning opportunities experienced by myself and a number of other artists at the heart of the world over the past few years.

31


WHERE AND WHY ARE YOU GOING TO

Have the courage to lose yourself. If you dive headfirst into a situation or location, with the risk of losing sight of your project, you may experience unexpected things that could prove very useful later on.

CREATE SOMETHING? Observe. Don’t think too much, but watch and listen. Richness is everywhere, except in your head. What is in your head is old. I was working on an operatic production about a working-class area with rich traditions. I already had a well-conceived idea of the performance, but the first time I walked together with shopkeepers through the streets all my ideas went out the window and I started from scratch.

To prepare for my bus driver chorus project I went to work as a cleaner at the bus company for a while. The stories I heard during the night shift played a key role in the resulting project. The contacts I made at that time remained extremely valuable right up to the end. Anthony Heidweiller

Anthony Heidweiller

32

Remember your first impression. You often feel something unique when you see something for the first time. That is the moment! This wonder or surprise you experience because you have an open mind may well become the key to your work. Make sure that you don’t immediately forget this first moment or allow it to be drowned out by plans and ideas. I was working on a production in an old submarine. The first time I was allowed on board, I sat in the space in silence for minutes on end. It was not until much later, shortly before the performance, that I recalled how wonderful that moment was for me and I built the silence into the performance. Merlijn Twaalfhoven

Look for stories at the location itself. Take a step back before thinking up your own stories. Look around you, discover the richness. Explore the soul of the place. While working on a production with a group of children, I first of all let them ransack the area to see if they could find anything unusual. We used a number of cigarette butts and other trash to reconstruct an exciting incident. Because we had physical evidence, the piece became alive, realistic and very relevant for the participants and the audience. Henk Schut

33


WHERE AND WHY ARE YOU GOING TO

Have the courage to lose yourself. If you dive headfirst into a situation or location, with the risk of losing sight of your project, you may experience unexpected things that could prove very useful later on.

CREATE SOMETHING? Observe. Don’t think too much, but watch and listen. Richness is everywhere, except in your head. What is in your head is old. I was working on an operatic production about a working-class area with rich traditions. I already had a well-conceived idea of the performance, but the first time I walked together with shopkeepers through the streets all my ideas went out the window and I started from scratch.

To prepare for my bus driver chorus project I went to work as a cleaner at the bus company for a while. The stories I heard during the night shift played a key role in the resulting project. The contacts I made at that time remained extremely valuable right up to the end. Anthony Heidweiller

Anthony Heidweiller

32

Remember your first impression. You often feel something unique when you see something for the first time. That is the moment! This wonder or surprise you experience because you have an open mind may well become the key to your work. Make sure that you don’t immediately forget this first moment or allow it to be drowned out by plans and ideas. I was working on a production in an old submarine. The first time I was allowed on board, I sat in the space in silence for minutes on end. It was not until much later, shortly before the performance, that I recalled how wonderful that moment was for me and I built the silence into the performance. Merlijn Twaalfhoven

Look for stories at the location itself. Take a step back before thinking up your own stories. Look around you, discover the richness. Explore the soul of the place. While working on a production with a group of children, I first of all let them ransack the area to see if they could find anything unusual. We used a number of cigarette butts and other trash to reconstruct an exciting incident. Because we had physical evidence, the piece became alive, realistic and very relevant for the participants and the audience. Henk Schut

33


PRESENTING YOUR IDEA

PRESENTING YOUR IDEA

TO AUTHORITIES AND FUNDS

TO POTENTIAL PARTICIPANTS

Listen. A local authority or fund often has a vision and always has a policy. And although what they say frequently differs from your own ideas, there may indeed be similarities. So let the other person speak first, and then respond. Their weakness is your strength. In many cases, an authority or fund is keen to solve an existing problem. There is a chance that your project can play a role in this. As well as looking at the local situation, you should therefore also look at recent (unsuccessful) solutions. You may be able to do something that local initiatives have not yet achieved.

34

Turn their strength into your weakness. Get the fund or the authority to help you with your subsidy application. See how they can use their expertise to improve your application. After all, they have the experience and know better than anyone what makes a strong application. Collaborating closely with an authority or fund is not always easy and demands a great deal of trust in and knowledge of one another. Where successful, however, it can lead to great things. Keep them on board. If a project is approved, don’t forget to constantly keep the sponsors and subsidy providers up to date and involved, and to further strengthen your relationship with them. This is extremely valuable, for instance if you deviate significantly from your application, or need additional funds over the course of the process.

Organise auditions. It must be clear that your project may be unconventional, but it does of course demand quality and commitment. Rigorous auditions boost the status of the project and selected participants feel singled out and thus valuable. We drove through the city in a minibus bearing a large banner and went into school canteens and shopping centres carrying a megaphone and shouted: ‘Auditions! We are looking for talented people’. It was amazing that there was sometimes a huge response. This enabled us to find spontaneous and talented participants and gain a load of publicity for the project . Merlijn Twaalfhoven Don’t be selective. Auditions cannot give you a good idea of what somewhat is actually like and is able to do. Only conventional, technical skills can be properly assessed. It is very difficult to predict how someone will develop in a group or process.

35

If two people turn up, I’ll do it with two people, if fifty people turn Peter Stam up, I’ll do it with fifty. Don’t be vague. A good idea needs little explaining. The key things that participants and commissioning authorities want to know are what and how, and not how wonderful and profound the project is. They probably already know that and while you can’t change their views about the value of something artistic, you can change their fears about its practical feasibility.

Choose a clear story. Even if your work is very abstract, see if you can use a simple image, story or symbol to communicate your plan. It is preferable to select one person at random from the telephone book and make him or her the subject of your production than to base something on ‘the ideas and thoughts of 100 residents of Alphen’. Imagine how a child would explain the project to a classmate. If he can say: ‘I am in a play about Toon de Bakker’, he can still be talking about a highly unconventional artistic ritual at 5 o’clock in the morning.


PRESENTING YOUR IDEA

PRESENTING YOUR IDEA

TO AUTHORITIES AND FUNDS

TO POTENTIAL PARTICIPANTS

Listen. A local authority or fund often has a vision and always has a policy. And although what they say frequently differs from your own ideas, there may indeed be similarities. So let the other person speak first, and then respond. Their weakness is your strength. In many cases, an authority or fund is keen to solve an existing problem. There is a chance that your project can play a role in this. As well as looking at the local situation, you should therefore also look at recent (unsuccessful) solutions. You may be able to do something that local initiatives have not yet achieved.

34

Turn their strength into your weakness. Get the fund or the authority to help you with your subsidy application. See how they can use their expertise to improve your application. After all, they have the experience and know better than anyone what makes a strong application. Collaborating closely with an authority or fund is not always easy and demands a great deal of trust in and knowledge of one another. Where successful, however, it can lead to great things. Keep them on board. If a project is approved, don’t forget to constantly keep the sponsors and subsidy providers up to date and involved, and to further strengthen your relationship with them. This is extremely valuable, for instance if you deviate significantly from your application, or need additional funds over the course of the process.

Organise auditions. It must be clear that your project may be unconventional, but it does of course demand quality and commitment. Rigorous auditions boost the status of the project and selected participants feel singled out and thus valuable. We drove through the city in a minibus bearing a large banner and went into school canteens and shopping centres carrying a megaphone and shouted: ‘Auditions! We are looking for talented people’. It was amazing that there was sometimes a huge response. This enabled us to find spontaneous and talented participants and gain a load of publicity for the project . Merlijn Twaalfhoven Don’t be selective. Auditions cannot give you a good idea of what somewhat is actually like and is able to do. Only conventional, technical skills can be properly assessed. It is very difficult to predict how someone will develop in a group or process.

35

If two people turn up, I’ll do it with two people, if fifty people turn up, I’ll do it with fifty. Peter Stam Don’t be vague. A good idea needs little explaining. The key things that participants and commissioning authorities want to know are what and how, and not how wonderful and profound the project is. They probably already know that and while you can’t change their views about the value of something artistic, you can change their fears about its practical feasibility. Choose a clear story. Even if your work is very abstract, see if you can use a simple image, story or symbol to communicate your plan. It is preferable to select one person at random from the telephone book and make him or her the subject of your production than to base something on ‘the ideas and thoughts of 100 residents of Alphen’. Imagine how a child would explain the project to a classmate. If he can say: ‘I am in a play about Toon de Bakker’, he can still be talking about a highly unconventional artistic ritual at 5 o’clock in the morning.


It could also be a classical play. ‘I am auditioning for Othello’ sounds better than: ‘I’ve signed up for an interactive social process’. The fact that your Othello has little in common with the original work and mainly consists of an interactive social process will automatically be evident to the participants and the audience. However...

Don’t create false expectations. Each participant has his own agenda. Some people will be sorely disappointed if they danced during the audition and there is no dancing or star role available for them in the final piece. Be aware of the expectations you (may inadvertently) create! Know what your participants want and make sure that you meet both their and your own expectations. You can’t do one without doing the other.

36

I had composed a major piece for 250 musicians and children. Some of them were positioned around the audience in the hall. I thought that this would create a spectacular effect. Later it emerged that the children who weren’t standing on the stage were disappointed because they felt that they were not genuine fully-fledged artists. Merlijn Twaalfhoven

Be positive. You yourself don’t know in which direction the process is headed and you may be uncertain (even if only about the funding or audience numbers). You never know exactly what you are starting, but certainly that you are starting it. You cannot guarantee what it will become, but certainly that you will go for it. However, a commissioning authority is not interested in subtle distinctions, it wants hard guarantees that the results will be good. So be positive. After all, if you say that it will be good you are not lying because it will be good (only a different kind of good than you perhaps could have predicted). The people in the town seriously believed that artists are crazy. By showing that I understood the situation within the community, speaking their language and presenting my project in a highly professional manner, I managed to change their minds. Sjoerd Wagenaar

Be modest. It is often pointless to boast about your past achievements, if this intimidates or simply doesn’t say anything to the people you are working with. They want to have a good time. To learn things, have fun. Working with a very cuttingedge artist (who nobody at home has ever heard of anyway) is less interesting to them. When I arrived in the town and talked about my theatre experience and my international projects, nobody understood me. Once I started to tell stories and showed how much I knew about the place, the residents became enthusiastic. Sjoerd Wagenaar

I never tell people that I myself am a professional singer. I only sing myself if I need to do so to impress the participants, but I prefer to leave this until as late as possible. Anthony Heidweiller

I spent a month in a small town in Japan as a guest composer. I didn’t play any music I had composed. Instead I played my viola with all the little groups of musicians and together we created unique and unconventional pieces and concerts as we went along. I don’t think anyone ever cottoned on that I was a composer.

