Before and After Symposium- IETM Meeting Athens

Posted on April 3, 2014

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During the symposium Before and After lead by Mariela Nestora, a personal account of experiencing the greek dance scene ‘before’ and ‘after’ the crisis was attempted. Working independently with YELP danceco. and working collectively within the CCP project  were juxtaposed. CCP choreographers and theoreticians Betina Panagiotara and Steriani Tzintziloni participated in this symposium. Choreographers Iris Karayan, Kostas Tsioukas, Katerina Skiada were present while we connected through Skype to Carolyn Deby and Patrick Faurot. Maria Koliopoulou and Fotis Nikolaou were unable to join us.

After the presentation and while eating -as one does in symposiums-we asked our audience members to write their questions on post- it notes. We collected them and  these kicked off our discussions daily. We only responded to few of these questions due to our time limitations. However, we agreed to respond to all of the questions in writing. Here they are:

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 SYMPOSIUM BEFORE AND AFTER

 

THURSDAY 17.10.2013

 

Big community of dance theory in Greece?

Hierarchy?

There is a small community of dance theory in Greece, mostly women dance theorists educated abroad. There are three posts on dance theory in Greek Universities (Patras, Peloponnese, Thessalia), as part of theatre departments. Dance theory is not an autonomous subject yet and so far it is underestimated within the  Greek academia.

How much close to other countries was the ‘before’?

One could answer this question from several perspectives: Regarding the mobility of the artists, touring was restricted due to lack of resources and difficulties in pre-planning. Regarding the funding system up to 2008 the only option was funding applications for production. During 2008-2010 (EKETHEX) funding was available for research and development, touring and production. It was also possible for an individual artist,  not only for registered dance companies,  to apply for this funding.  The Ministry of Culture would allocate the overall amount of half a million euros to the independent dance scene, distributed in sums of 15.000-50.000.  Dance festivals,were funded independently.

Free labour?

In CCP, so far there has been no salary for the artists, but some money is raised from presenting the work. We are investigating ways of funding this project to reach its completion. The works were created within residencies at Embros and Duncan Dance Centre offering studio space. In Greece since 2011 many projects were created in which artists worked for free.

Plural/ Singular?

Our collective is a coalition of 5 singularities. All the choreographers have their own dance company and still create works for these ( YELP danceco., Zita , Lemurius, Proshima, Kostas Tsioukas). CCP is an experiment in which we are interested in seeing how authorship is challenged within this protocol.

How was your experience from ‘before’ helpful to the ‘after’? what are you reaping from the past?

The ‘before’ and ‘after’ are not insular from each other. We have our experiences from the ‘before’ and still insist on trying to find the funds, opportunities to create works with our companies. The ‘after’ in effect is the now. I am sure that this experience has changed the way I work, but I will be able to understand it when I engage with the next YELP danceco project.

Is citizenship an artistic experience?

Citizenship is currently challenged and therefore redefined In Athens at the moment. A lot of self-organised initiatives are developing regarding the arts, education, common gardens, theatre Embros, and many others. Citizens taking responsibility for the spaces/services that the state is neglecting. Within this context being a citizen of Athens offers an artistic experience of alternative ways of looking at / creating art.

What does the work look like sound like?

You can find information on http://collectivechoreographyproject.wordpress.com

trailers of the works:

https://vimeo.com/76918432 untitled #1

https://vimeo.com/76894126 untitled #2

https://vimeo.com/76766417 Umidita

 

Do you all have daytime non artistic jobs?

 

Most of us are working in Education, State school of Dance, Private schools of Dance, education programmes at the Onassis Cultural Foundation, freelance teaching and moment direction for theatre productions. There are many artists working outside their field.

Do you think people will no more take the risk to look things together? and will totally separate practice and theory?

I don’t really understand the question. Engaging with theory is a recent development in dance in Greece. So at the moment we are still trying to connect the two rather than separate them.

What is my part in your perfect game?

The ‘before and after’ symposium’s intention was to share our experiences and projects, with a wish to develop collaborations that will enable us to continue with CCP, through residences and exchange with other partners.

Would you go back to the ‘before’ if you had the choice?

We are still doing projects in the ‘before’ mode, funding our work through co productions and other sources. There is less money and less institutions and less opportunities so there is more competition for less resources. Maybe this will result in less or more sparse productions. There is no question in reverting to the ‘before’ the world has changed since then.

What is your favourite secret about Athens?

A secret terrace with a view to the acropolis with nobody else on it.

