The art of housekeeping

Lars Kwakkenbos in conversation with Martin Nachbar and Jeroen Peeters on sustainable development and the arts

Sarma Apr 2010English

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Contextual note
This interview took place in Brussels in April 2010 and was commissioned by the Kaaitheater and Imagine 2020.

Lars Kwakkenbos Can you first briefly explain which role the issue of sustainability plays in the life and work of each of you?

Jeroen Peeters Since 2002 I have been writing for Oikos, a Flemish journal and by now also a think tank for social-ecological change. It is through that connection that Guy Gypens, artistic director of the Kaaitheater, asked me to co-curate the first Burning Ice Festival around art and ecology in January 2009. I was in charge of the afternoon program of the festival, which consisted of lectures and debates, revolving around the themes of the landscape, mobility, waste, and narratives for the future. Meanwhile I also became part of the Ecopodia study group of the Flemish Theatre Institute, and since a few months I am part of the atelier Ecocultuur of Cultuurforum, a sort of think tank linked to the Flemish Minister Joke Schauvliege, who is in charge of culture, nature and environmental matters.

Martin Nachbar I got interested in sustainability when I was sixteen or seventeen. I decided to not get a driver’s licence, I was a vegetarian, I was part of a foot co-op, and I stopped skiing. In the meantime, all of this has faded a bit. Nowadays I am no longer a vegetarian, I do have a driver’s licence, and I do fly. There is still a concern though, and since I have a daughter, it got stronger again.

In my artistic work sustainability has never been a theme in itself. Looking for Johnny (2007), the project I developed together with Jeroen, dealt with a North Pole expedition and was presented during the first Burning Ice Festival, but it doesn’t thematize any topic of sustainability. Instead it deals with the human condition within tough natural conditions. The starting point was the expedition of John Franklin to find a Northwest Passage in 1845. State-of-the-art expedition, three super great ships, all the stuff that you need… They failed tragically. They ended up eating body parts of the deceased crew members, everything got lost and everyone died, and afterwards even more people died in expeditions to find them.

It seems to me that discussions about ecology and sustainability are not so much about saving nature, but about saving our own lives. Talking about and discussing ecology is a cultural activity: how do we communicate, and how do we relate to what is outside of culture? Ecology and sustainability are about how to relate to each other, in order to relate with that other thing that is called the outside, for our own survival.




MN How do we relate the inside to the outside, and vice versa? The distinction between culture and nature touches on what ecology basically is. Ecology is the science of the house: Oikos is the house, and logos means science. How do you keep house: a private house, your city being a house, the house of the globe? We could call this whole thing that we want to take care of, the oikos or the house. Though there are things we are afraid of and that we would rather keep away from us, like crocodiles and sharks – if not, we become prey, and we don’t want that.

Seen in such a perspective, not only the distinctions between public and private are sliding. Those between nature and culture, and subject and object are as well. If we get eaten by a shark or a crocodile, we are nothing but an object to that animal. When you realize this, relations between man and nature become very different. During the last two decades post-humanity studies have been trying to redefine subject and object. I find their outcome really exciting: they are pushing sustainability into a realm where, at least in thoughts, you are leaving the idea of the house as being a shelter. Even the house can then be a subject: it is no longer there to shelter you but it exists as such without my projected needs for shelter. For me such thoughts inspire me to think about sustainability in concrete artistic projects. I am now preparing two projects, one dealing with animal dances and the other with walks.

JP This whole new philosophy that reconsiders the relations between people, animals, objects and so on, reminds me of Bruno Latour.

MN He is one of the main thinkers, yes.

JP He has this notion of interobjectivity, and he also writes about political ecology. I am not quite familiar with his work, but it involves loosening up the existing dichotomies between subject and object, and creating new possible hybrid connections. Maybe it is up to artists to test them, and to use such pretty wild imagination to bring it into this world, instead of having it live only in books.