37

Merlijn Twaalfhoven


It could also be a classical play. ‘I am auditioning for Othello’ sounds better than: ‘I’ve signed up for an interactive social process’. The fact that your Othello has little in common with the original work and mainly consists of an interactive social process will automatically be evident to the participants and the audience. However... Don’t create false expectations. Each participant has his own agenda. Some people will be sorely disappointed if they danced during the audition and there is no dancing or star role available for them in the final piece. Be aware of the expectations you (may inadvertently) create! Know what your participants want and make sure that you meet both their and your own expectations. You can’t do one without doing the other.

36

I had composed a major piece for 250 musicians and children. Some of them were positioned around the audience in the hall. I thought that this would create a spectacular effect. Later it emerged that the children who weren’t standing on the stage were disappointed because they felt that they were not genuine fully-fledged artists. Merlijn Twaalfhoven

Be positive. You yourself don’t know in which direction the process is headed and you may be uncertain (even if only about the funding or audience numbers). You never know exactly what you are starting, but certainly that you are starting it. You cannot guarantee what it will become, but certainly that you will go for it. However, a commissioning authority is not interested in subtle distinctions, it wants hard guarantees that the results will be good. So be positive. After all, if you say that it will be good you are not lying because it will be good (only a different kind of good than you perhaps could have predicted). The people in the town seriously believed that artists are crazy. By showing that I understood the situation within the community, speaking their language and presenting my project in a highly professional manner, I managed to change their minds. Sjoerd Wagenaar

Be modest. It is often pointless to boast about your past achievements, if this intimidates or simply doesn’t say anything to the people you are working with. They want to have a good time. To learn things, have fun. Working with a very cuttingedge artist (who nobody at home has ever heard of anyway) is less interesting to them. When I arrived in the town and talked about my theatre experience and my international projects, nobody understood me. Once I started to tell stories and showed how much I knew about the place, the residents became enthusiastic. Sjoerd Wagenaar

I never tell people that I myself am a professional singer. I only sing myself if I need to do so to impress the participants, but I prefer to leave this until as late as possible. Anthony Heidweiller

I spent a month in a small town in Japan as a guest composer. I didn’t play any music I had composed. Instead I played my viola with all the little groups of musicians and together we created unique and unconventional pieces and concerts as we went along. I don’t think anyone ever cottoned on that I was a composer.

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Merlijn Twaalfhoven


BUILDING UP A NETWORK Seek a local basis. Before you start, you need to have a very good idea of what is already going on somewhere and who is doing it. It is superfluous to repeat something that has already been done. The aim is not to find the right people at the very end of the process. Or to discover an old vendetta too late, which disrupts the process. Or to throw a spanner in the wheels of a local initiative (for instance by stealing its subsidies, participants or audience). A local action group was set up to combat my plans in Veenhuizen. It turned out to be organised not by the country dwellers, but by a city slicker who had moved to Drenthe in search of peace and quiet. After a while the country dwellers came to understand what we wanted to do, but this man remained distrustful.

I worked on a project in which Northern and Southern Cypriots were supposed to perform together on opposite sides of the military buffer zone in Cyprus. I initially had an organiser who had a lot of experience with such projects. It turned out that he was well-known for earning money through so-called bi-communal music projects. This meant that in one way he had less of a fresh view on things than I myself, so I decided not to work with him and to do things myself instead. Merlijn Twaalfhoven

Become famous. Even if you don’t want to show yourself as a personality in your work and try to focus attention on the process and the local aspect, make sure that you are a noticeable presence. This is not immodest but good for the project, the participants, the commissioning authority and the audience.

Sjoerd Wagenaar

38

There was a local councillor who I couldn’t get around and who actually saw my project as a problem and had no intention to make any move in favour of it. Once I had made it clear to him that nobody knew about or was supposed to know about the project, except for him, he gradually became more enthusiastic. In the end he got so into it that when I called him, he started to ask me for code words to make sure he was definitely speaking to me, before passing on information. He eventually became so enthusiastic that he kept an entire cuttings folder of articles about the project and I now have the fondest memories of him.

I was planning to produce a major site-specific project in close collaboration with the residents of Zaandam. To establish a niche for myself within the community, gain the trust of the participants and to give the politicians a reason to claim the project for themselves a bit, I was the ‘city composer’ that year. Here is a selection from the wave of reactions: ‘Twaalfhoven, is he by any chance related to a councillor or a high-up municipal official? I don’t know, I'm not from around here. In any case he’s been given a leg up, there must be a reason behind it, or is he sharing a bed with the right person?’

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Saskia Korsten

Bear in mind local clubs. Particularly if your work will be dealing with local problems, take a cautious approach towards working intensively with local organisations. Your project will immediately be linked to the existing status quo and will then become part of the problem instead of a way of placing the problem in a new light. The audience will immediately place you in a specific corner if you collaborate with well-known key figures in the community. There is also a large risk that a specific clique that has been active for some time will also dominate this project. Breaking out of these types of patterns can actually be a valuable aspect of your project.

‘Am I mistaken, or can we afford this nonsense? Libraries/community centres are being forced to shut down, and the average citizens are the victims. There has been an alarming increase in costs for the man on the street over the past few years. Some people can’t even afford to buy their own food, and this ‘left-wing’ board has spent money on a city composer.’ ‘Zaanstad is as rotten as could be. (…) For years we have been terrorised by loitering youths, numerous car break-ins and vandalism in our block of flats. (…) this municipality has NEVER even attempted to do anything about it. (…) But when I read the news, it seems the Zaanstad municipal authority has plenty of money to waste on ridiculous projects like a city composer.’


BUILDING UP A NETWORK Seek a local basis. Before you start, you need to have a very good idea of what is already going on somewhere and who is doing it. It is superfluous to repeat something that has already been done. The aim is not to find the right people at the very end of the process. Or to discover an old vendetta too late, which disrupts the process. Or to throw a spanner in the wheels of a local initiative (for instance by stealing its subsidies, participants or audience). A local action group was set up to combat my plans in Veenhuizen. It turned out to be organised not by the country dwellers, but by a city slicker who had moved to Drenthe in search of peace and quiet. After a while the country dwellers came to understand what we wanted to do, but this man remained distrustful.

I worked on a project in which Northern and Southern Cypriots were supposed to perform together on opposite sides of the military buffer zone in Cyprus. I initially had an organiser who had a lot of experience with such projects. It turned out that he was well-known for earning money through so-called bi-communal music projects. This meant that in one way he had less of a fresh view on things than I myself, so I decided not to work with him and to do things myself instead. Merlijn Twaalfhoven

Become famous. Even if you don’t want to show yourself as a personality in your work and try to focus attention on the process and the local aspect, make sure that you are a noticeable presence. This is not immodest but good for the project, the participants, the commissioning authority and the audience.

Sjoerd Wagenaar

38

There was a local councillor who I couldn’t get around and who actually saw my project as a problem and had no intention to make any move in favour of it. Once I had made it clear to him that nobody knew about or was supposed to know about the project, except for him, he gradually became more enthusiastic. In the end he got so into it that when I called him, he started to ask me for code words to make sure he was definitely speaking to me, before passing on information. He eventually became so enthusiastic that he kept an entire cuttings folder of articles about the project and I now have the fondest memories of him.

I was planning to produce a major site-specific project in close collaboration with the residents of Zaandam. To establish a niche for myself within the community, gain the trust of the participants and to give the politicians a reason to claim the project for themselves a bit, I was the ‘city composer’ that year. Here is a selection from the wave of reactions: ‘Twaalfhoven, is he by any chance related to a councillor or a high-up municipal official? I don’t know, I'm not from around here. In any case he’s been given a leg up, there must be a reason behind it, or is he sharing a bed with the right person?’

39

Saskia Korsten

Bear in mind local clubs. Particularly if your work will be dealing with local problems, take a cautious approach towards working intensively with local organisations. Your project will immediately be linked to the existing status quo and will then become part of the problem instead of a way of placing the problem in a new light. The audience will immediately place you in a specific corner if you collaborate with well-known key figures in the community. There is also a large risk that a specific clique that has been active for some time will also dominate this project. Breaking out of these types of patterns can actually be a valuable aspect of your project.

‘Am I mistaken, or can we afford this nonsense? Libraries/community centres are being forced to shut down, and the average citizens are the victims. There has been an alarming increase in costs for the man on the street over the past few years. Some people can’t even afford to buy their own food, and this ‘left-wing’ board has spent money on a city composer.’ ‘Zaanstad is as rotten as could be. (…) For years we have been terrorised by loitering youths, numerous car break-ins and vandalism in our block of flats. (…) this municipality has NEVER even attempted to do anything about it. (…) But when I read the news, it seems the Zaanstad municipal authority has plenty of money to waste on ridiculous projects like a city composer.’


‘A city composer is the last person who can provide a ray of light in the darkness of Zaandam. We will go down singing in Dante’s Inver(dan)no.’ [MT: there is a major new construction project in Zaanstad called ‘Inverdan’] ‘Yet another person who will no longer need to go to the soup kitchen because he is too ignorant and lazy to work. This is exactly what we need in Zaandam. More money down the drain!’ ‘A city composer is sheer nonsense and a waste of money. If you want to see a good concert go to Amsterdam; there’s plenty of culture there.’ Excellent, great start, you would think. I was the first city composer ever to be appointed in the Netherlands and as I was not being paid (contrary to what many people evidently believed), I was completely free to interpret the role in my own way. What an excellent decision! Suddenly you become one of the local residents, and you fully belong there. Nobody cared about my CV or experience abroad, but everybody knew about the city composer.

