Shipbuilding and Other Joint Efforts

Guy Gutman

The flies are eavesdroping to a conversation of the "Nomadic School" team in HOMO NOVUS festival, Riga (September, 2015): Guy Gutman (The School of Visual Theatre Director), Silvia Bottiroli (the curator of Santarcangelo Festival), Paride Piccinini (Architect), Tami Leibovits (Choreograph) and Livia Andrea Piazza (Scholar). 

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"Nomadic School" is a collaborative and experimental platform for an investigation of the mutual relationships between performance and education, co-curated by Silvia Bottiroli and Guy Gutman. It is part of the expanded performance space and scenography program Shared Space: Music, Weather, Politics, supported by EU programme Culture. The second edition of the "Nomadic School" was an investigation of the multiples dimensions of engagement and shared learning;

Festivals and schools are ships made by many for many. They are designed as intensive environments of constant friction and of sometimes harsh conditions. They are a calling to regroup and to voyage together on a mission, to become a pack, a tribe, shipmates.

Yet simultaneously, as liminal spaces and modes of transit, both festivals and schools must question the very alliance that form them and be suspicious of the mutual.

"Nomadic School" was an invitation to navigate within these intensities and oppositions, to trace but also to put them in suspension, to create voids and secret liaisons. The program of the school journeys, through and around the program of the festival included establishing connections, inhabiting the spaces in between, taking walks, reading together, questioning the ways we work, think and learn together. Addressed as a disposition rather than as a thematic, "Nomadic School" was meant to trace paths where inhabitants and visitors, artists and students, locals and foreigners, humans and objects, can cohabit the very specific atmosphere of a festival, engaging into a collective research trajectory – namely, a “school” – that grounded its contents into the specific topics raised by the performances, the talks, the wanderings, the buildings, the time-off and the time-on of a festival meant as a public gesture and a school powered by friendship.

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Guy : My first question has to do with duration. One of the things that are unique about festivals and carnivals is that they are very condensed actions, a stimulus of emotions and visions presented in a small pocket inside a year. While school is just the opposite- it entails a long process of maturation, of slow transformation. Perhaps as a starting point for looking at "Nomadic School", we need to ask how do these two oppositions live together? 

Tami: Maybe we can think about a school as a place that holds many festivals, that has these moments of picks. I remember being a student at the School of Visual Theatre and the way projects were developed around these highlight moments, where one works hard for a period, and then has the summer for contemplation- to take the distance in order to place and reposition yourself.

Silvia: At the same time, if I think about a festival, it is also the other way around because a festival also works in duration. If we looked at a festival over a period of five years we start to notice a continuity. Perhaps one can say that 5-10 years of a festival is the equitant of one academic year for example. It is always an attempt to combine these moments of highlight to a trajectory of research that links them.
Another point is the notions of visibility and invisibility because a festival is of course a place for condensed excitement and intensity – of extreme visibility, yet for me as a festival director, I am mainly concerned with the invisible aspects - the ones that are "behind the scene". The question for me is: Can we share this with the artists and the audience? What is the place of time before the festival? What is place of the time after it? What is a whole year in the life of a festival?
That is why I think that in many respects a festival is also a school, a learning environment, where collectively and individually we can engage in research. A place of exchange. I am also thinking about the people who work in the festival and how they might grow.

Paride: I think there is a much longer process that is taking shape outside of the 10 days of a festival in the rehearsals, the residencies, the dialogues. In Santarcangelo Festival, the artists work throughout the whole year around these questions and research.

Tami: A festival has also a quality of duration by presenting work from 20-30 years ago and in that sense it becomes a kind of a live archive.

Silvia: Yes, I think the possibility of a festival to present a work from the past changes completely its relation to time. It means working not only about what's happening NOW but stretch time in a certain way. Some of the projects in Santacrangelo Festival evolve from year to year. In these projects you experience duration because of the cut. Because of a distance. And this could be an interesting way to think about theses tensions between concentration and duration, between Festival and School, looking back at my years of school the transformation were often after finishing, in the break.

Paride: I agree. Returning to the question of visibility-invisibility, I think that there is still a divide, a separation between what is open to the public and what is not.

Guy: Often today notions of a "school" (research, learning curves, process) are becoming more and more visible. In this edition of "Nomadic School" you insisted that the building process and the unfinished "ship" would be presented.

Livia: I am thinking about the notion of porosity that we used in the project "School of Exception" as a guiding format. Something that doesn't just absorbs, but something that you can go through, something that is able to exchange between the inside and the outside. It is connected to what Silvia was saying about the visibility or the importance of making the process visible. This of course has also a down side, and perhaps we should begin by asking why it is important to make the process visible. Perhaps it is a state where you put yourself on the border between the inside and the outside – it is not just about moving things but it is a place to raise a question. To be more concrete – when a school is visible from the outside, we can question why things happen there in a certain way.

