The büro für tanz | theater | produktionen supports numerous and varied activities both at home and abroad: recently, while NETZWERK AKS performed wozzeck_woyzeck_relaoded in Korea, author Veronika Schenk took advantage of a büro-facilitated residency in kunst im stift. Below are her thoughts on the peaceful work environment of kunst im stift, and the inspiring nature in and surrounding Millstatt.
The original essay in German is below.
Fotos by AKS & Alessandro Piano
Cologne, November 2014
I am grateful when I look back on those wonderful days. Every day the lake before my eyes, submerged in clouds, cut across by the sun, a surfer, a boat, a pleasure craft. Every day to write without worry that I should be thinking about something else.
When the author looks up, she gazes upon the dark, secretive lake, whose watery surface appears black in the distance. Black and still. The brave of heart can still take the plunge in October, swim a few quick laps and experience how the water invigorates his cells; that water, which is clear, cold and clear. Just like the mountain air that surrounds the lake and the great mountains, which look different every day – sometimes powdered with snow, later gray tones with autumnal trees shimmering yellow-green.
Sun, wind, enchanting fresh air.
Magnitude and expanse. Nature. Which receives me, the author, step for step during my required break as I wander and survey those mountain peaks that Goethe admitted into his Faust, nibbling the blueberries and currants along the path’s edge – a taste of my childhood: those days in the hills with my mother, father and brother. Blueberry cake topped with whipped cream in the evenings. Back then. So long unremembered. Now a part of me again, so close. Then I continue roaming along the narrow footpath up to the summit, where I look down – to the lake, of course. The lake, which from this altitude of 2000 meters seems much smaller; seems to have less meaning from up here, where one is greeted by the other mountain summits. According to legend, statues of 1000 idols (mille statue) were once sunk as a demonstration of the Carinthian Duke Domitian’s commitment to the Christian faith, from which the name of this place, “Millstatt”, likely originates. Today a different statue remembers this event. Gallant and slender it stands, a symbol, inconspicuous on the edge of the lake, like a dancer on the water. I find it asserting itself uprightly against the afternoon sun, which it pulls into a game of light and shadow, casting itself in another role, now, and so emerging, floating and timeless, showing itself in a new scene that forgets the past for a moment.
When one has not been here, one does not know what he is missing and what this place, surrounded by noble mountains, cows, deer, cats, has to offer. The grand nature radiated peace toward me, as if to dissolve all my cares every day, and so it was – even now back in Cologne, I still carry this clarity in the suitcase of my soul, an old familiar place, which I hold inside of me and which was so clear there in the mountains on the lake.
Thank you to büro für tanz | theater | produktionen for the invitation to write in the historic Stift Millstatt. Thank you to Andrea K. Schlehwein and Eleonore Schäfer for this inspiring place.
I hope, that many more writers and artists will spend time creating here. From my heart, I wish kunst im stift much success in the future.
I’d be delighted to come again – and not just for the dumplings!
Köln, im November 2014
Das waren wunderbare Tage, auf die ich dankbar zurückblicke. Jeden Tag den See vor Augen, in Wolken getaucht, von Sonne durchflutet, ein Surfer, ein Boot, ein Ausflugsdampfer. Jeden Tag schreiben, ohne Sorgen, ohne an anderes denken zu müssen. Wenn die Schreibende aufblickte, schaute sie in diesen dunklen, geheimnisvollen See, dessen Wasseroberfläche aus der Ferne schwarz erscheint. Schwarz und still. Ein gefestigtes Herz -kann im Oktober den Körper dort eintauchen, einige schnelle Schwimmzüge nehmen und erleben, wie das Wasser die Zellen belebt, das Wasser, das klar ist, kalt und klar. So wie die Bergluft, die den See umgibt, die herrlichen Berge, die jeden Tag ein anderes Aussehen zeigen, mal Schnee bestäubt, dann wieder in Grautönen, mit herbstlichen Bäumen grünlich-gelb schimmernd.
Sonne, Wind, betörend frische Luft.