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Merlijn Twaalfhoven

Don’t be afraid of politics. When you are working in the world your project can become embroiled in an uproar, particularly if it was financed with taxpayer’s money. That’s fine. Stay on your toes, but persevere! Your work may turn out differently to how you intended it to. This often makes it better. As a result of my project, the local People's Party for Freedom and Democracy group tabled a motion for the Alderman for Culture to resign. I was in a panic, but the Alderman in question took it in his stride and he was right, I never heard any more about it and the Alderman didn’t step down. All the agreements made at that time to place restraints on the art committee have not been followed through to date (three years after the event). Saskia Korsten

YOUR TEAM Make yourself dispensable. If you have good workshop leaders, save some time to allow you to observe the process and to keep on top of everything that is going on. So make sure that you don’t give yourself too much to do. Do everything yourself. Consistency is power. If you know lots of details, you can make the right decisions. You will find that you yourself sometimes come up with creative alternatives for simple, practical things, strengthening the project. Do you order pizza or does someone cook up a big pot of soup for all the participants? Is there a bar with a huge ‘Heineken’ sign looking down, or does someone make fresh mint tea? Food and drink determine the atmosphere and have a huge impact on the participants’ and audience’s experience. Merlijn Twaalfhoven

Your assistant needs time. Don’t think that employing staff will take the strain off you. Assistants are only helpful if they know what they need to do, and they only know this if you have explained it to them very clearly.

41


‘A city composer is the last person who can provide a ray of light in the darkness of Zaandam. We will go down singing in Dante’s Inver(dan)no.’ [MT: there is a major new construction project in Zaanstad called ‘Inverdan’] ‘Yet another person who will no longer need to go to the soup kitchen because he is too ignorant and lazy to work. This is exactly what we need in Zaandam. More money down the drain!’ ‘A city composer is sheer nonsense and a waste of money. If you want to see a good concert go to Amsterdam; there’s plenty of culture there.’

40

Excellent, great start, you would think. I was the first city composer ever to be appointed in the Netherlands and as I was not being paid (contrary to what many people evidently believed), I was completely free to interpret the role in my own way. What an excellent decision! Suddenly you become one of the local residents, and you fully belong there. Nobody cared about my CV or experience abroad, but everybody knew about the city composer. Merlijn Twaalfhoven

Don’t be afraid of politics. When you are working in the world your project can become embroiled in an uproar, particularly if it was financed with taxpayer’s money. That’s fine. Stay on your toes, but persevere! Your work may turn out differently to how you intended it to. This often makes it better. As a result of my project, the local People's Party for Freedom and Democracy group tabled a motion for the Alderman for Culture to resign. I was in a panic, but the Alderman in question took it in his stride and he was right, I never heard any more about it and the Alderman didn’t step down. All the agreements made at that time to place restraints on the art committee have not been followed through to date (three years after the event). Saskia Korsten

YOUR TEAM Make yourself dispensable. If you have good workshop leaders, save some time to allow you to observe the process and to keep on top of everything that is going on. So make sure that you don’t give yourself too much to do. Do everything yourself. Consistency is power. If you know lots of details, you can make the right decisions. You will find that you yourself sometimes come up with creative alternatives for simple, practical things, strengthening the project. Do you order pizza or does someone cook up a big pot of soup for all the participants? Is there a bar with a huge ‘Heineken’ sign looking down, or does someone make fresh mint tea? Food and drink determine the atmosphere and have a huge impact on the participants’ and audience’s experience. Merlijn Twaalfhoven

Your assistant needs time. Don’t think that employing staff will take the strain off you. Assistants are only helpful if they know what they need to do, and they only know this if you have explained it to them very clearly.

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WORKING WITH

professional world. You are not one of these examples. You may be doing something that can inject new life into existing traditions, but many associations (for instance) are not convinced of the need to do this - quite the reverse.

INEXPERIENCED PARTICIPANTS Be frank. Your participants know straight away whether you want to use (take advantage of ) them or whether you have a genuine interest in them. If you show that you are vulnerable, you send out the message that you are not afraid of the unknown.

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Nobody is unmanageable. You will only be forced to make concessions if certain participants are extremely inflexible or lack discipline, and the question is how far you are willing to go.

A performance on Terschelling’s mud flats wasn’t getting off the ground. The singers didn’t have faith in the piece or in my ideas. The atmosphere during rehearsals was frosty. On a nice morning I went out for a run and a swim in the sea. It was then that I heard the gulls and the sound of the water for the first time. I realised that I had been pushing through my own plans and ignoring what was going on around me. When I told my singers this, the tension was relieved and everyone started to listen to one another. It became the most wonderful performance I have ever produced.

We were warned that the residents of the gypsy ghetto where we wanted to perform were dangerous and criminals. As a drummer I was worried about all my equipment, which I absolutely couldn’t afford to lose. The minute we arrived, we were surrounded by dozens of shrieking children. I decided at that point on unloading the car to give all sorts of gear straight to the noisiest children. It turned out that the kids who were the biggest pains in the neck stayed very calm as long as they were allowed to help carry or set things up. But when we excluded them, sure enough they were completely wild.

Anthony Heidweiller

Martin Franke

At the start of an art project in a residential area I had no idea about the sense of anger felt by the residents. It quickly became clear that their anger and mistrust was causing the project to come to a standstill. When I proposed that another option was to simply cancel it (and really meant it), the scepticism and anger dissipated. After that the process went very smoothly. Marieke Vriend

Don’t be too frank. If a process is running into difficulties or is still very abstract, it can be fatal if the participants see that even you as the director do not have a clear idea of where it is headed. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t share any doubts or uncertainties with the participants! Show them that uncertainty brings with it the beauty of the unknown and not fear of failure. It is an adventure, not foolhardiness.

Don’t be discouraged if nobody is interested. Innovating and breaking through patterns is very meaningful in the world of professional art, but often less relevant for amateurs. People choose their hobbies very deliberately from the huge range on offer. They are ambitious, keen to master a style or tradition and emulate stereotypical examples from the

Don’t be discouraged if nobody has the courage. Even if you yourself firmly believe in your project, remember that the participants are not able to visualise where the process is headed. They don’t have anything concrete to look forward to and are therefore forced to trust in your words and the impression they get from the first meetings, auditions or workshops.

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I thought that a student orchestra would be keen to take part in an experimental project. But following a passionate plea from the conductor’s podium, nobody had the courage to sign up - it remained painstakingly silent. It turned out that their very reason for wanting to be part of the orchestra was to play normal, ‘proper’ music in the concert hall, and that they really weren’t waiting for the chance to do something different. Merlijn Twaalfhoven

Don’t be discouraged if nobody has time. In principle everybody’s lives are already jam-packed, particularly in the case of enthusiasts and talented individuals. It is precisely the most interesting people in a community who have the busiest schedules. Why should they have to push all their other activities to one side for the sake of your project?


WORKING WITH INEXPERIENCED PARTICIPANTS Be frank. Your participants know straight away whether you want to use (take advantage of ) them or whether you have a genuine interest in them. If you show that you are vulnerable, you send out the message that you are not afraid of the unknown.

42

professional world. You are not one of these examples. You may be doing something that can inject new life into existing traditions, but many associations (for instance) are not convinced of the need to do this - quite the reverse. Nobody is unmanageable. You will only be forced to make concessions if certain participants are extremely inflexible or lack discipline, and the question is how far you are willing to go.

A performance on Terschelling’s mud flats wasn’t getting off the ground. The singers didn’t have faith in the piece or in my ideas. The atmosphere during rehearsals was frosty. On a nice morning I went out for a run and a swim in the sea. It was then that I heard the gulls and the sound of the water for the first time. I realised that I had been pushing through my own plans and ignoring what was going on around me. When I told my singers this, the tension was relieved and everyone started to listen to one another. It became the most wonderful performance I have ever produced.

We were warned that the residents of the gypsy ghetto where we wanted to perform were dangerous and criminals. As a drummer I was worried about all my equipment, which I absolutely couldn’t afford to lose. The minute we arrived, we were surrounded by dozens of shrieking children. I decided at that point on unloading the car to give all sorts of gear straight to the noisiest children. It turned out that the kids who were the biggest pains in the neck stayed very calm as long as they were allowed to help carry or set things up. But when we excluded them, sure enough they were completely wild.

Anthony Heidweiller

Martin Franke

At the start of an art project in a residential area I had no idea about the sense of anger felt by the residents. It quickly became clear that their anger and mistrust was causing the project to come to a standstill. When I proposed that another option was to simply cancel it (and really meant it), the scepticism and anger dissipated. After that the process went very smoothly. Marieke Vriend

Don’t be too frank. If a process is running into difficulties or is still very abstract, it can be fatal if the participants see that even you as the director do not have a clear idea of where it is headed. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t share any doubts or uncertainties with the participants! Show them that uncertainty brings with it the beauty of the unknown and not fear of failure. It is an adventure, not foolhardiness. Don’t be discouraged if nobody is interested. Innovating and breaking through patterns is very meaningful in the world of professional art, but often less relevant for amateurs. People choose their hobbies very deliberately from the huge range on offer. They are ambitious, keen to master a style or tradition and emulate stereotypical examples from the

Don’t be discouraged if nobody has the courage. Even if you yourself firmly believe in your project, remember that the participants are not able to visualise where the process is headed. They don’t have anything concrete to look forward to and are therefore forced to trust in your words and the impression they get from the first meetings, auditions or workshops.

43

I thought that a student orchestra would be keen to take part in an experimental project. But following a passionate plea from the conductor’s podium, nobody had the courage to sign up - it remained painstakingly silent. It turned out that their very reason for wanting to be part of the orchestra was to play normal, ‘proper’ music in the concert hall, and that they really weren’t waiting for the chance to do something different. Merlijn Twaalfhoven Don’t be discouraged if nobody has time. In principle everybody’s lives are already jam-packed, particularly in the case of enthusiasts and talented individuals. It is precisely the most interesting people in a community who have the busiest schedules. Why should they have to push all their other activities to one side for the sake of your project?


One of the violinists often arrived late, behaved in an arrogant manner and his parents constantly complained that I was asking too much of him. I would have liked to kick him out of the project, but he was by far the best musician. That was when I - with difficulty - decided that I wasn’t going to educate the kid and gave into to his parents’ demands. Merlijn Twaalfhoven

Be aware of imperceptible cultural differences. You are constantly surprised by your participants. As well as background and education, there are any number of subtle aspects that motivate someone to get involved or not to get involved. Be careful first and foremost of your own experience, which creates the strongest prejudices.