Silvia: Perhaps the challenge lies in the common use of visibility itself. The idea that in order for something to be visible it needs to be recognized as a finished work, as something that can be approached with a certain degree of judgment and expectation. What school as a notion allows is an intimacy and privacy, a place where you are not constantly under judgment.

Paride: In architecture, projects remain often as unfinished proposals. Aside from a few specific exhibitions, the architectural practice remains very private and reserved. I think it's important to get more people involved in this process, because it transformer the passive role of the audience – the public as voyeur – and proposes a discussion. For example, we can take the "public reading" we did yesterday in the "Nomadic School" – it was in a way risky to involve a larger audience in an intimate reading of an article.

Tami: Yes, somehow we connect visibility with risk.

Livia: Yet very often the notion of Work-in-Progress actually prevents any possibility for the artists to take a risk. On one side there is failure or embracing failure – allowing the work process to be visible. When you label it as "work-in-progress" you imply that you will make mistakes and that these mistakes will render the work better.
"In-process" always seems to indicate the audience that there will be a future and that that future will be better. It’s the idea that the mistake always drives you towards something better… but why is that? It can be a zone of danger - that you will never finish, never make a commitment, never take a risk.


Guy: Both School and Festival are junctions – people pass through them and move on somewhere else. It is also a junction between experts and amateurs – a place where knowledge and hierarchies are examined. Do you see an equitant of responsibilities between artists/teacher, art director/school master?

Paride: In that sense I see a big difference between a school and a festival; artists, in festivals, allow themselves a space for secrecy, for the undeclared, while in schools all is needed to be revealed.

Silvia: For me it has to do with Misunderstandings. It is the possibility that is provided by both schools and festivals to be somewhere together but somehow the space we share is not exactly the same space. Precisely because of this secret that guides each of us, our motivation. I know of course that the festival is not the same thing for the festival director, for the festival producer, for the artists, for the members of the Audience. I use misunderstandings to emphasis and oppose the idea that there is one possible understanding of what a festival is and that the vision of the artistic director. That’s an important condition that I think is exactly the same in a school – you need to create the possibility for not doing the same thing.
For example, the "shipbuilding workshop" we’ve done in the "Nomadic School": It was at the same time a practical workshop, an exercise in collaboration, a possible way of thinking about collaboration, an ice breaker for the school, a kind of provocation, the creation of a concrete object, an art object, a spectacle – so many things. This complexity that derives from the fact the we are doing something together but actually we are doing very different things – for me that gives a sense of the notions of a junction and of the multiple – the fact of being many.

Tami: It makes me think of the festival and the school as a body with many organs, with many branches. Often I hear the questions: Is the school for teachers or students? Is the festival for artists or producers? And who is responsible for creating these junctions, for creating a communal space and a shared space for joint efforts- the artists? The artistic director? It is especially hard when there is so little budget and we find ourselves competing for the same resources.

Guy: as a kind of a summary, please give me your highs and lows of the "Nomadic School".

Livia: What I missed is a stronger connection between what we did in the School and the Festival. There is a potential, yet it didn't completely happen. There is still a missing link.

Paride: I always saw this as a starting operation – changing our daily rhythm, laying the ground for encounter. I think we made a full immersion and succeed in creating a temporary community that works together somehow.

Tami: For me the biggest question is the relation between us as staff/teachers and the students. I still feel that we were unable to break or challenge this separation and that these positions were too stable. I hope to change that in the next days...

Silvia: One of the important things that happened for me was the experience of sharing the responsibility for curating a school – the idea of a team. In that way it was very different than the "Nomadic School" in Santarcangelo. It was very beautiful for me and created the possibility to go further exactly because you feel you are not alone in carrying the responsibility – to let things go, to lose control of some parts. It created a subtle geometry of actions.
In terms of what we did I feel a similarity in the tensions we felt between school and festival and between art practice and theory. I think these elements are part of the concept of the "Nomadic School" yet they need to be further questioned. Yesterday we worked on the "ship", than we had a hard theoretical discussion about Collaboration and then we went back to work. That was an important moment that questioned the relationship between art and theory – which is what propels both School and Festival.

March, 2017

School Staff and the participants:

Daniel Blanga Gubbay and Livia Andrea Piazza (Aleppo, Brussels), Paride Piccinini (architect, Forlì), Tami Lebovits (choreographer, Tel Aviv), Philip Quesne (France).

Participants: Kaynan Basel (Israel), Anat Bosak (Israel), Raisa Breslava (Latvia), Ildze Felsberga (Latvia), Māra Gaņģe (Latvia), Ragnheiður Harpa (Iceland), Freya Sif Hestnes (Norway), Nina Kuttler (Germany), Kristīne Logina (Latvia), Hallel Maliniak (Israel), Raphaé Memon (UK), Edgars Niklasons (Latvia), Thibault le Page (France), Sia Preminger (Israel), Ivo Serra (Germany), Yasmine Steinmetz (Israel), Nina Traub (Israel), Mārtiņš Zariņš (Latvia).