MN Biological engineers are already busy with this. There is one really interesting artist, Adam Zaretsky, doing bioengineering labs. He invites people to come, and says, here’s the leg of a goat; you cut it open, you take some tissue, and you let it grow. One can ask why it is so easy to participate in this. Apparently, in some professional labs scientists are going very far in their imagination nowadays. They are completely considering humans as objects. With the exception of themselves though, and that’s the problem.

JP That’s the whole issue. If we test this new realm of thought, how can we then rethink the ways we are making art and how we relate to art, and to the world we are living in? It seems to me that finding new answers to this will take quite a bit of imagination.

MN Dance and choreography are primordial art forms when it comes to explore these fields. Any dancer can tell you about the blurriness of the subject-object dichotomy. We are specialists in this. What Bruno Latour writes about, we know by experience. But of course the question remains: how do you make the awareness of this blurriness between subject and object an aesthetic experience of dancers and audience, rather than just an experience of the dancers themselves.




MN I would like to return to the house. If you want to think about ecology in the arts, you have to think about the kinds of houses they are living in. Municipal theatres in Germany are understood as houses. With one or more companies inside, they seem to be hermetic, almost sealed, as if they were machines. The only entrance that is visible to everyone is through its fourth wall. The main entrance lies in the front. Then there is the artist’s entrance. It looks kind of small and hidden. You have to sneak in. This second entrance reflects an understanding of hospitality that seems very strange to me.

And now I make a jump to the Aborigines in Australia, who traditionally don’t have houses. Traditionally they don’t build. The only ‘houses’ they used to have, are their ‘songlines’, walks that are inscribed in the landscape. These songlines go via landmarks that, in their culture, reveal the genesis of the world. A song that tells a story describes each walk. Each of them consists of a set of what one could call relays, where you can meet someone else, and sort of hand over the song and the walk to be continued. You can also go to a territory of another tribe, but you can do it only by walking along your own songlines. The whole Australian continent has been mapped out like this: through interpreting their songlines Aborigines are able to paint quite accurate aerial maps of the areas where they live. My theory now is that such songlines, together with the walks and the dances being connected to them, become shared habits that are so strong that they embody a house. They become a house in the sense that they become a cultural activity in the landscape. Songlines shelter, because they also convey knowledge about how to find food or water. They shelter in the sense that they tell you how to survive.

Something about these songlines intrigues me very much, because they form the kind of house where you can hardly think dichotomies. This house only exists through repeated behaviour; therefore it could be seen as a set of choreographies. Let’s go back to the municipal theatre now, that I know by experience. Do I want to apply the Aboriginal model of the house, consisting of songlines, to our theatre houses? I am not sure, but their songlines do help me think about the model that we have, which is simply that of a wall. The separation. Besides wanting to constantly produce new stuff, another problem that we have is thinking separations all the time. As important as they may be, what would happen, if they took the walls away? Once you allow the public to go in by the small artist’s entrance, everything changes, for instance. How do you think differences once the walls are gone? How do you think the difference between the stage and the street, once you tear the walls of the theatre down?

JP The two models you are talking about come together in Peter Sloterdijk’s notion of the sphere. According to Sloterdijk, a sphere is a kind of cultural immunity system, say an imaginary house that shelters buildings, a city, a community, and so on. Both the model of the municipal theatre and of the songlines are coming into being through the re-enactment or reiteration of habits and practices, which creates a context of intellegibility for our doings – as described by the philosopher Judith Butler. They both embody a repetition of history. The Aboriginals’ songlines are a tradition of oral transmission over the generations. In a municipal theatre Goethe, Ibsen and other repertory are kept alive. Seen within such a perspective, the notion of the wall also has a historical component.