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I was holding workshops at a primary school in Eastern Slovakia in preparation for a concert in a gypsy ghetto. The children were really difficult to handle, and one boy in particular, who was totally out of control. The only English he seemed to know was ‘fuck you’. A week later only a small group of the most serious children remained: this group actually went on to take part in the performance. It included the same boy. Still not easy to get on with, but extremely enthusiastic. Merlijn Twaalfhoven

Don’t underestimate your participants. Even if a person has never been in a theatre or concert hall, everyone knows that art is all about fantasy, dreams and imagination. Have the courage to fantasise, to dream and to imagine!

REHEARSALS Take your time. Lots of people want to be involved, but are already busy with something else or are unavailable for other reasons. Amateur associations fill up their schedules way in advance and feel passed over if you give them the sense that your project is more important than their own plans. On the other hand if you can put something to them that will be included in the brainstorming session for a new annual schedule, this will make them happy (after all it means that the meeting will be over faster and everyone can go for a drink). Don’t dilly-dally. If participants have signed up or have been successful during the audition, they will be keen to make a start. Give them some lines to study straight away if possible, or keep them busy looking for settings and costumes. Make sure they are involved in the entire process, so that the project itself becomes a little community. An autistic actor was taking part during the improvisation phase, which always forms part of the run-up to a production. He clearly needed stability, which is very difficult to provide during the introductory period. He couldn’t cope with the improvisation process: constant changes, achieving something today and throwing everything out the window again tomorrow and starting over. He always wanted to retain something. We quickly shortened and adapted a monologue for him. This gave him a definite start and a definite script to build on. He was safe and so the situation did not affect those who were indeed improvising.

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Mia Grijp

I discovered that the participants were not interested in telling their life stories and all their problems; they preferred to express their dreams and fantasies in the project. Els Dietvorst

Watch out for art. As soon as a project gains a whiff of art, a gap develops between normal life and the project. That is sometimes a shame, because it is precisely in normal life that all participants feel completely at home; what you are in fact dealing with is fully-qualified ‘life’ professionals. That is much more valuable than working with amateur artists... People didn’t realise that we were performing Hamlet. Excellent. Peter Stam

Talk a lot. Knowledge of the participants enables you to give good directions that fit in with their personal experience. Conversely, the participants improve their understanding of you and your motives.

Don’t explain anything. If you describe what you want or intend to achieve, participants will try to do this and forget to perform spontaneously.


One of the violinists often arrived late, behaved in an arrogant manner and his parents constantly complained that I was asking too much of him. I would have liked to kick him out of the project, but he was by far the best musician. That was when I - with difficulty - decided that I wasn’t going to educate the kid and gave into to his parents’ demands. Merlijn Twaalfhoven Be aware of imperceptible cultural differences. You are constantly surprised by your participants. As well as background and education, there are any number of subtle aspects that motivate someone to get involved or not to get involved. Be careful first and foremost of your own experience, which creates the strongest prejudices.

44

I was holding workshops at a primary school in Eastern Slovakia in preparation for a concert in a gypsy ghetto. The children were really difficult to handle, and one boy in particular, who was totally out of control. The only English he seemed to know was ‘fuck you’. A week later only a small group of the most serious children remained: this group actually went on to take part in the performance. It included the same boy. Still not easy to get on with, but extremely enthusiastic. Merlijn Twaalfhoven Don’t underestimate your participants. Even if a person has never been in a theatre or concert hall, everyone knows that art is all about fantasy, dreams and imagination. Have the courage to fantasise, to dream and to imagine!

REHEARSALS Take your time. Lots of people want to be involved, but are already busy with something else or are unavailable for other reasons. Amateur associations fill up their schedules way in advance and feel passed over if you give them the sense that your project is more important than their own plans. On the other hand if you can put something to them that will be included in the brainstorming session for a new annual schedule, this will make them happy (after all it means that the meeting will be over faster and everyone can go for a drink). Don’t dilly-dally. If participants have signed up or have been successful during the audition, they will be keen to make a start. Give them some lines to study straight away if possible, or keep them busy looking for settings and costumes. Make sure they are involved in the entire process, so that the project itself becomes a little community. An autistic actor was taking part during the improvisation phase, which always forms part of the run-up to a production. He clearly needed stability, which is very difficult to provide during the introductory period. He couldn’t cope with the improvisation process: constant changes, achieving something today and throwing everything out the window again tomorrow and starting over. He always wanted to retain something. We quickly shortened and adapted a monologue for him. This gave him a definite start and a definite script to build on. He was safe and so the situation did not affect those who were indeed improvising.

45

Mia Grijp

I discovered that the participants were not interested in telling their life stories and all their problems; they preferred to express their dreams and fantasies in the project. Els Dietvorst Watch out for art. As soon as a project gains a whiff of art, a gap develops between normal life and the project. That is sometimes a shame, because it is precisely in normal life that all participants feel completely at home; what you are in fact dealing with is fully-qualified ‘life’ professionals. That is much more valuable than working with amateur artists... People didn’t realise that we were performing Hamlet. Excellent. Peter Stam

Talk a lot. Knowledge of the participants enables you to give good directions that fit in with their personal experience. Conversely, the participants improve their understanding of you and your motives. Don’t explain anything. If you describe what you want or intend to achieve, participants will try to do this and forget to perform spontaneously.


Don’t make it too difficult for them. The participants cannot always achieve what you plan to do. However, the high level of the project is not determined by the technical skills of the people carrying it out, but by the imagination and creativity of the artist, which ensures that something unique is achieved thanks to and not despite the characteristic traits (read: limitations) of the participants. A good atmosphere and motivation play an essential role in this. Don’t spoil it by being too strict. We always try to talk to people on an equal basis, based on genuine interest. How they are at home, at school, out and about and with friends. I realised that I had never spoken to young people so openly before. That was a revelation to me. Even after arguments they kept coming back. If it had been youth work, people would simply have stopped coming to see me for a few weeks. But the performing arts clearly inspired greater confidence. Donna Risa

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Don’t make it too easy for them. By being completely happy with everything that the participants do, you are actually showing them that you don’t really have faith in them. You are not a teacher setting the participants a task. You are essentially working together. You may have different goals, but everyone is taking part out of self-interest, and not (just) because the artist is such a great guy. So make sure that everyone has responsibilities, and is aware of their own motivation and purpose in the project. One particular Moroccan boy stole my heart. He was so open, spoke about everything and was simply genuine. The danger was that this meant he could also ‘get away’ with lots of things with me. For instance he could arrive late, whereas I would challenge other people who did the same. You are working as a director, but you also have to keep an eye on the social group process. As a performer he was very important to me. He was the boy who the entire story actually revolved around. If I were to lose him I would have had a major problem. So I made too many allowances. Then came the time for us to perform at a school in front of police officers and young people from ethnic minorities. We had around two hundred people in the auditorium, police officers and young Moroccans. The performer in question was late again. I spent around an hour searching the area in all the places he could be. It eventually emerged that he was at the police station. So I had lost

him after all. As a result, I now make much clearer agreements and establish boundaries for the performers, even if this means that I sometimes lose a key player. Donna Risa

Divide the process into chunks. Make sure that everyone is given a proper chance during the rehearsals. You should therefore make the groups small and work on perfecting, as it were, small pieces of a puzzle that only come together at the end. This ensures that participants don’t have to wait around for others. Watching the piece develop as a whole may be a spectacular experience for you, but the participants often have little patience for this.

Don’t divide the process into chunks. The performance exists in your head. If they only get to practice individual snippets during each rehearsal, the participants rapidly lose their motivation. So make sure that you create points at which elements come together just halfway into the process, for instance through pilot projects.

Create pilot projects. Professionals can be happy spending months preparing a piece. Amateurs too, as long as they know where the work is headed and for instance are performing a recognisable piece. Things are different with a more abstract project. If after five rehearsals there is nothing tangible, people drop out. Even if your final goal is spectacular, it is better to create small test projects as kind of way stations than to embark on an agonisingly long intercity journey. Pilot projects don’t just help to motivate your participants, each project also generates publicity, you get to know your participants better, volunteers can stay busy with all the practical issues surrounding a performance and you test your team at an early stage. But be careful: if a pilot does not go well, this is of course also bad publicity for your main project. Sometimes you cannot achieve a satisfactory result in a pilot, which causes participants to experience doubts.

47


Don’t make it too difficult for them. The participants cannot always achieve what you plan to do. However, the high level of the project is not determined by the technical skills of the people carrying it out, but by the imagination and creativity of the artist, which ensures that something unique is achieved thanks to and not despite the characteristic traits (read: limitations) of the participants. A good atmosphere and motivation play an essential role in this. Don’t spoil it by being too strict. We always try to talk to people on an equal basis, based on genuine interest. How they are at home, at school, out and about and with friends. I realised that I had never spoken to young people so openly before. That was a revelation to me. Even after arguments they kept coming back. If it had been youth work, people would simply have stopped coming to see me for a few weeks. But the performing arts clearly inspired greater confidence. Donna Risa

46

Don’t make it too easy for them. By being completely happy with everything that the participants do, you are actually showing them that you don’t really have faith in them. You are not a teacher setting the participants a task. You are essentially working together. You may have different goals, but everyone is taking part out of self-interest, and not (just) because the artist is such a great guy. So make sure that everyone has responsibilities, and is aware of their own motivation and purpose in the project. One particular Moroccan boy stole my heart. He was so open, spoke about everything and was simply genuine. The danger was that this meant he could also ‘get away’ with lots of things with me. For instance he could arrive late, whereas I would challenge other people who did the same. You are working as a director, but you also have to keep an eye on the social group process. As a performer he was very important to me. He was the boy who the entire story actually revolved around. If I were to lose him I would have had a major problem. So I made too many allowances. Then came the time for us to perform at a school in front of police officers and young people from ethnic minorities. We had around two hundred people in the auditorium, police officers and young Moroccans. The performer in question was late again. I spent around an hour searching the area in all the places he could be. It eventually emerged that he was at the police station. So I had lost

him after all. As a result, I now make much clearer agreements and establish boundaries for the performers, even if this means that I sometimes lose a key player. Donna Risa

Divide the process into chunks. Make sure that everyone is given a proper chance during the rehearsals. You should therefore make the groups small and work on perfecting, as it were, small pieces of a puzzle that only come together at the end. This ensures that participants don’t have to wait around for others. Watching the piece develop as a whole may be a spectacular experience for you, but the participants often have little patience for this. Don’t divide the process into chunks. The performance exists in your head. If they only get to practice individual snippets during each rehearsal, the participants rapidly lose their motivation. So make sure that you create points at which elements come together just halfway into the process, for instance through pilot projects. Create pilot projects. Professionals can be happy spending months preparing a piece. Amateurs too, as long as they know where the work is headed and for instance are performing a recognisable piece. Things are different with a more abstract project. If after five rehearsals there is nothing tangible, people drop out. Even if your final goal is spectacular, it is better to create small test projects as kind of way stations than to embark on an agonisingly long intercity journey. Pilot projects don’t just help to motivate your participants, each project also generates publicity, you get to know your participants better, volunteers can stay busy with all the practical issues surrounding a performance and you test your team at an early stage. But be careful: if a pilot does not go well, this is of course also bad publicity for your main project. Sometimes you cannot achieve a satisfactory result in a pilot, which causes participants to experience doubts.

