Conversation Extract #1
Özlem Alkis (ÖA) and Kattrin Deufert (KD)
ÖA: Recently I started to keep asking myself the same question: How to find time to reflect on the essential questions and not to live under the pressure of production or production related tasks?
KD: I have 20 years of experience in the duo, coming from different background and fields, and for the first 15 years – money – was a daily topic. Some people have decided to change careers, but there is no failure in art, there is only giving up, because you cannot handle the precarious situation, or you decide to not do art anymore but something else. But we kept going, talked a lot to producers, created networks and after a tabula rasa, we created “Deufert&Plitschke”, not the sum of them but a new thing. At the beginning it was one project at a time, not force to much production, so do not have to force a cooperation with partners from which you don´t know what they want. It is enough when you have small networks, people that trust you, partners that you can call over the phone. Teaching helped with the financing, until 2019 we were mainly teachers. And teaching helped to learn a lot about the way how you do art and how you can transmit what you do! We do social art, that needs time and local communication. We are no touring business, no repetition of a piece but new production on every new location!
But the daily routine is true: every day of phone calls, meetings, teaching, the thought “oh I haven´t moved” so a bit of dance, pick up the kids, one hour of research of writing an application.
And that is 7 days a week. We work to slow down, and step down of the functionality, for the men specially, and enter the feminine area, step into the responsibility. We work toward a diverse society of women and kids that actively includes men.
ÖA: When my savings went off during my dance studies, I found a job at Deutsche Post, I worked 5 days a week between 5:00 and 8:00 o’clock. I wanted to earn stable income. There I met different worlds, different communities, and the working class. The job was very hard yet there I found the joy again, outside the art community.
KD: When you need money as an artist, it is better to go to a totally different field, to meet other people. Art was a tendency to isolate itself. It must do the opposite; it has to jump out of itself. That is why we started these social projects, open to everybody. Especially if you have experience in other fields, this helps you stay connected. The humor of life.
ÖA: I am trying to reflect on my internal conflicts about the theater space and how I use it. In 2020, after rehearsing in a studio for two months, we entered to the theater to stage the work for the premiere. The first day, I was shocked, somehow the work started to function differently. The theater lights, black box, frontal staging (because of Corona, the other versions were not possible) was not suiting.
KD: So maybe you don´t have to stay there. We also did this, Thomas & me decided to leave it. We are not performance that serve the audience, we figured out that the stage is not our surrounding, it is alien to our work. It has to do with how you identify with yourself. We started going to galleries. Social time is happening there that is very needed in the performing arts, that cannot only happen on stage. Performance art and live art can happen everywhere, it could be in your kitchen, with your child in your lap. I don´t think discussion is the motor of performing art, it is the physical doing.
ÖA: The compact experiences that the theater creates, I still like that. It is a space of resonance.
KD: The imaginary of the black box is very rich. That is true. Maybe it is about the structure, the institution. Like technicians are mostly male and react differently to female or diverse than to male artists.
ÖA: I hire a technician who does the communication.
KD: I have similar experiences, Thomas was handling the communication. Most of technicians don´t like to take orders from female directors. No technician bashing, it is more about the structure, the surrounding.
ÖA: Since 2015, I teach (dance) in diverse communities. During these sessions, I realized that these groups are quite homogeneous and mostly women. Then I thought of bringing together these groups (German, Turkish and Kurdish) in an artistic practice and create a women-only environment.
KD: I suppose you teach dance? Dance is supposed to be able to integrate because of the non-language aspect. But also it has problems of gender integration. You have the chance to bring people from both communities. How is the integration in Cologne?
ÖA: I was talking with Turkish and Kurdish people, they say that the more their education level goes up, the integration gets worse.
KD: In lower-middle class the integration is better. In the bourgeois is where there is xenophobia. The new conservatism is shocking.
ÖA: I felt the same when I was working at the Deutsche Post. I did not feel as a foreigner even though I did not know any German at that time.
KD: Integration does not work from top down, it starts with little projects. And as an artist you can do that. That is why we started this social projects. We started to learn so much from people, we started to understand the relevance, outside the art bubble. To meet people that engage with art for the first time. Maybe it can be a motivation for you, if you have a need, go for it, invest time in it.
ÖA: How do you finance these social art projects? How do you design it?
KD: For example, in “Just in time” there is a big ballroom happening at the end, it is an artistic project. We applied for Dance Heritage and collect dance letters from around the world to write the history of dance from outside the academic perspective. We have workshops not for dancers but for other people. The word “letters for dance” it ringed a bell for them, it stayed. But you are totally right, you have to bundle the social work around an artistic work. And this is also needed.
ÖA: In 2019, At Alte Feuerwache, I presented my first work with the women-only group, “Reverbs-feiern”. In this project we use Alevi – Semah dance motifs. One of the participant’s mother brought her friend to watch the performance. She had mentioned to her that in the piece, Alevi Semah movement system are used. The mother is an Alevi, her friend is a Sunni. At the end of the show when the light went off, her friend commented her “Hah! The candle went off” This is a saying that is used to “other” the Alevi people. According to this saying, Alevis gather in houses to have an orgy. So, she related the darkness of the stage with that saying. Alevi’s were living since centuries under the oppression and hidden during the Ottoman Empire and Turkish Republic until recently, because of their believes and religious practice is different than the Sunni majority in Turkey. I grow up in that oppressive atmosphere and that is one of the reasons that I left Turkey, yet it found me here in Cologne. So, we as a group started to reflect on that.
KD: “Women only” is a good approach to deal with own experiences. You can meet your own history through other people. The project “Letters for dance” was something like this.
“Woman and kids only” frames are hard to find, male energy is everywhere. Still, I don´t think it is a good idea as an artist to just work with your own history, you have blind spots and trauma. Are you working on the project now?
ÖA: Yes, we already started. I work with Alevis Rituals and the Alevis community. What is really happening after a community migrated to Germany? And since so many things are changing, the rituals, the necessities as well. So what is happening? The first reaction while contacting people here was: „who are you?“ I understood that as a woman, this rejection meets me again outside of Turkey, but the Alevis communities were actually very open and curious about the project.
KD: It sounds like a heart project from you. I do not hear any questions while you explain it.
Even without being able to travel. This sounds a larger frame. It has so many levels. Are you doing this alone? Maybe you need co-creators.
ÖA: I am alone.
KD: Maybe this should not stay long time like this. Maybe search for a dramaturg, a woman of trust. To be able to push something forward. You want to be honest in the project. But honesty is not the rhetoric of production. Get yourself a translator, someone that talks for you, that embraces you and keeps going. Not that this takes something away from you, but accompanies you, and focus on the communication. Maybe for this project. It is not a marriage, start with this project, like a try out. It is not a life-long relationship. Maybe someone interested in the Alevis community, or someone in between communities. There are so many people interested in being involved, doesn´t need to be an artist. Maybe this person comes to you.
Extraction by Silvia Ehnis
This conversation took place on 14th Juli, 2021 via zoom, in the frame of the project “Digitale Toolbox für Tanzschaffende – ein Ausgangspunkt” vom Quartier am Hafen. Funded by Fonds Darstellende Künste with funds from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media #TakePlace #TakeThatNeustart – 2021