Hearing you mention the songlines of the Aboriginals made me also think of something else. Such songlines don’t allow one to take the aeroplane, because then one would lose the connection with the landscape being a house. Nowadays we are flying a lot, which makes it difficult to think locality. We often cannot think of travelling in terms of spatial continuity anymore: because most people take the aeroplane between Brussels and Berlin, we simply don’t know how to connect the two places anymore. Nowadays it is just two spots on a global map we are talking about. But if you read novels written in the sixties, people on the continent would mostly travel by car or by train, and by doing so, they did have landscapes in mind. What I want to say is: also here in Europe there are cultural habits, practices and histories of travelling to be found, which are nothing else than choreographies of a shared history that we have lost in a short amount of time. People that are one generation older than us, might still have European songlines in their heads, and with these songlines they relate differently to the environment. They have a different sense of locality.

MN Goethe even stepped out of the horse carriage when he was travelling to Italy, because it drove too fast for him. That could also be interesting, having Sasha Waltz Company or Rosas walk all the way to Madrid (laughs).

JP The company of Pina Bausch would mostly travel by bus. At the same time the globalised way of merely putting spots on a map, already existed in the eighteenth century. Kant and Hume got to know their world thanks to receiving books and letters, carried all over the continent by messengers. Though Hume was an avid traveller, Kant never left his native Königsberg. So this other pole of a disembodied relation to space has also a longer history than Ryanair – an issue that would be worthwhile looking into.

We have a very short memory. We don’t remember what our lives looked like only fifteen years ago, when we flew less and didn’t have internet or cell phones. Life was actually possible back then! The same goes for cultural practices. Recycling also means rediscovering cultural techniques and practices that we have lost. One could think of growing one’s own vegetables, but also of what it means to travel by train rather than by plane. Once you connect sustainability issues to cultural practices shared by a large group of people, the discussions are no longer about things being cheaper or more expensive, or being better or not for the environment. Sustainability issues gain much more weight once you know how to define them in cultural and historical terms. That’s where we enter the realm of imagination.




LK Most people agree that the world of objects isn’t endless. The question might be whether the same goes for the worlds of ideas. Throughout the modern age we have often thought, and most people, such as Karim Benammar, still do, that the world of ideas is endless. We might have to rethink that modernist thought. The world of ideas might also need a sustainable approach.

MN Yes, I think so. Some of the solutions are not to be found by pushing the work in the laboratories forwards. Recycling is in itself already a reiteration of old cultural techniques and knowledge. Not stretching the envelope where you put the ideas in, but slightly deflating it and having a look at what is already there.

JP The same goes for scientific ideas and technology. A well-known example is the electric car, which has been around for a while, but its implementation was blocked by the lobby of the oil industry.

LK Does the same go for the art world? The main idea about making art is still that artists have to invent something new.

MN According to Elisabeth Grosz one can only appropriate or steal in the arts. By appropriating things, you still discover slightly new aspects of what already existed though. And when I see something that might have been done by someone else fifty years ago, I cannot but see something no one else has yet seen in it. A good way to reveal that ideas do not need to be ‘new’, would be not to assign financial value to them anymore. If you don’t do that any longer, it would not matter whether an idea is old or new. Its value would then be the way it relates to other ideas.

JP Travelling and meeting people – both common in the practice of artists nowadays – also yields embodied knowledge, which is rarely made explicit and needs to be properly documented. And once the chain of reiteration, which we might just as well call re-embodiment, is interrupted – for instance by the flight of an aeroplane, to take up that example once more – we have to ask ourselves how to pick up the end of the chain once it is lost. By trying to restore the chain, you discover time and again that ideas and memories are easily lost.

MN That indeed is a massive problem. I encountered it when doing the reconstruction of the Affectos humanos of Dore Hoyer. Between 1962, when Hoyer made it and when Susanne Linke reconstructed the piece in 1987, there was a cut. And when I picked it up in 1999, it was very difficult to relate to. I sense a certain interest in gesturality, expression and readability that Dore Hoyer and I have in common, but the way she embodies her movements and penetrates space, is extremely different from me. I cannot reiterate that, for it is a totally new encounter, but at the same time my attempt to restage the movements do create an effect of sustainability: over the years something was sustained by a document, twenty years later the document was embodied again, and now, more than another twenty years later, this document has a new life. However, to make it alive again feels like torturing oneself: as it took me ten years to understand the similarities between Dore Hoyer’s approach and mine, one could ask if is it all worth the effort. In the context of what we are now talking about, I would say yes.