47


Ask for external feedback. Your relationship with the group is a complex jumble of interests and objectives. So it’s good to sometimes seek the advice of an outsider, who can be critical without being part of the process himself. A lack of background knowledge enables an outsider to be harsh without becoming personal. (He can also cause confusion if he has lots of ideas himself.)

Improvise. Many artists have in the past found that they only discovered that certain participants had hidden talents during the actual performance (or at the after-show party!). As an artist you kick yourself for not seeing this earlier (after all, he or she was so shy during the audition or the workshop). Accept that not all talent responds on command. Create relaxed, lively situations so that you lower the threshold for the participants to show another side to their personalities.

48

When you set an improvisation task on the stage, the most interesting things occurred on the sidelines. So you actually need to do everything in twos with this type of group. One person is in charge of the rehearsals and the other keeps an eye on the group to see what is going on at the fringes. Stefan van Hees

Give them something to go on. If you have to improvise but you have few skills, you soon look foolish. Improvisation can be intimidating particularly for inexperienced participants, and they can get fed up because they feel that they are not creative or smart enough. It is a good idea to avoid combining too many different levels in one group and to make the groups small. Before each of the ten performances, as well as a warm-up, Don’t Hit Mama choreographer Nita Liem also held a concentration exercise to bring the group ‘together’. This exercise was always adapted to the situation: what is the atmosphere like within the group, what type of mood is everyone in, what is the energy like? There were not just two groups, but also twenty three different individuals with their own moods and daily problems. Before each performance we stood in a circle with all the dancers. It was a struggle each time to get everyone to join in. But it is a powerful and important moment for the group, it is essential in order to truly work together during the performance. Bart Deuss

I was working with a group who found it extremely difficult to concentrate. I had learned to form a circle with the performers before the show and to send a ‘pulse’ around the circle. It was usually impossible to keep this going for long and people started to joke around. I knew that if the pulse actually made it round, they were prepared to put on a fantastic show. But the atmosphere became increasingly negative and the pulse never made it round the circle. Hans Lein

Keep an open mind. The greatest richness lies not in you, but in the participants. This richness is just waiting to be discovered. In the simplest person lurks the deepest drama, in every thick-witted idiot a poet! I see my work as painting a classical portrait. I produce portraits of our modern-day society. These are three-dimensional projects in space and time. They are mainly projects that are produced through an inclusive process. That people work on together. It is a group portrait of this day and age, but also one in which people can recognise themselves. Inspired by Rembrandt’s Night Watch, the art historian Alois Riegl said about the power of Dutch portraiture that it was so clever that everyone on that portrait was given enough light to stand out. Based on this tradition in the visual arts, I see it as a challenge to produce portraits in which people are placed in a light that makes them stand out.

49

Jeanne van Heeswijk

Protect yourself. You are not there to resolve participants’ personal problems. You are not a therapist dealing with personal matters (although that’s sometimes how you feel). But also don’t ignore it! See whether there may be a place for the problem within the whole. Accept it, embrace it. We were working with a mixed group of young Surinamese, Antillean and Dutch people. On one evening a performer who had been part of the group for some time brought along a friend who happened to be homosexual. This provoked a huge clash within the group between the young Antilleans and the young Surinamese members. What happened for real at that point became the basic idea behind the performance. I would never have been able to come up with that at my writing desk. Stefan van Hees


Ask for external feedback. Your relationship with the group is a complex jumble of interests and objectives. So it’s good to sometimes seek the advice of an outsider, who can be critical without being part of the process himself. A lack of background knowledge enables an outsider to be harsh without becoming personal. (He can also cause confusion if he has lots of ideas himself.) Improvise. Many artists have in the past found that they only discovered that certain participants had hidden talents during the actual performance (or at the after-show party!). As an artist you kick yourself for not seeing this earlier (after all, he or she was so shy during the audition or the workshop). Accept that not all talent responds on command. Create relaxed, lively situations so that you lower the threshold for the participants to show another side to their personalities.

48

When you set an improvisation task on the stage, the most interesting things occurred on the sidelines. So you actually need to do everything in twos with this type of group. One person is in charge of the rehearsals and the other keeps an eye on the group to see what is going on at the fringes. Stefan van Hees Give them something to go on. If you have to improvise but you have few skills, you soon look foolish. Improvisation can be intimidating particularly for inexperienced participants, and they can get fed up because they feel that they are not creative or smart enough. It is a good idea to avoid combining too many different levels in one group and to make the groups small. Before each of the ten performances, as well as a warm-up, Don’t Hit Mama choreographer Nita Liem also held a concentration exercise to bring the group ‘together’. This exercise was always adapted to the situation: what is the atmosphere like within the group, what type of mood is everyone in, what is the energy like? There were not just two groups, but also twenty three different individuals with their own moods and daily problems. Before each performance we stood in a circle with all the dancers. It was a struggle each time to get everyone to join in. But it is a powerful and important moment for the group, it is essential in order to truly work together during the performance. Bart Deuss

I was working with a group who found it extremely difficult to concentrate. I had learned to form a circle with the performers before the show and to send a ‘pulse’ around the circle. It was usually impossible to keep this going for long and people started to joke around. I knew that if the pulse actually made it round, they were prepared to put on a fantastic show. But the atmosphere became increasingly negative and the pulse never made it round the circle. Hans Lein Keep an open mind. The greatest richness lies not in you, but in the participants. This richness is just waiting to be discovered. In the simplest person lurks the deepest drama, in every thick-witted idiot a poet! I see my work as painting a classical portrait. I produce portraits of our modern-day society. These are three-dimensional projects in space and time. They are mainly projects that are produced through an inclusive process. That people work on together. It is a group portrait of this day and age, but also one in which people can recognise themselves. Inspired by Rembrandt’s Night Watch, the art historian Alois Riegl said about the power of Dutch portraiture that it was so clever that everyone on that portrait was given enough light to stand out. Based on this tradition in the visual arts, I see it as a challenge to produce portraits in which people are placed in a light that makes them stand out.

49

Jeanne van Heeswijk

Protect yourself. You are not there to resolve participants’ personal problems. You are not a therapist dealing with personal matters (although that’s sometimes how you feel). But also don’t ignore it! See whether there may be a place for the problem within the whole. Accept it, embrace it. We were working with a mixed group of young Surinamese, Antillean and Dutch people. On one evening a performer who had been part of the group for some time brought along a friend who happened to be homosexual. This provoked a huge clash within the group between the young Antilleans and the young Surinamese members. What happened for real at that point became the basic idea behind the performance. I would never have been able to come up with that at my writing desk. Stefan van Hees


Don’t compete with conventional art. You cannot gain from this from a technical point of view and you now have the opportunity to create something much more valuable, something that wouldn’t have been possible with professionals. So don’t be tempted to spend months practicing complex music, dance or whatever. This will only expose the lack of expertise of inexperienced participants in a more excruciating way. A sugar refinery is not built to make molasses.

Goenka

Be subservient, but not cowardly. The project is more important than you yourself. But without you, the project would be nothing. So never stand on the sidelines on the pretext of giving precedence to the participants, but consciously decide when to tighten and when to loosen the reins.

there was something to eat. We tried to keep the group calm and avoid conflicts. There was a risk that they would start to direct one another. By being there and going through individual details we prevented this from happening. We scheduled the group warm-up (voice, body) as close as possible to the start of the performance, so that they could take the energy it released onto the stage with them. Mia Grijp

Give your performers something to do. Not everyone can act, but a particular task can indeed produce the right result. I wanted to get the members of a choir to look inquiringly and uncertainly into the audience at a particular point. Some participants turned this into a cringe-worthy drama and didn’t understand that I wasn’t happy - after all, they were doing their best. I then asked them to simply count all the people wearing glasses in their heads. The results were marvellous. Merlijn Twaalfhoven

50

My production was big and complex, the different groups of participants only knew their own parts and there was no time for lots of rehearsals. Initially I wanted to remain discreetly in the background as director, but there was a major risk that the performers would slip up. By eventually taking up a prominent position on the stage, continuously issuing directions (even where not strictly necessary) I was not only able to put the chaos into perspective and fill unexpected gaps, but I created a kind of safety net that actually gave the participants the courage to become more free and easy in their performance. Merlijn Twaalfhoven

Stay pure. Everyone is better than anyone else at being themselves. An amateur may be amateurish when it comes to acting a role in a play, but he is an expert at being himself. The trick is to create an environment in which both professional and inexperienced performers feel secure enough not to hide behind a role or pretence.

51

Many actors say that they learn that they themselves are theatre. If you work like this you can also allow yourself to hand out the script only a week in advance. Joost Horward

Don’t let yourself go mad. It is sometimes a shock when it turns out that certain participants still don’t understand anything about the project even at the end of the process. They have not learned, like professional actors, musicians or dancers, that the final result is more important than their personal goal. They can therefore be on a different track right to the end. That doesn’t matter...