I have danced around people in sleeping bags in the streets today.

This is not a question- nevertheless….. Athens has the one of the highest percentages of drug abuse in Europe, a lot of the people in sleeping bags are not homeless. Drug addicts that refuse to go on therapy programme, eventually end up staying on the streets. Athens a few years ago had the lowest percentage of homeless people in Europe. This has increased dramatically, these people mainly live in common gardens and in the outskirts of Athens.

Does the absence of the trust and closeness issue from the ‘before’, seems today creating an aesthetic lack in your previous work?

I don’t really understand the question. Trust and closeness is the by product of our working method now. In that respect its absence reflects our views from the present moment. The overall aesthetic  of a piece is influenced by the production money available in the respect of making choices ( set, costume, video). The overall aesthetic in the sense of authorship is not affected by that. Having no production money at all- limits some of the choices one can make with regards to the product.

Would you imagine these new methods and practices stay invisible for a while? Do you feel the need to show results of it?

The works created are claiming space in the performance space, as products. These projects are not research and development products, in the sense of works presented in a studio amongst peer artists. These are dance works created through the collective process we described, presented. The Untitled series works are presented and regarded as products both for their artistic-creative value. We always have a discussion with the audience after each presentation, which is an entry point into communicating and discussing the collectives/collaborations issue.

What do you regret from ‘before’?( because you seem to have found serenity and friendship and solidarity) Do you have any regret? ( and you are allowed to have no regret)

No regrets!

How to cooperate abroad outside “dance community” from this basis?

The team of 5 greek choreographers could open up their process during a residency abroad hopefully instigating similar projects there. The Entitled series is CCP’s collective choreography project amongst choreographers based in different countries.

Does the structure of the Greek language influence your choreographies?

Language and culture are essential to who we are and it inevitably shapes artistic work.

Does the collaboration/community need to have a common goal or can it exist in the moment because of the (possibly different) interests that the members have individually for being and working together?

Any collaboration needs to have a common goal. The way people come together is also a response to the current moment, but how the group continues relies on the sustained interest and gradual formation/ transformation of the common goal and the team. The question of our times is how to maintain individuality  and difference within groups which operate in horizontal ways(not hierarchical).

Why has it taken the economic crisis for artists to emerge from their bubble and respond to the social? And most importantly what can that teach us for the future?

The economic crisis has changed the scale of how we view things. Being together and joining forces is an underlying practice in so many things that are happening now, within and  beyond the arts. Responding to the social has been the role of the arts and the artist and is now coming to foreground again after a long time of engaging in individualistic research. A lesson for the future is to keep the arts involved with society /community rather than invest in its economic value solely.

Why is Pireos street, named something else on the street signs?

Some streets change name on the way and the numbering restarts.

 

FRIDAY 18.10.2013

Coalition of independent scene?

There are attempts at joining forces both in theatre and dance. For dance ‘Sindesmos Horou’ of which I recently became part, has been running for a few years now. It is a coalition of 7 choreographers.

I am also a member of ‘Kolektiva Omonia’ a group of theatre, dance, theorists, journalists, musicians, architects, graphic designers- who curate events at ‘Embros self managed theatre’ and other spaces (gallery spaces). It is based on polymorphy and also inviting other artists and theoreticians to participate in these events. There is no coalition of the independent scene as a whole, as there is in Germany.

Are you changing your relationship with your audience? What are your motivations for this if so?

After the presentation of each ‘Untitled’ piece, there is a discussion with the audience. The intention is to communicate our process, ask them what they saw and generate an open exchange.  In Untitled #3 an open rehearsal was conducted. To our surprise the audience was eager to participate in structuring the work, as part of the co-choreographic process.

Was the same thing happening in the theatre scene?

A coalition in the theatre scene – Kinisi Mavili  ( 7 theatre directors) is what started the Embros theatre occupation and they curated the space for the first period before the first closure. Some of these directors are part of Kolektiva omonia.

How do you see the work developing in the future with this experience?

There is already a noticeable difference in how Untitled #2 was created and how the collaboration worked between us. I trust the process and we will witness how it develops while doing it.

Are there any institutions left to collaborate with?

The Onassis Cultural foundation, the Kalamata International dance festival, the Athens festival.

What about the funds? I imagine you have been able to reduce costs with collaborative work process but how do you cover the expenses that still exist?

We rehearse and present the work at Embros self managed theatre which is free of charge and we keep the costs to nothing. During the presentations there is  a donation box that has covered the few costs we have had so far.