Größe und Weite. Natur. Die mich als Schreibende jeden Tag aufnimmt, in der ich bei Bedarf Pause mache, wandernd mich Schritt für Schritt hineinbegebe, die Nockenberge überschaue, die in Goethes Faust Einlass fanden, am Wegesrand Heidelbeeren und Preiselbeeren nasche, meine Kindheit bei diesem Anlass zum Vorschein kommt, all die Tage in den Hängen, mit Mutter und Vater, dem Bruder. Am Abend Heidelbeerkuchen mitSchlagsahne. Damals. So lange nicht erinnert. Jetzt wieder Teil von mir, ganz nah. Dann stromere ich weiter den schmalen Fußweg zum Gipfel empor und schaue hinunter – natürlich bis zum See. Der See, der aus 2000 Metern Höhe viel kleiner erscheint, weniger Bedeutung hat, hier oben, wo andere Berggipfel dich grüßen. In dem einer Legende zufolge einst 1000 Götzenstatuen versenkt worden sind (mille statue), als Bekenntnis des Karantanenherzogs Domitian zum christlichen Glauben, daher womöglich der Name dieses Ortes „Millstatt“. Eine Statue, die an dieses Ereignis erinnert. Galant, schlank steht sie symbolisch, unauffällig am Rande des Sees, gleich einer Tänzerin auf dem Wasser, entdecke ich sie, behauptet sie sich aufrecht gegen die Nachmittagssonne, die sie mitnimmt in ein Spiel aus Licht und Schatten, ihr eine andere Rolle zuweist, jetzt, und so taucht sie auf, schwebend und zeitlos, zeigt sich in einer neuen Szene, die die Vergangenheit vergisst für einen Augenblick.
Wenn man nicht hier gewesen ist, weiß man nicht, was einem entgeht und was dieser Ort, umgeben von stattlichen Bergen, Kühen, Rindern, Katzen, alles zu bieten hat. Die gewaltige Natur strahlte Frieden auf mich ab, als würden sich all meine Sorgen täglich darin auflösen, und so war es – auch jetzt wieder in Köln zurück, habe ich diese Klarheit im Handgebäck meiner Seele, ein alter bekannter Ort, den ich in mir trage und der dort in den Bergen am See so deutlich war.
Danke für die Einladung des Büros für tanz-theater-produktionen, im historischen Stift Millstatt einige Zeit schreiben zu dürfen. Danke für einen inspirierenden Ort an Andrea K. Schlehwein und Eleonore Schäfer.
Ich hoffe, dass noch viele Schriftsteller/innen und Künstler hier eine kreative Zeit verbringen werden. Von Herzen wünsche ich der „Kunst im Stift“ viel Erfolg für die Zukunft.
Oct 7th ….. So here I am, it’s the 7th of October, I am ready to fly and meet the team of wozzeck_woyzeck_reloaded in Seoul. This is a team of nomads. Italians and Philippino based in Germany, Austrian and Greek in The Netherlands, Germans in Austria, incorporating Korean collaborators within our shared world that grew inside an Austrian landscape. For some, Korea is a new, unknown place, for some a place loved and longed to meet again… Nevertheless, wehave a shared excitement of meeting each other on the other side of the globe, a shared challenge to make our piece alive again in a very short time and a shared question of how wozzeck_woyzeck_reloaded will communicate with an audience that is in so many ways different from the audience we’ve met in Carinthia. This team has lots of trust while having no idea of what things will bring. This team dives in and surrenders to the moments of meeting different universes. This team is a blessing to be part of. Korea, here we are! Open your gates!
Oct 8th ….. It’s fast, it’s fast, plane lands, taxi picks us up, we arrive at Hotel Factory, 15min later we have a production meeting to get our schedule for the next days, receive per diems, make appointments, meet Harim Lee, the organizer from SIDance [Seoul International Dance]. 2 hours later, all is discussed and arranged. On the 10th we travel to Busan.
Oct 9th ….. The 9th is off. We go to see Korean sword dance at SIDance, I accidentally bump into an old friend who knows one of the sword dance companies, so we end up having chicken and beer all together … Koreans are so welcoming! The night is fun! People ask about our piece. Simona, Unita and me give our improvised introduction to the work to the people who plan to come and watch our performance. It’s the first time we hear each other talk about the work to outsiders. So, far this was Andrea’s role. I am happy to hear my colleagues talking from their perspective. I get inspired by realizing how different experiences we all have.