An inexperienced performer was supposed to stand on the stage with gauze fairy wings on her back and a cassette recorder in her hand until the tape recording ended. However she left the stage early because she thought she had nothing to perform, to my disappointment, because this image of solitude couldn’t last long enough for me. Pieter Vrijman

Some performers were so motivated for this project that they often arrived way too early. They sat celebrating for a long time before the performance, smoking cigarettes and knocking back coffee in their enthusiasm to perform. But they had run out of energy by the time the performance was due to start. We therefore made sure that we were also there ourselves and that


Don’t compete with conventional art. You cannot gain from this from a technical point of view and you now have the opportunity to create something much more valuable, something that wouldn’t have been possible with professionals. So don’t be tempted to spend months practicing complex music, dance or whatever. This will only expose the lack of expertise of inexperienced participants in a more excruciating way. A sugar refinery is not built to make molasses.

Goenka

Be subservient, but not cowardly. The project is more important than you yourself. But without you, the project would be nothing. So never stand on the sidelines on the pretext of giving precedence to the participants, but consciously decide when to tighten and when to loosen the reins.

there was something to eat. We tried to keep the group calm and avoid conflicts. There was a risk that they would start to direct one another. By being there and going through individual details we prevented this from happening. We scheduled the group warm-up (voice, body) as close as possible to the start of the performance, so that they could take the energy it released onto the stage with them. Mia Grijp

Give your performers something to do. Not everyone can act, but a particular task can indeed produce the right result. I wanted to get the members of a choir to look inquiringly and uncertainly into the audience at a particular point. Some participants turned this into a cringe-worthy drama and didn’t understand that I wasn’t happy - after all, they were doing their best. I then asked them to simply count all the people wearing glasses in their heads. The results were marvellous. Merlijn Twaalfhoven

50

My production was big and complex, the different groups of participants only knew their own parts and there was no time for lots of rehearsals. Initially I wanted to remain discreetly in the background as director, but there was a major risk that the performers would slip up. By eventually taking up a prominent position on the stage, continuously issuing directions (even where not strictly necessary) I was not only able to put the chaos into perspective and fill unexpected gaps, but I created a kind of safety net that actually gave the participants the courage to become more free and easy in their performance. Merlijn Twaalfhoven

Stay pure. Everyone is better than anyone else at being themselves. An amateur may be amateurish when it comes to acting a role in a play, but he is an expert at being himself. The trick is to create an environment in which both professional and inexperienced performers feel secure enough not to hide behind a role or pretence.

51

Many actors say that they learn that they themselves are theatre. If you work like this you can also allow yourself to hand out the script only a week in advance. Joost Horward

Don’t let yourself go mad. It is sometimes a shock when it turns out that certain participants still don’t understand anything about the project even at the end of the process. They have not learned, like professional actors, musicians or dancers, that the final result is more important than their personal goal. They can therefore be on a different track right to the end. That doesn’t matter...

An inexperienced performer was supposed to stand on the stage with gauze fairy wings on her back and a cassette recorder in her hand until the tape recording ended. However she left the stage early because she thought she had nothing to perform, to my disappointment, because this image of solitude couldn’t last long enough for me. Pieter Vrijman

Some performers were so motivated for this project that they often arrived way too early. They sat celebrating for a long time before the performance, smoking cigarettes and knocking back coffee in their enthusiasm to perform. But they had run out of energy by the time the performance was due to start. We therefore made sure that we were also there ourselves and that


Don’t make it too sweet. Animals, babies and older people are great to watch, but be sparing with the endearment factor. Not everyone wants to be seen as sweet or endearing. Vulnerability is something very valuable, treat it with respect.

THE ORGANISATION Organise your enabling conditions. As an artist you are forced to spend lots of time on things that at first sight don’t have anything to do with the content of the project. But it is precisely these environmental factors that strongly influence the result, whether you like it or not. The trick is to respond constructively and creatively to organisational letdowns, practical surprises and the quirks of the participants. Then you can cope with the world. Don’t be discouraged by shortage of funds. Most spending for a project often goes on basic things: safety, stage and hall, equipment. All non-artistic aspects. So see if you can also tell your story without certain basics. The story is free, as (usually) are the environment and the participants. That is the true richness of your production. You only need a budget to cover up your lack of ideas (and naturally to pay yourself, the producer and the PR assistant a small wage).

52

A lack of money forced me to look for volunteers. People who wanted to help me with welding, painting and lugging things around. This eventually meant that various groups of people committed themselves to the project, both the policymakers and the people from the shop floor.

53

Marieke Vriend

One time I needed lots of people, but there was no budget available. Contrary to my expectations, none of my fellow students were willing to help me with a grand composition in the dunes. The brass band ‘Door Samenwerking Sterk’ (‘Strength in Numbers’ what’s in a name?) from Aarlanderveen were happy to take part as long as there would be some nice food and beer afterwards. The project was a success. What’s more: I went on to work with the same people on another ten occasions, including the time that the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra refused to stand around the audience in a three-dimensional set-up. This was not a problem for Door Samenwerking Sterk. Incidentally, their added value was not just practical. You can achieve magnificent musical effects if not everyone plays together perfectly or is completely in tune. The sound really comes to life, just like your project. Merlijn Twaalfhoven


Don’t make it too sweet. Animals, babies and older people are great to watch, but be sparing with the endearment factor. Not everyone wants to be seen as sweet or endearing. Vulnerability is something very valuable, treat it with respect.

THE ORGANISATION Organise your enabling conditions. As an artist you are forced to spend lots of time on things that at first sight don’t have anything to do with the content of the project. But it is precisely these environmental factors that strongly influence the result, whether you like it or not. The trick is to respond constructively and creatively to organisational letdowns, practical surprises and the quirks of the participants. Then you can cope with the world. Don’t be discouraged by shortage of funds. Most spending for a project often goes on basic things: safety, stage and hall, equipment. All non-artistic aspects. So see if you can also tell your story without certain basics. The story is free, as (usually) are the environment and the participants. That is the true richness of your production. You only need a budget to cover up your lack of ideas (and naturally to pay yourself, the producer and the PR assistant a small wage).

52

A lack of money forced me to look for volunteers. People who wanted to help me with welding, painting and lugging things around. This eventually meant that various groups of people committed themselves to the project, both the policymakers and the people from the shop floor.

53

Marieke Vriend

One time I needed lots of people, but there was no budget available. Contrary to my expectations, none of my fellow students were willing to help me with a grand composition in the dunes. The brass band ‘Door Samenwerking Sterk’ (‘Strength in Numbers’ what’s in a name?) from Aarlanderveen were happy to take part as long as there would be some nice food and beer afterwards. The project was a success. What’s more: I went on to work with the same people on another ten occasions, including the time that the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra refused to stand around the audience in a three-dimensional set-up. This was not a problem for Door Samenwerking Sterk. Incidentally, their added value was not just practical. You can achieve magnificent musical effects if not everyone plays together perfectly or is completely in tune. The sound really comes to life, just like your project. Merlijn Twaalfhoven


Create a deluge of publicity. Your project is unique, but the fact that you yourself know this is not enough. The status you give to this project is not just important in terms of audience numbers, but also for the motivation of the participants and financial backers. For ‘DroomZomerNacht’ we were looking for an effective marketing strategy that would be inexpensive. We had some stickers made that everyone could stick all over the place. Strangely, the stickers gave many people the impression we had a huge budget. Stickers clearly give a very commercial effect. Merlijn Twaalfhoven

Make mistakes. It is often the case that if something does go wrong, it goes wrong differently to what you were afraid of. So don’t be scared of things going wrong.

54

One of the stars of the show (actually one of the few paid performers in the piece) cancelled two days before the premiere. I couldn’t change his mind, so I had to find someone else. At that point I had no time to fully break in a new performer, and I didn’t want to saddle the other performers, who had already been thrown in at the deep end, with yet another uncertainty. I therefore allowed the role to coincide with my role as conductor. After all, I already knew almost all the words and had to be on the stage anyway. This actually only improved the piece, because it strengthened the link between the music and the play. Merlijn Twaalfhoven

Get stuck in. Don’t try to perfect your plan before you start, but get to work and the plan will perfect itself. Turn weaknesses into your strength. If people dance badly, make sure that they dance very badly with conviction. If you have little funds for good lighting, buy a thousand small bulbs from NETTO instead of five theatre spotlights. Or get each audience member to bring along a flashlight. We planned to project an image onto the backdrop, but had no funds for a computer and projector. We created a wonderful effect by shining a lamp through water in which goldfish were swimming. Goldfish cost 50 cents each. Sjoerd Wagenaar

THE PERFORMANCE Place lots of emphasis on the final performance. Even if the process is just as important to you, focusing on the result generates the necessary motivation and drive amongst the participants. If it is purely a sequence of fun, instructive workshops, your participants will not be easily satisfied. After all it will never be as fun as with an existing association, and never as instructive as on a conventional course. (Or will it?) Be shocking. Don’t be afraid of uncomfortable truths. Intimacy and contact don’t come from flattery alone. You sometimes need something else to break through established patterns and take people out of their safe little worlds. Outrage is a strong emotion and ensures that your audience or participants respond genuinely. I created a story within a story in a suburb of Zwolle. The main story was about an artist, who wanted to produce a work of art with the involvement of the residents, and the story within this story was about a ‘documentary maker’ who was investigating the level of involvement in this art project. The residents didn’t know that both storylines were fictitious. In the main storyline I did my very best to encourage the residents to take part by giving them information (repeatedly and via several channels) and asking them to provide input and thus to generate involvement in the outcome of the work of art. The response to this was seventeen replies from five hundred addresses. So involvement/participation was way down on the residents' list of priorities. In the second storyline the ‘documentary maker’ went door to door asking about the level of involvement and whether they had any idea what the work of art in their neighbourhood would turn out to be? She deliberately stirred up trouble and instigated a critical investigation by the residents. Only then did it emerge that there was no involvement at all, that this involvement had in fact been taken away from them in the project, and the demand for involvement became very great. The project sparked Parliamentary questions and inspired many letters to newspaper editors. The joke is therefore that when you offer involvement, nobody is interested. But when it appears that involvement is not an option, everyone suddenly wants to be involved. Hence: you only get people’s attention when you take something away from them and then it doesn’t matter whether they actually wanted it or not.

55

Saskia Korsten


Create a deluge of publicity. Your project is unique, but the fact that you yourself know this is not enough. The status you give to this project is not just important in terms of audience numbers, but also for the motivation of the participants and financial backers. For ‘DroomZomerNacht’ we were looking for an effective marketing strategy that would be inexpensive. We had some stickers made that everyone could stick all over the place. Strangely, the stickers gave many people the impression we had a huge budget. Stickers clearly give a very commercial effect. Merlijn Twaalfhoven

Make mistakes. It is often the case that if something does go wrong, it goes wrong differently to what you were afraid of. So don’t be scared of things going wrong.

