Monstrous but safe
Long-standing live art collective Other Spaces is calling people of all generations to join forces and get building our lost future. Their extensive experience in practice-led praxis allows them to deliver highly successful cross-generational productions, says Kampnagel dramaturge Anna Teuwen.
Active since 2004, the Other Spaces collective’s artistic approach is based on a commitment to continuous practice. For the audience, the collective’s performances are an opportunity to imagine yourself inhabiting the body of some other-worldly creature, taking on the guise of a car, a reindeer, a humanoid or even a power line. A collection of imaginary beings, the collective’s latest production, received its premiere at Turku library in September. It is a place-specific and cross-generational piece, in the course of which viewers are asked to assume the role of both performer and audience member.
“As we seek solutions, ways to survive and adapt to change, we must involve everyone, including the generations before and after us, in our attempt to build our lost future. This collective is actively engaged in the shift that’s underway in our society, this move that we’re making towards a more shared and embodied reality,” explains Eeva Kemppi, the producer of A collection of imaginary beings.
The action takes place in a library, and the collective are on hand to help audience members as they seek to sense the physical form of mystical beings; ghosts, beasts, monsters and dragons. Libraries are places where all generations, past, present and future, live side by side. The performances are an invitation to people of all ages to share their own flights of fancy together in a collective way. The production draws on Jorge Luis Borges’s El libro de los seres imaginarios (The book of imaginary beings), a novel that was originally published in 1957 and appeared in an extended edition in 1969.
The collection of imaginary beings form part of a wider series, designed to appeal to all sorts of different audiences. The first instalment in the series was Suuri koralliriutta (The Great Barrier Reef), which opened in Kontula, Helsinki and was later staged at the Kampnagel performing arts venue in Hamburg. The latest production too is set for a German outing in 2021.
"Stability, seriousness, research-focus, practical and participatory approach"
We invited Kampnagel dramaturge Anna Teuwen to discuss her own relationship with the works created by Other Spaces.
Anna Teuwen: Collection of imaginary beings is coproduced by Kampnagel – like The Great Barrier Reef was. Both shows are intended for a mixed-age-audience, something we are interested in at Kampnagel and where we follow various approaches.
I have been following the work of Other Spaces Collective for several years. Wolf Safari was presented at Kampnagel in 2014. When I was planning an application for a festival for mixed-age audiences I came up with the idea of asking the Other Spaces Collective whether they might be interested as they hadn’t done anything like that before. In the past, we have had good experiences when we’ve invited artists who don’t usually create works aimed at kids to get involved – it is usually very un-educational in the best sense of the word, and full of fresh ideas, aesthetics and attitude.
The working method of the Other Spaces Collective, with its stability, its seriousness, its research-focus, its practical and participatory approach, seemed a very good fit with what we had in mind. And so it came to be and was a very successful piece. This strong method is a great leveller for both kids and grown-ups. The physical exercises set up a frame of rules that everyone can (and must) follow and even if it might be more difficult for the grownups to act like they usually do in Other Spaces Collectives projects when being surrounded by kids (like it might feel more silly) it worked out that they took it seriously and had a very unique experience and encounter with the other participants of all ages.
In my opinion this is due to the experience and strong attitude of the members of the Other Spaces Collective who guided the participants through the show. The kind of silliness and irony that can often be found in works for younger audiences where artists work with two layers of meanings in order to cater for everyone, does not take place in the works of Other Spaces Collective, due to their democratic and equal approach.
So both the collective was up to continue the cross-generational trip, and we asked them for a new work for the next festival. We are now very much looking forward to next spring when it can finally happen!
TINFO / Sari Havukainen, 28 Sep, 2020
Collection of imaginary beings, photo Jaakko Ruuska
Anna Teuwen, photo Janto Djassi
Translation and proof reading: Liisa Muinonen