Oct 10th ….. Next day, meeting to travel. It’s not so easy. Taxi-bus packed with luggage, costumes, LED lamps and people. Our production is small, but not so small. Everyone is stressed and running. We make it to the station. We are in the train to Busan… The day is sunny, we get to see Korea through the window… Rivers, mountains, fields… It’s beautiful! We are in Busan! And… Where is our hotel? We are dealing with our first, yet typical Korean experience of having an address that doesn’t exactly correspond to the desired location. The street system in Korea is obviously very different than in Europe. Yet, not even the Koreans are able to find the right location based on an address. How to navigate? Walk, ask somebody who might know (or not) and direct you to the right or to a not so right location… Asking is a way to get in contact with people. Detour is a chance to get out of habit. We will have plenty of that. Breathe, relax, enjoy! Our Hotel is a Motel. Motel means love hotel. Korea has lots and lots of those. We have huge rooms here, and we even get to choose a color, white room, purple room, black room … Color wakes up the imagination!
Oct 11th ….. Time to work. Preparation and set-up day. Nothing goes as planned, which is to be expected. There is a natural miscommunication about starting times, with a delay of 3 hours. A natural extra delay until we find out who is the leader of the team of technicians, until we realize we need to wait because he is not there yet. There are natural technical challenges having to do with converting European systems to Korean, lights being there or not, floors possible or impossible to change. Theater is an alive organism, even without actors. Everything is taken care of by Andrea, Eleonor, SeiSeung and Haein. The performers go away and come later. As a performer I have a pretty fun job, actually…
Oct 12th ….. Performance day. The theater is on the 10th-and-a-half floor of a building that is mainly a hospital. At the entrance you can sometimes see a few old men in their pajamas having a smoke. Upon entering you see a parking lot. There is no publicity from the theatre for wozzeck_woyzeck_reloaded apart from the flyer hanging on the walls of the building. There isn’t a website either in order for us to do our own promotion. Although it wasn’t planned, the night is shared with another piece by a Spanish artist who is artist-in-residency in Busan. The theater organizers decide to put one piece after another without a break and without any introduction about the works. Our piece is first. We start. From the stage I see some puzzled looks. I remember all my teachers telling to generously offer the work and not interpret the reactions of the audience. Let people free to be, to experience, to respond, whatever that is. I see empty spaces and gaps, I am not sure where and how the actions on stage resonate on the side of the people watching. How could I know? Time is running. This piece is already complex. Do I have time to ask myself these questions? Let go. Move to the next. Do it fully. Give it all. Hold nothing back. Next moment. Let it go. A sense of expansion comes. A trust, blind, half-blind… a belief, a knowing, true, untrue, who can judge? There is a hidden channel from where we can speak… in the shadows… a poetry, an atmosphere, a sensing… being in this same room at the same time already does the work. I am also an audience. I see, I am seen. I hear, I am being heard. Something is shared. Once we finish there is very little clapping. My ears try to find a sense of appreciation in the nuances of the clapping sounds. Why should I need that? Why should I need to get something back? It’s not about that. Let it go. I bow to the space and time carrying us all. Thank you. We rush to change and exit immediately for the next piece to start. Once the second piece is finished, we rush to pack everything and go. We have a great dinner. The team is lively, happy. We laugh a lot together. I feel the quiet love shared in between us. How come there is so much space for each one to be? Nothing seems to matter.