54

One of the stars of the show (actually one of the few paid performers in the piece) cancelled two days before the premiere. I couldn’t change his mind, so I had to find someone else. At that point I had no time to fully break in a new performer, and I didn’t want to saddle the other performers, who had already been thrown in at the deep end, with yet another uncertainty. I therefore allowed the role to coincide with my role as conductor. After all, I already knew almost all the words and had to be on the stage anyway. This actually only improved the piece, because it strengthened the link between the music and the play. Merlijn Twaalfhoven

Get stuck in. Don’t try to perfect your plan before you start, but get to work and the plan will perfect itself. Turn weaknesses into your strength. If people dance badly, make sure that they dance very badly with conviction. If you have little funds for good lighting, buy a thousand small bulbs from NETTO instead of five theatre spotlights. Or get each audience member to bring along a flashlight. We planned to project an image onto the backdrop, but had no funds for a computer and projector. We created a wonderful effect by shining a lamp through water in which goldfish were swimming. Goldfish cost 50 cents each. Sjoerd Wagenaar

THE PERFORMANCE Place lots of emphasis on the final performance. Even if the process is just as important to you, focusing on the result generates the necessary motivation and drive amongst the participants. If it is purely a sequence of fun, instructive workshops, your participants will not be easily satisfied. After all it will never be as fun as with an existing association, and never as instructive as on a conventional course. (Or will it?) Be shocking. Don’t be afraid of uncomfortable truths. Intimacy and contact don’t come from flattery alone. You sometimes need something else to break through established patterns and take people out of their safe little worlds. Outrage is a strong emotion and ensures that your audience or participants respond genuinely. I created a story within a story in a suburb of Zwolle. The main story was about an artist, who wanted to produce a work of art with the involvement of the residents, and the story within this story was about a ‘documentary maker’ who was investigating the level of involvement in this art project. The residents didn’t know that both storylines were fictitious. In the main storyline I did my very best to encourage the residents to take part by giving them information (repeatedly and via several channels) and asking them to provide input and thus to generate involvement in the outcome of the work of art. The response to this was seventeen replies from five hundred addresses. So involvement/participation was way down on the residents' list of priorities. In the second storyline the ‘documentary maker’ went door to door asking about the level of involvement and whether they had any idea what the work of art in their neighbourhood would turn out to be? She deliberately stirred up trouble and instigated a critical investigation by the residents. Only then did it emerge that there was no involvement at all, that this involvement had in fact been taken away from them in the project, and the demand for involvement became very great. The project sparked Parliamentary questions and inspired many letters to newspaper editors. The joke is therefore that when you offer involvement, nobody is interested. But when it appears that involvement is not an option, everyone suddenly wants to be involved. Hence: you only get people’s attention when you take something away from them and then it doesn’t matter whether they actually wanted it or not.

55

Saskia Korsten


Avoid cheap shock effects. Although outrage may be intense, people will be more inclined to turn their backs on you if turns out you were trying to provoke them. This only serves to reinforce the negative image of art and widen the gap between the artist and his environment.

Think about the number of performances. It is unfortunate to allow months of work to be over in just one night, but many projects suffer from too much of a good thing. Choose the number of performances carefully. Implications of one single performance

Use highly professional techniques. Inexperienced participants are excellent, if they are excellently spotlighted. This is not (just) because they have been spotlighted so well, but (most importantly) because they feel that they have been excellently spotlighted.

Focus on the basics. Artistic and practical decisions may have changed your original plan beyond all recognition during the process. That’s great. But remember what initially inspired you. Why this location? Why these people? What moved you so much that you decided to produce a work of art here?

56

The location was enchanting. An empty ammunition factory, overgrown with moss and brambles. After all the preparations this atmosphere had disappeared. The technical, safety and practical facilities had turned the fairy-tale location into an ordinary festival site. With great difficulty we managed to make the hall rugged and wild again, but nobody had the same experience as I did when I first entered the hall.

Implications of several performances

You can get a large number of participants

Many participants will not be able or willing to

involved.

commit too much time.

You receive a lot of attention, but much of the

You can build up a reputation and therefore an

publicity arrives too late to attract a potential

audience via word of mouth advertising and

audience.

newspaper reviews.

There is a chance that potential audience

The audience can choose a performance to

members will not be able to come.

attend.

Participants can work towards a clear climax.

Participants must give their best performance again and again.

If something goes wrong,

The production can develop.

57

you don’t get a second chance. The connection between the participants is

Participants can strengthen their connection

strengthened by the production, but this intense

during the performance days and have plenty of

period is soon over.

time for one another.

Merlijn Twaalfhoven

Think about the audience size. It is fantastic if you have a large audience, but this can destroy the feeling of intimacy. Think about the date of the performance or activity. Seek the advice of someone who is familiar with the local situation. It would be a shame for your performance to compete with the local annual lip-synch competition. The local organisation wanted to bring the project a day forward, because it clashed with an open day at the local brewery. I thought that the target group was sufficiently diverse, but this beer day turned out to be the highlight of the year that was in fact attended by the whole town. Merlijn Twaalfhoven

The World Cup was on, it was raining and we were performing on an old naval ship in Amsterdam-Noord. There were only fifteen people in the audience. They were outnumbered by the musicians and performers, but they later said that this was exactly what made it unforgettable. Merlijn Twaalfhoven

For our piece about swine fever the audience space was purposely limited to eighty seats. The ‘normal’ audience saw immediately where groups of participating farmers were sitting. Their reactions became part of the performance for them. The farmers didn’t mind. They were happy that people were seeing what was going on in East Brabant. Tom Blokdijk


Avoid cheap shock effects. Although outrage may be intense, people will be more inclined to turn their backs on you if turns out you were trying to provoke them. This only serves to reinforce the negative image of art and widen the gap between the artist and his environment. Use highly professional techniques. Inexperienced participants are excellent, if they are excellently spotlighted. This is not (just) because they have been spotlighted so well, but (most importantly) because they feel that they have been excellently spotlighted. Focus on the basics. Artistic and practical decisions may have changed your original plan beyond all recognition during the process. That’s great. But remember what initially inspired you. Why this location? Why these people? What moved you so much that you decided to produce a work of art here?

56

The location was enchanting. An empty ammunition factory, overgrown with moss and brambles. After all the preparations this atmosphere had disappeared. The technical, safety and practical facilities had turned the fairy-tale location into an ordinary festival site. With great difficulty we managed to make the hall rugged and wild again, but nobody had the same experience as I did when I first entered the hall.

Think about the number of performances. It is unfortunate to allow months of work to be over in just one night, but many projects suffer from too much of a good thing. Choose the number of performances carefully. Implications of one single performance

Implications of several performances

You can get a large number of participants

Many participants will not be able or willing to

involved.

commit too much time.

You receive a lot of attention, but much of the

You can build up a reputation and therefore an

publicity arrives too late to attract a potential

audience via word of mouth advertising and

audience.

newspaper reviews.

There is a chance that potential audience

The audience can choose a performance to

members will not be able to come.

attend.

Participants can work towards a clear climax.

Participants must give their best performance again and again.

If something goes wrong,

The production can develop.

you don’t get a second chance.

57

The connection between the participants is

Participants can strengthen their connection

strengthened by the production, but this intense

during the performance days and have plenty of

period is soon over.

time for one another.

Merlijn Twaalfhoven

Think about the date of the performance or activity. Seek the advice of someone who is familiar with the local situation. It would be a shame for your performance to compete with the local annual lip-synch competition. The local organisation wanted to bring the project a day forward, because it clashed with an open day at the local brewery. I thought that the target group was sufficiently diverse, but this beer day turned out to be the highlight of the year that was in fact attended by the whole town. Merlijn Twaalfhoven

Think about the audience size. It is fantastic if you have a large audience, but this can destroy the feeling of intimacy. The World Cup was on, it was raining and we were performing on an old naval ship in Amsterdam-Noord. There were only fifteen people in the audience. They were outnumbered by the musicians and performers, but they later said that this was exactly what made it unforgettable. Merlijn Twaalfhoven

For our piece about swine fever the audience space was purposely limited to eighty seats. The ‘normal’ audience saw immediately where groups of participating farmers were sitting. Their reactions became part of the performance for them. The farmers didn’t mind. They were happy that people were seeing what was going on in East Brabant. Tom Blokdijk


Use everything. The audience’s experience starts as soon as they enter the location or building. It is at that point that the visitors decide what attitude to adopt, whether they are uninhibited or bound by a strict behavioural code. Bear this in mind. First impressions can play a significant role in determining your audience’s attitude. During a production in a theatre in Prague, the audience were guided one by one on arrival through an interesting route behind the scenes. Some turned out to be so bold and uninhibited that they picked up the directions and lights I had left out for the performers and decided to investigate the wings for themselves. All concert hall conventions were evidently discarded in one fell swoop. Merlijn Twaalfhoven

AFTERWARDS Come back. You have invested a great deal in one another. Sometimes Sleeping Beauty is awoken by a kiss to find that the prince has already gone when she opens her eyes.

Go away. Sustainability and long-term effects feature high on the checklist of every subsidy provider. Before writing a fiveyear plan consider where your talents and inspiration lie, and base your planning on a logical attention span. Choose the right time to leave. The municipal authority finally managed to persuade me to leave the straw castle up for another year after the one-year project in Veenhuizen. They actually wanted to keep it permanently, and even turn it into a monument. Even so, I decided to take it down to make sure that the focus remained on the people and not on inanimate objects. Sjoerd Wagenaar

58

59

After a spectacular concert in which four hundred choir members, musicians, percussionists and children from both Northern and Southern Cyprus had performed together on roofs, balconies and in the streets of Nicosia (Cyprus), I was cornered by the ladies in the choir: ‘You should come back more often. We have to do this again! What a shame it’s all over.’ I asked them then whether they themselves had a terraced roof, a balcony and a ladder at home... Yes of course... So why couldn’t they perform a concert themselves from their roofs? Why did they need me?