Did you also reach out to international artists and organisations to participate to their common work?

Not yet, this is something we intend to do.

How has this changed the audience?

The projects presented in Embros self managed theatre have a different audience, because of the theatre’s identity and operation mode. In different contexts (outdoor theatres, festivals) the works are perceived in a different manner. We don’t know if this has changed the audience or in what ways.

Crisis drive the loss of authorship? your personal feelings about this loss please?

Yes the crisis and the overall changes of our time, call for new ways of thinking and creating. Authorship is not in loss, it is under construction through exchange and new practices. Authorship on its way.

What are the new values?

A whole new symposium should be organised to answer to this question.

As there is no money and no space, isn’t it the moment to use more theory for activism?Like there is in Serbia?

Great idea. But we still try to find ways to carry on making work.

Shall we buy Embros together?

Yes.

Are you ready to go on tour with all the dancers choreographers? A caravan of dance?

Yes.

If you create so much knowledge through your self learning process, why don’t you start a party of artists and go for the real politics?

Great idea slightly utopian but great.

Which are the main artistic changes you feel your work is experiencing, not in form but in artistic motivation?

I feel the need to create works that are relevant to our times, trying to abstain from just reiterating and/or depicting in artistic forms a harsh reality. I feel that my obligation as an artist now more than before, is to offer what is missing.

Were the productions for Tedx and night for the museums unpaid?

Yes these were unpaid , but they covered some expenses, travel , food.

Work for free – doing out of artistic passion- because it needs to be done vs. respect for artists work as “work”- setting the standard that society can follow.

It is important to find ways to continue creating so that Greek dance doesn’t disappear altogether and to find a balance between artistic necessity and living from creating. In fact it was an opportunity to disrupt the dependance of dance making solely as direct result of this one open call application from the Ministry of culture. Educating the audience that artists work is work has more layers to it than just the straightforward market rules. Art is more than a product.

Good art in relation to money: I know its good because it gets grants/sells tickets/ danger. Making space for all art – not only ‘good’ art /danger.

The above dichotomies are heightened at this moment in cultural policies views. The point is that we are asked to create more options rather than just the two aforementioned, embracing a new position of art within society. 

How does ‘take’- ‘take back’ physically happen. What does occupy mean? (regarding the Embros theatre)

“Take”: Entering the space, activating it as a venue involving artists, communities and local people. Initiated in December 2011 by Kinisi Mavili (theatre collective). The State evacuated and locked the space up. “Take  back”: re entering the space, with more individuals, communities and collectives involved. (within this context Kolektiva Omonia was formed).

Can the working methods /collective still exist / work without the space Embros? Sustainability?

Yes, most importantly the artists become connected and then different options can occur with regards to space, projects etc.

If you don’t get any money from the ministry of culture how do you survive?

Most of the artists involved are also working in education, teaching.

What was the highest amount you ever got from the state?

50.000 was the highest amount during the EKETHEX period of the Ministry of culture and Kostas Tsioukas got this amount for his production Delirium.

Less talk more rock?

Ok!

Is money a drogue (drug)?

Yes, as we have discovered within the recent capitalist history.

Is money an illusion?

If you are living in a prosperous society you can think of money as an illusion. If you are struggling to survive, money is no longer an illusion.

Caring/showing?

The CCP presentations are not work in progress, they claim a space as a product in their own right. The rules for showing to an audience are set by the project itself.

What was better ‘before’ or ‘after’?

A State nurturing its culture and the arts- as it did in the past -is an element from the ‘before’ that has had proven positive results. In this respect some form of funding from the ministry of culture would be a desired part of the ‘before’. No situation is positive or negative by definition. Comparing the two would be impossible since they belong in two different time frames. We could point out, however that a structural framework for supporting the arts was a positive element from the ‘before’ and that new potentialities for working, collaborating and creating arose in the ‘after’.

There is a ‘before’ and an ‘after’ what about the present?

The after as mentioned here is the present. As for the real after it is under negotiation trying to reinvent itself.

What would you like to share with us?

We are sharing our story and our project and how we develop our thinking within the current context.

Is insecurity a source of courage?

Insecurity can be an extra incentive for risk taking and in this way it can promote what appears as courage.

 

SATURDAY 19.10.2013

 

Have you cooperated before with these choreographers?

I have collaborated with Iris Karayan in works by YELP danceco. in which she was performing. I have not collaborated with the other choreographers in the past.

Ministry of culture still exist?