Oct 13th ….. Next day back to Seoul. It is raining a lot! There is a typhoon in Japan making its presence felt in Busan. Netzwerk AKS likes speeding before traveling. I am getting used to that by now and start enjoying it. Plans change in a split of a second. You just need to follow the time. No resistance. That’s all. We all enter taxis with the huge luggage and rush to the station. Our next place in Seoul is nothing like the ones before. Lexvill Residence. New, big, clean hotel, washing machine and kitchen in the room, well-dressed, overly polite receptionists, fresh new sheets, fluffy bed covers … I do prefer the older places. They smell of the people having lived inside for years. My nose is maybe the only part of my body that doesn’t discriminate. I like to smell the wild mixtures of perfumes, mold, tobacco, plastic shampoo bottles covered in dust, water from old pipes, old air closed inside a drawer. I like to feel the change of smell once the window gets opened. I like to feel that I am part of this history of smells. New places smell of new materials. Untouched. I want to roll my body on all the surfaces, tables, walls, water boilers, windows, TV screens and leave an invisible trace. No. This isn’t something a human being is supposed to be doing… I embrace my culture. I need to prepare for Wozzeck. I need to find the wolf before I go to bed tonight. Where can I find the wolf in Lexvill Residence? I go for a run in the city. After 1 hour I end up in a park. It’s dark and quiet. I need to practice. I dance alone. A young boy approaches slowly. He comes to sit on a bench and looks at me secretly. I look at him secretly with the side of my eye too. We both know that we look at each other, yet we also quietly agree that our game is that we don’t see each other. He can sit on his bench and read and I can move as I please. It is the perfect time. I dance for half an hour. He is sitting. Once I am done, I leave.
꿈 dream 늑대 wolf 어둠 darkness
Oct 14th ….. Next day. Preparation. Gangdong Arts Center. The theater is big and it has everything concerning tech. And the acoustics are perfect. We are not used to that… It also has plenty of technicians and many rules. Rules cannot be negotiated in Korea, even if there is a more reasonable proposal. We need to learn the rules and adjust. We are not used to that either. Things take longer because of different languages and many people liking to interfere. There is some nervousness in the air, but no big drama. The taste of international collaboration. It’s a long day, but the work is done.
Oct 15th ….. Next day. Performance. Are we ready? Yes. No. Get ready! Is it already time? How did it all go so fast? We have already done one full run before the official performance in order to have a proper photo- shoot and practice the tech. I don’t feel ready. Each time the piece is starting I don’t know where I am. I see Simona and Unita waiting behind the white screen, carrying their costumes, preparing in their own way. I wish I was inside their bodies and minds and feel what’s going on. The music starts, Unita walks, I follow, Simona comes after. I recognize our familiar timing of doing this first move. Unita stops, I stop, Simona stops. It’s the easiest move you can imagine – three women standing on their two legs – yet I am always afraid I’ll loose my balance. That’s maybe 2 minutes. Let’s continue… Next moment, next moment, next, next, next. Split seconds of a chance to find something new each time we perform. The piece is dense with singular choices, becoming denser and denser. Time is split and split and split again. Who was I before, who am I this moment? I don’t know my border anymore. I don’t know where I end and where Unita and Simona start. My feet are floor and my ear drum is music. My belly is a theater. Almost an hour has passed. We are supposed to die at the end. This death always comes too early. I never feel like dying. Once I lie, I know there is more… This piece is not done yet. There is more space to explore. When? When will we have the chance again? I am holding Simona’s and Unita’s hands, bowing to the open skies with a wish to continue. There is an artists talk right after the piece. Andrea speaks about the work, answering questions from the audience. We arrive a little later after changing clothes. People ask simple questions based on what they saw on stage, trying to de-codify the information. One person asks for more information about the white screen, noticing that some action is happening behind it throughout the whole piece. Andrea gets to talk about the world behind the world. The shadow world, the dream world. Linking this idea with the text heard during the piece: “When nature has vanished and the world has become dark, so dark that you have to grope around it with your hands searchingly and it seems to disperse like spiders webs. Oh, when things are and yet aren’t. Oh, oh, Marie. When it is so dark and all what’s left is a red glow from the west as if from a chimney. What’s there to cling to? ” A Korean friend who was there told me that she understood that we all carry our shadow, our spirits, our deaths within our body. Lost in translation? Found in translation? A chain of events. A chain of interpretations. A chain of free choices. A chain of interferences. Freed by being chained to a wheel. It’s rolling…
Oct 16th ….. The last morning, after everyone leaves, I get to have a spontaneous 2 hours talk with Unita about the piece at the entrance of Lexvill Residence, while the wind is blowing. One thing brings the other, the work continues in our minds for now… When and where will the next chance be?
I want to take the first step and I cannot. Someone – me? My mind? My conscioussness? My habits and concepts? Some part – of my body – ?Something essential – breath? Voice?Is blocking – the very first motion.
