Rimini Protokoll Interview for Eco-Visionaries

Catalogue contribution to the installation win > < win at the Royal Academy of Arts London

08.02.2021 / Catalogue Royal Academy of Arts London

Your piece was originally conceived for the CCCB in Barcelona, in the context of an exhibition called After the End of The World. Can you tell me how did the idea for Win-Win appeared and evolved?
The invitation from the CCCB came in reaction of a theatre project we had created in Hamburg. It took place simultaneously to the UN World Climate Summit in Paris. For our show, the audience members slipped into the shoes of the country delegates and had to take decisions like the real delegates in the real conference. Our aim was to make the audience experience the complexity of this highly important conference at a highly crucial time.
Many of our projects first of all invite to observe. We, in our collective, share the pure obsession to observe. Look outside of your window, go to a public space, go and visit a shareholders meeting a conference, a funeral, go to the court and just watch what is happening there, how do people interact? What are the rules and rituals?
Or go to an aquarium and observe jellyfishes and, next level: observe how people are observing jellyfishes! These creatures are so attractive and elegant on the one side and on the other they are documenting a global catastrophe.
For the installation in CCCB, we took this opposition as a starting point. The title of the group exhibition was: “After the end of the World”. What will be the consequences and results of the climate change? How will we live in 50 years from now?
We spoke to oceanographers and marine biologist from all over the world to find out more.
“We are in this crazy, unforeseen and incomprehensible situation where we are competing against jellyfish. And they are winning,” says the Australian marine biologist and jellyfish expert Lisa-Ann Gershwin. Jellyfishes are benefitting from the catastrophy humans have created on this planet. So, in the installation we invite the audience to a kind of confrontation.
A group of 9 people can enter the space at once, they get headphones and the first thing they see is their own image in the mirror.
With the voices of the experts we created an audio track that includes the expert voices and a storyteller who speaks to the audience directly and is instructing them. Later the lighting situation is changed in a way that the visitors can see through the mirror into the tank with the jelly fishes and in a next part they can see through the tank and observe a group of visitors sitting in a second chamber staring at them…
We come from theatre, so when we work in museums we enjoy to deploy the kind of dramaturgy we use when we want to tell a story from beginning to the end. As we wanted people to stay on for the duration of the story, we created this strict management of audience groups, which allows each group involved to have different perceptions of the space, the other audience, and the topic, as the performance unfurls.
Moving between interactive theatre and art, you work has a special focus on scientific expertise and how this may be translated to or experienced by a general audience. How does this intersect with the communication of climate change?
In contact and exchange with experts, we try to tell a story out of their perspective and avoid easy solutions. How can we understand and the dilemmas involved and unfold the complexity of the theme while linking it to very personal experiences and create a playful and sensual piece of art.
We take the experts as a source of information, but also as source of biographical, personal moments that one shares with a person – something that is normally hiding in a more intellectual, conference lifestyle, and does not appear so much in a more direct interaction with people, who do not have the extra knowledge they have in their bubble. Experts talk at a more eye to eye level in their peer group, in their bubble, but what if we created this situation in which experts share their ideas, or lead you through something that you haven’t really understood before? That could still be an artistic, or aesthetic, or sensual experience.
Win-win can a very transformative, cathartic experience to its viewers. Did it transform you as artistic creators?
Sure, definitely. I think this is what keep us going. There is a direct intellectual, but as well a deeply emotional impact on how we look at ourselves, and on what we can do with this. First of all, as creators we shared a lot with time these creatures, to watch them, to observe them, to collect information. And we spent time connecting to people who could share both the fascination and horror that these creatures embody. This is absolutely connected to emotion, and even maybe to a melancholic gaze into the world. But again, we try not to offer an easy solution, or assume a mission or a task. It becomes more of a philosophical reflection on what we see, when we look at our own situation. Spectators of the piece are part of a small group, the question becomes not only about the individual, but about how this group reacts to their environment: how do we act, how do we react, how important or how ignorant can you be, what do you know, what you don’t know, and what you try to ignore. Those are, on many layers, questions that are very essential, and that keep us going as artists. And perhaps the piece ends up asking how we collectively act, or not.
So, do you believe art can have a role or make a difference in the perception of the subject, as well in a more general call for action regarding it?
This is definitely the strength of art: observing and reflecting, creating experiences, opening up different perspectives on the world.
I’m strongly convinced that art can contribute to this debate in a non-conventional way. In many different dimensions, you can open up ideas and thoughts that can inspire or start conversations. When it comes to producing changes, you cannot mistake art for politics. I once heard Christoph Schlingensief, a famous German artist say: “if art could solve problems of politics, then all politicians would become artists”. It’s just two different layers, or two different games to play. And artists can play it in a way that tries to reflect our reality in a surprising way. We can use different materials, we can play around with ‘what if?’ ideas, and tell stories in an inspiring or enlightening way. A politician of course must make agreements and laws... I wouldn’t say we are better than politicians, or activists. They all have different roles, and different materials, and different ways to do this. But I’m glad to do it this way. I’m glad to fool around with ideas, to use all different materials and elements that maybe others can’t use. But it is still the same reality we are working in.


win > < win