Merlijn Twaalfhoven

Pass it on. Your work is sometimes extremely pioneering. The process is long and not easy. If the performance is successful, there is a fertile ground for a follow-up. Think about who could plant the next seed.


Use everything. The audience’s experience starts as soon as they enter the location or building. It is at that point that the visitors decide what attitude to adopt, whether they are uninhibited or bound by a strict behavioural code. Bear this in mind. First impressions can play a significant role in determining your audience’s attitude. During a production in a theatre in Prague, the audience were guided one by one on arrival through an interesting route behind the scenes. Some turned out to be so bold and uninhibited that they picked up the directions and lights I had left out for the performers and decided to investigate the wings for themselves. All concert hall conventions were evidently discarded in one fell swoop. Merlijn Twaalfhoven

AFTERWARDS Come back. You have invested a great deal in one another. Sometimes Sleeping Beauty is awoken by a kiss to find that the prince has already gone when she opens her eyes. Go away. Sustainability and long-term effects feature high on the checklist of every subsidy provider. Before writing a fiveyear plan consider where your talents and inspiration lie, and base your planning on a logical attention span. Choose the right time to leave. The municipal authority finally managed to persuade me to leave the straw castle up for another year after the one-year project in Veenhuizen. They actually wanted to keep it permanently, and even turn it into a monument. Even so, I decided to take it down to make sure that the focus remained on the people and not on inanimate objects. Sjoerd Wagenaar

58

59

After a spectacular concert in which four hundred choir members, musicians, percussionists and children from both Northern and Southern Cyprus had performed together on roofs, balconies and in the streets of Nicosia (Cyprus), I was cornered by the ladies in the choir: ‘You should come back more often. We have to do this again! What a shame it’s all over.’ I asked them then whether they themselves had a terraced roof, a balcony and a ladder at home... Yes of course... So why couldn’t they perform a concert themselves from their roofs? Why did they need me?

Merlijn Twaalfhoven

Pass it on. Your work is sometimes extremely pioneering. The process is long and not easy. If the performance is successful, there is a fertile ground for a follow-up. Think about who could plant the next seed.


Learn from reactions. The fruit of a project is not just the process and the performance, but also the feedback you receive from the participants and visitors at the end. This can boost your future work. One woman was deeply moved by my project, she had felt personally involved and categorically did not want to respond in the film I was making. But for me, her filmed response was vitally important and her personal pain in relation to my project made a deep impression on me. So I called her up several times (and paid her visits) and had long telephone conversations with her, and each time she hung up less quickly and emphatically. I persevered and was able to assure her that I didn’t want to make her and the community look ridiculous. She eventually pledged her support and became the project’s most dedicated fan. In turn, she moved me by asking for four DVDs for her four young children: she wanted to give these to them if they were ever to leave home, as a reminder of the project that made communal history in their neighbourhood (for ten days) and of which her children were part.

FINALLY Persevere. Don’t be tempted to complain. You wanted this yourself. Problems arise because the process is impossible to predict, but naturally also because you yourself make mistakes. The biggest mistake is to blame someone else when things don’t go how you want them to. …only a poor craftsman blames his tools… Ignore tips. Everyone has advice to give you. Everyone has experience. Every situation is different. There are no rules.

Saskia Korsten

Perfection is fatal.

60

Your mistakes produce the best ideas. Problems lead to the best results.

61


Learn from reactions. The fruit of a project is not just the process and the performance, but also the feedback you receive from the participants and visitors at the end. This can boost your future work. One woman was deeply moved by my project, she had felt personally involved and categorically did not want to respond in the film I was making. But for me, her filmed response was vitally important and her personal pain in relation to my project made a deep impression on me. So I called her up several times (and paid her visits) and had long telephone conversations with her, and each time she hung up less quickly and emphatically. I persevered and was able to assure her that I didn’t want to make her and the community look ridiculous. She eventually pledged her support and became the project’s most dedicated fan. In turn, she moved me by asking for four DVDs for her four young children: she wanted to give these to them if they were ever to leave home, as a reminder of the project that made communal history in their neighbourhood (for ten days) and of which her children were part.

FINALLY Persevere. Don’t be tempted to complain. You wanted this yourself. Problems arise because the process is impossible to predict, but naturally also because you yourself make mistakes. The biggest mistake is to blame someone else when things don’t go how you want them to. …only a poor craftsman blames his tools… Ignore tips. Everyone has advice to give you. Everyone has experience. Every situation is different. There are no rules.

Saskia Korsten

60

Perfection is fatal. Your mistakes produce the best ideas. Problems lead to the best results.

61


COLOFON English edition © 2013 ArtEZ Press and the author All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. The editors have done their utmost to contact any rightful claimants directly. Claimants with whom no direct contact has proved possible, are requested to get in touch with the publisher.

Author: Merlijn Twaalfhoven Editing: Alex de Vries (Stern/Den Hartog & De Vries) Final editing: Jan Brand, Minke Vos Translation: Judith Ijpelaar/VVH Business translations Production English edition: Finn Minke Image editing: Minke Vos, Merlijn Twaalfhoven Design and production: Jan Willem den Hartog (Stern/Den Hartog & De Vries) Photo cover: Merlijn Twaalfhoven rehearsing with the children from the Palestinian refugee camp Jalazon on the West Bank for the performance Carried by the Wind, april 15th, 2008.

62

Photo credits: Jon & Anne Abbott: p. 18, right / Wout Berger: p. 10, up Centraal Museum Utrecht: p. 9 / Anjo de Haan: p. 21, down Henmar Press Inc.: p. 18, left / Adam Sèbire: cover / Jeroen Swolfs: p. 4-5 Koen Vanmechelen: p. 20 / Ari Versluis & Ellie Uyttenbroek: p. 14, 15 ArtEZ Press Jan Brand, Minke Vos Postbus 49 6800 AA Arnhem www.artez.nl

The original Dutch edition of this book was financially supported by: Community Art Lab (Vrede van Utrecht); Lectoraat Community Arts (Codarts); Kunstenaars &Co.

Many thanks to … Sandra Trienekens and Marieke Vriend for their extended research en feedback; Anthony Heidweiller, Henk Schut and Sjoerd Wagenaar for the long conversations; Peter van der Hurk and Eugene van Erven for sharing their anecdotes of Jeanne van Heeswijk, Mia Grijp, Els Dietvorst, Donna Risa, Stefan van Hees, Bart Deuss and Hans Lein, collected in the publication Community Arts, Kunst en Kunde; Joost Heinsius, Eugene van Erven en Finn Minke for their smart comments; Cily Smulders, Minke Vos and Jan Brand for so much more work than I expected; Thomas Bensdorp and Serinde van Wijk for English corrections.

63


COLOFON English edition © 2013 ArtEZ Press and the author

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. The editors have done their utmost to contact any rightful claimants directly. Claimants with whom no direct contact has proved possible, are requested to get in touch with the publisher.

Author: Merlijn Twaalfhoven Editing: Alex de Vries (Stern/Den Hartog & De Vries) Final editing: Jan Brand, Minke Vos Translation: Judith Ijpelaar/VVH Business translations Production English edition: Finn Minke Image editing: Minke Vos, Merlijn Twaalfhoven Design and production: Jan Willem den Hartog (Stern/Den Hartog & De Vries) Photo cover: Merlijn Twaalfhoven rehearsing with the children from the Palestinian refugee camp Jalazon on the West Bank for the performance Carried by the Wind, april 15th, 2008.

62

Photo credits: Jon & Anne Abbott: p. 18, right / Wout Berger: p. 10, up Centraal Museum Utrecht: p. 9 / Anjo de Haan: p. 21, down Henmar Press Inc.: p. 18, left / Adam Sèbire: cover / Jeroen Swolfs: p. 4-5 Koen Vanmechelen: p. 20 / Ari Versluis & Ellie Uyttenbroek: p. 14, 15 ArtEZ Press Jan Brand, Minke Vos Postbus 49 6800 AA Arnhem www.artez.nl

The original Dutch edition of this book was financially supported by: Community Art Lab (Vrede van Utrecht); Lectoraat Community Arts (Codarts); Kunstenaars &Co.

Many thanks to … Sandra Trienekens and Marieke Vriend for their extended research en feedback; Anthony Heidweiller, Henk Schut and Sjoerd Wagenaar for the long conversations; Peter van der Hurk and Eugene van Erven for sharing their anecdotes of Jeanne van Heeswijk, Mia Grijp, Els Dietvorst, Donna Risa, Stefan van Hees, Bart Deuss and Hans Lein, collected in the publication Community Arts, Kunst en Kunde; Joost Heinsius, Eugene van Erven en Finn Minke for their smart comments; Cily Smulders, Minke Vos and Jan Brand for so much more work than I expected; Thomas Bensdorp and Serinde van Wijk for English corrections.

63


Art occupies its own niche in the world.

But art is capable of so much more. Art is the language of emotion, and emotion is essential in every person, in every situation.

Art must also do so much more. Art is communication without words. With words alone, people only half understand one another. Composer and theatre maker Merlijn Twaalfhoven creates his work at the heart of the world. He is not alone. More and more artists are realising that a concert hall, theatre or gallery is not always the best place to allow their audience to experience something unique. When exhibiting their work in unusual locations or working with non-professional participants, they are regularly confronted with unanticipated dilemmas and problems that can sometimes prove problematic, but that are also the source of a great deal of inspiration and adventure. This book is a collection of the personal experiences of Merlijn Twaalfhoven and others. It is neither a method nor an instruction, but a gentle prod (or digging in of the heels) for creators and appreciators of art. Practical food for discussion for anyone who feels that art is more than entertainment for serious people.

merlijn twaalfhoven • art in the world

It can be found in majestic buildings, has its own special page in the newspaper and hangs on the walls of people who have good taste. In this way, the role of art in the world has been neatly defined. Art can be beautiful, moving and even shocking, but within clear boundaries. Artists often feel at home within this definition. They ‘do their thing’ and as an audience we are free to choose from a wide range of options.

MERLIJN TWAALFHOVEN

ART

IN THE

WORLD

Art in the world  

Composer and theatre maker Merlijn Twaalfhoven crea- tes his work at the heart of the world. He is not alone. More and more artists are real...

Art in the world  

Composer and theatre maker Merlijn Twaalfhoven crea- tes his work at the heart of the world. He is not alone. More and more artists are real...

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