May 2, 2012
“We are really tapping into something quite extraordinary”
The Month of Performance Art-Berlin has opened its gates yesterday, May 1st, and promises a rich programme, including more than 100 projects all over Berlin. Creative City Berlin has spoken to Francesca Romana Ciardi, Project Manager at MPA-B, to find out what makes this event so special.
Interview: Wencke Grothkopp
There are so many happenings in Berlin – why do we need a Month of Performance Art?
One could argue that Berlin, with its ever-evolving and never-ending flux of artistic projects, does not need a Month of Performance Art to complement its cultural panorama. However the overwhelmingly positive response that our initiative has had so far, tells us otherwise. There may be many happenings in Berlin, but Performance Art embodies a much broader range of artistic languages, discourses and contexts. If we were to confine it just to the term “happening”, we would be limiting its true cultural value as a diverse, thought-provoking and influential art form and practice.
Foto: MASTOK.E.N.N - Performance at KuLe
What makes it different to other events?
One of the reasons why MPA-B was founded was to deepen people's understanding of Performance Art and to draw attention to it by involving and promoting the work of independent Performance Art practitioners at the fringe of mainstream and funded performing arts structures. It is quite unique in the sense that it is the first initiative of its kind in Germany and elsewhere in the world to focus its activities and programming entirely on Performance Art, across a whole city and for a full month. Also, our structure is quite different. MPA-B is neither a festival nor a curatorial body, meaning that we don't have a yearly theme, an artistic director and a jury selecting which projects should or should not be a part of it, or a set of criteria that people should subscribe to. The fact that this year's programme, which presents 100+ projects, at 67 locations in 10 boroughs, and features the work of hundreds of independent artists, curators, producers, organisations and initiatives, demonstrates that we are really tapping into something quite extraordinary.
The MPA-B is a non-funded initiative – how do you sponsor the projects?
As a non-funded initiative, MPA-B is currently not in a position to commission, or make funds available to curators, artists or whoever else may want to bring projects to the MPA-B platform. This means that we rely wholly on the interest and dedication of the broader network of Performance Art practitioners to contribute to the MPA-B programme, and to help and support its development.
But still you need to finance yourself…
Sure. After the founding and the first edition, MPA-B grew rapidly......but sadly not financially. Lobbying efforts by some of the MPA-B team members with representatives of public funding bodies, as well as attempts to find private sponsors didn't yield many results. So we decided to change strategy and look for alternative funding solutions. This is when we thought about running a crowdfunding campaign on Inkubato, a Berlin-based platform for creative projects, to cover at least the basic production and promotion costs. After two months of non-stop campaigning, a fundraising party and the generous support of friends, family and some of the people involved in the MPA-B programme, we managed to raise the 2,500 Euro target on Inkubato. Although raising funds was difficult, and it ended up covering just a small fraction of the costs of MPA-B, we were hugely encouraged when the first pledge came in from friends in debt-stricken Greece. This altruistic and supportive gesture from abroad really motivated us to continue.
Over 100 different projects at 67 locations – how did you manage to gather such a large group of artists?
We spent several months researching Berlin-based locations, curators and initiatives that were active in the field of Performance Art.We also established national and international partnerships with other networks and institutions and invited people working in similar initiatives to come and check out MPA-B, hence beginning a dialogue by confronting different realities and exchanging practices. This is how we ended up with such a diverse and extended programme, and the involvement of hundreds of people.
What is their motivation to participate?
With MPA-B I have encountered a really high level of collaboration, support and exchange. Many performers for example, have been inviting each other to participate in several projects and extended their partnership to new artists thus testing new grounds and exchanging practices. This has been the same for curators who have been sharing expertise and have opened up their spaces to welcome other curators' project ideas. There is a very professional and positive collaborative spirit going on, which obviously makes our work as facilitators easier and more productive.
How large is the share of Berlin-based participating artists?
Most of the MPA-B participating artists are based in Berlin. But we have a significant number coming from abroad, many of whom will take part in the 48hr-long Performance Art marathon we have organised in collaboration with ACUD Theater, from 18:00 on May 11th to 18:00 on May 13th. One of the most remarkable things about this particular project, is that as a non-funded initiative we were only able to offer artists a place to perform, food and drinks on the day, documentation of their work, promotion and official invitation letters for international artists to apply for travel grants in their respective countries. This limited conditions, and the inability to offer any money to cover at least some of the expenses, didn't seem to deter the dozens of people based in Berlin and abroad, who signed up to take part in it!
Berlin is constantly changing – what are the developments you would or wouldn’t wish for?
I guess I wouldn't want to see the wrong kind of investments flowing into the city which could potentially turn Berlin into another capitalist hub such as London, and flood the city with all those problems that are endemic of big capitals, with the most obvious being very high cost of living, a wider social class divide, tension and the progressive reduction of our freedoms. What I would like to see changed though, is the amount of capital injected into the cultural sector (after all the creative industries, together with the service sector and tourism, are the backbone of the city's economy) and in particular into independent creative structures. An important petition that emerged a few months ago and which was launched by the Koalition der Freien Szene, tackles exactly this problem. I take this opportunity to promote this initiative and to ask the Creative City Berlin readership to support it: www.openpetition.de/petition/online/koalition-der-freien-szene-offener-brief-an-die-stadt-berlin
The MPA-B Performance Art Prize – what are the criteria for such an award?
First of all, the MPA-B Performance Art Prize was initiated with the idea of questioning Performance Art's intricate relationship with issues of value, authorship and ownership. The prize of 1000 Euro in total, will in fact be awarded to two variations of a winning performance which will be taken from an online nomination process and selected by public participants during an event hosted at the Denkerei in Kreuzberg. What is interesting about this award, which is the brainchild of Joel Verwimp - MPA-B team member and co-founder of the artistic practice and research project VerlegtVerlag - is that anyone can nominate a favourite performance, even one of their own, and not exclusively from the MPA-B 2012 programme. The chosen performance can be from anytime and anywhere in the world. The only condition for it to be eligible for the prize, is that the performance has to have been presented in Berlin. All sorts of performative actions can be nominated including but not limited to: performance art, happenings, performative installations, lecture / sound / object performances, urban space performances, Dada and writing performances.
When can we see the results?
The nominations will be presented to the public on May 31st starting from 19:00 and will be open for debate, dialogue and discussion, moderated with the so-called fishbowl method in order to determine the one and only winning performance. The online nomination process is currently open and available on our website. The deadline is May 30th, and the event at the Denkerei will also mark the MPA-B 2012 closing party. I highly recommend everyone to attend this extraordinary and special Performance Art event.
What are the must-sees this year?
They all are!
May 23, 2013
May 23, 2013
May 23, 2013
May 23, 2013
May 21, 2013