Yes, after becoming briefly the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, it is now the Ministry of Culture and Sports. There has been no funding open calls for the independent dance scene and there are severe cuts in Arts sector for festivals etc.

How fast you dance? Exist is wanting? Only dance if they pay you.

Our process for the CCP projects is short in duration 2-3 weeks maximum. Existing involves desire fulfilled or not.

What was the aim for CCP?

The project’s goals are:

1. to question whether different movement languages and processes within the same work can lead to a new form of creation

2. to exchange methodological tools and experiences between us

3. to create the circumstances in which a creative dialogue between artists develops within a context of collectivity

4. to observe whether the complicity of this long process will affect the methods and aesthetic values of each choreographer separately.

This project also responds to the need of a developing a community between artists, that have been mainly working isolated from each other, with very few opportunities for artistic exchange.

What do you see tomorrow- in the future?

A more involved/ participating audience, more merging between art forms, more political art.

Maybe you can dance first and talk after?

Need a different space for that, but yes it is possible.

Who needs a leader?

There is tendency to make the leader obsolete, but I believe that even in groups intending to work in horizontal ways, there is always someone is the group who functions as a moderator or an instigator.

Do you believe that you can adapt your work/project in pro bono events and if yes in what way?

Most of the pro-bono events/works, where created within this constrain. One can perform a work pro bono if there is a good reason for it as for instance in fundraising events. Dance works on the other hand are always adapting to new spaces/stages whenever they are performed.

Do you never fight each others ideas?

There are differences and discussions but the basic premise is that we are there with the intention to collaborate. This proves itself easier than anticipated. We seem to agree, or if we disagree we move on into a new idea about how to solve each problem.

What happened with the Greek Choreographers Association?

It still exists. The annual Dance festival organised by the Greek Choreographers Association is trying to find new ways to operate since but there is no more funding from the Ministry of Culture. Already the MInistry owes a great deal of money for the previous two festivals.

How much close to other countries was the ‘before’?

The model of production of new works was quite similar with the difference that the overall budget allocated to dance was only 0.5 million euro.

Are the modes of hierarchy/verticality really challenged?

This is the basic challenge of our era. It is is acknowledged that there is a need, a desire for horizontal structures although they require a different way of operating within them as an individual. I believe that we are currently self-educating ourselves through practice, in order to become able to function, in non- vertical modes. At the same time I believe that the ‘old school’ way of operating horizontal systems is becoming ‘obsolete’ within the arts. We are in a new territory, trying to define a new model for being together.

Who is your audience?

Dance artists, artists, dance students, specific venue audiences and it is developing into a really wide range of people.

Was it important to choose choreographers from the same generation?

For the ‘Untitled series’ it was a clear choice to select choreographers from the same era so that despite their differences, they share a common ground in the way they have experienced dance in Greece.  In the ‘Untitled series’ the choreographers work on any subject they desire to research. On the contrary  in the ‘Entitled series’ the choreographers selected were from different counties, backgrounds and age groups informing in different ways the title/subject investigated.

How can this project reach a wider audience?

By involving the audience more in the process, as for instance holding open rehearsals and by creating in different spaces attached to different kinds of audience.

What are the key words for a collective collaboration?

Trust, openness, refraining from criticism, positive critique, positive reinforcement, desire to be together.

What is more important in your work-the procedure or the result? If you didn’t enjoy the procedure would it be a risk for your collective work?

The process is the main focus but this affects the result, so both. The process is not solely enjoyable, it is a learning experience for all of us and is under development. In the dance creation context, relationships between collaborators don’t last for very long. The continuation of a collective is irrespective of its pleasure.

In this catastrophic situation, which are the needs that still push you on the stage?

It is not a catastrophic situation. Art is  a need to express and transform your present experiences, a way to instinctively imagine the future, and for myself choreographing is a way of reflecting and hence now there is bigger need that before.

Regarding ‘before’ which were the parameters the Ministry followed to give funding?

Clearly articulated project proposal, track record of the dance company, standard criteria, as elsewhere.

How have you worked with the people that you ‘have to’ when chemistry in not existing?

Within a generous and open atmosphere, everything is possible.

How did you find funding during the ‘after’ period to make your projects?

Most of these projects have no cost and they also unpaid. So there are insignificant expenses and no wages. This is why they were possible.

What did you want to say with this project?

What we said.

What is the advantage and what is the disadvantage of this way of working?

Refraining from the binary system advantage disadvantage-  sharing methods, learning how to cooperate, communicate, collaborate collectively and finding the way to engage/accept difference, reinforcing openness and trust.

 

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