Something is not allowing me to start or to continue or to follow and to trust the flow that is always there – somewhere. Present around and inside myself. Workshop open for dancers, actors, singers, dance therapists5 hours daily with break.
… the lights in the monastery dim, yet what I have seen continues to glimmer inside of me, an absolute high point … thank you Bora, thank you Jin Ho, thank you Young Hyun, thank you also to Insoo, thank you Andrea, thank you Elinor…
(the program:) quintessence
…(… middle Latin „quinta essentia“ = fine invisible air or ether material; the fifth element) cannot be put into words. At least – I don’t have the appropriate words to describe the „ vital beings“ in this program of Young Korean Choreographers. For that I would need to be as great an artist of words as the Korean artists that the office for dance | theater | productions won for Millstatt are of contemporary dance; many of them are winners of multiple international prizes. What I saw was great, touching and incredibly beautiful, and my words seem small, gray, sometimes pathetic, sometimes banal in comparison. Regardless, I’ll try.
-A long talk to oneself – A woman – not out of fear, but rather driven by courage – pees her pants. For her, the expressions of communication that normally succeed no longer suffice, and so she lets her bodily fluids speak for her. „Did you understand my piss?“ Bora Kim later asked me through her translator. Yes. I did understand her: not really with my head, but somewhere in my gut.
-Goblin Party-The soles of this man’s feet emanate so much love during a dialogue with death that I can’t stop starring at them intently. This ensemble includes not only great dancers, but also great actors who no longer simply dance or simply act, but are also completely in the moment. And in this moment, they demand (at least from me) my complete and greatest respect.
-Not I-A doll that the dancer uses as a mask, persona or other “counterpart” is at first put on, supported, beaten, antagonized and loved and then suddenly, before my eyes becomes perceptively alive and can support, love, suffer and … dance … on its own.
Especially touching was the moment after the dancer lost his own face, disappearing behind the doll and then much, much later, when he finds himself and wants to separate himself from it: he cannot even support his own legs, so accustomed has he become to his foreign self.
This man came to me after a rehearsal at which, apart from the technician, I was the only audience member. He took my hand briefly and said: “You know, I sometimes hate myself.” Not only a supreme professional dancer, but also an emotional person: after applause brought him to the stage for a third curtain call, he kissed the floor for joy.
-Modern feeling-two dancers show so many varied facets of a relationship in twenty minutes that my own life flashes before my eyes. Sometimes it is a wild love, sometimes boring, sometimes spending time together – idling like in real life – gestures of awkwardness, power play, circling each other, following each other, first defensively then suddenly fighting, in the highpoint flying at each other, rebounding off one another, falling to the ground and … the entirety more or less (the same) from the beginning …
(in the background:) and now the nails in the walls must be kissed
… Andrea said, kissed, because the holes should be able to be used again for the next nails and the next pictures.
It is exciting to be a part of and to experience Frau Professor (Andrea K. Schlehwein is a professor of choreography in Seoul) in action: the way she tosses her long her around (unfortunately only in my imagination; she actually wears it pulled tightly back) and engages the space without removing herself from her chair. She demonstrates her presence especially in gestures and movements that have been reduced to the essentials.
When she appears on stage I shift my attention to the subject matter, of which she says: „there was so much going on over this last year – there were so many different productions – sometimes we broke down in the evening so we could play with the new set-up for the wings for the next performance during the night. Our space here is not a theater, not even a stage … there were artists in residence, up to eight at a time, for whom everything from graphic design to artistic direction to press work was carried out by us alone.“
And all of that here where we are. In Millstatt. In Carinthia.
Dear Andrea, Dear Eleonore, your names may be greater elsewhere, but you are more important and more necessary here where we are, because we are naked in some ways and in some spots where others are already covered. That makes us underdeveloped in some respects, but in other ways it makes us more original, more interesting, more natural. And so our deficiencies, which can naturally be embarrassing, cruel, closed-minded, segregated and barbaric, are also partially warranted.
Thank you, for (currently) being here with us.
Ulrike Kofler, 10.09.2014 translated by hrgb Fotos by Jo Hermann