Reconstructing a dance piece that was made in 1962 made me understand that a choreography is a subject: it has a life of its own that you cannot kill. In Cover #2 (which took place earlier this year in Amsterdam, LK) I saw Nicole Beutler relating to two pieces of Lucinda Childs. They still work and have a presence of their own. You cannot kill them. They are there. They really are. The fact that they are not being performed, doesn’t mean that they are gone. Why is it possible that, after a period of twenty years in which they have not been performed, they can be performed again with such an effect? Because they exist, and since Lucinda Childs created them, they have never ceased to do so. There is this whole idea of a choreography being some ephemeral thing, that doesn’t exist unless it is performed. But it does exist all the time. Even when not being performed, it keeps on existing, which is quite uncanny. When the choreographer, the dancers and the last witnesses have died and when all documents have been lost, it might be forgotten, but even then one might have told something about it to someone else. Choreographies continue to exist.

The ideas that existed once, keep on existing, and they remain in the envelope. They are there, and while being there, they need space to exist. The proof is: twenty years after the fact, a piece of Lucinda Childs is played again, and it still works because it is a strong choreography. It is there, and it has always been.

JP And it has a right in itself. I see a huge discussion opening up. We have been talking about continuity and reiteration, but there is both repetition and difference. It is only through difference that we are able to make things possible or change them. Each time a sense of possibility comes into being, one also presupposes the opposite: a sense of impossibility. In order to imagine possibilities and change, there must be a limit to human activity and behaviour. The awareness of such a limit is at the core of every ecological debate. How do you define your own place in the world? You meet someone else, you get to know other ideas, you discover another place, other people, other histories… lots of things we encounter are ‘other’ than ourselves. Their otherness puts a limit to our own behaviour, and it questions the idea of everything being relational or symmetrical.

MN You marked the threshold, now you have to describe the space that has opened up.




JP A choreography that has a right in itself puts up a certain resistance towards how dancers or spectators deal with it. By re-enacting or reiterating a choreography, part of this resistance transpires and allows for change. Not only people or places put a limit to our own actions, ideas do so as well. A choreography can be such an idea. To be able to think in terms of change, we also have to include a sense of discontinuity. The fact that we are faced with discontinuity in unexpected places makes us act differently. The whole ecological discussion is very much about that: an awareness of limitations.

MN I agree. We do have to think sustainability and ecology in terms of discontinuity as well.

JP Resistance and history are helpful notions to counter the happy idea of continuity, of an ever-growing, interconnected landscape of mere new possibilities and imagination.

MN How continuous or discontinuous do you have to be to be sustainable? Let me redirect this question to the idea of the house. Walls create discontinuity. Let us not talk of cultures with or without houses, but more in terms of houses within houses. If you imagine the atmosphere to be a house, then within that house you have a certain climate. In this climate you have forests, that, being natural shelters, are houses too. In these forests you can build a hut, and in this hut you can have rooms. My point is: all these ‘houses’ act like frames within frames, and each frame creates continuity and discontinuity. Walls and borderlines create discontinuity, but windows and doors create continuity. Once you frame the world like this, the word ecology makes sense again. Ecology is the science of the house, but which house are we talking about? Why is it that ecology deals with nature? It makes only sense if one thinks of nature as an extended idea of a house. And then you do not only have to talk about domestic and nature’s life in terms of discontinuity. Of course both concepts of life are separate and therefore discontinuous, but there is also continuity between them.

JP That is how the spheres of Peter Sloterdijk work: they are porous as much as they create separations between different bubbles. I want to further develop the notion of discontinuity. One of the lectures in the first edition of Burning Ice was given by Martin Drenthen, an environmental philosopher who spoke about wilderness and the concept of primal nature, which doesn’t exist anymore in Western Europe, though it still might be found elsewhere. Although most nature we know nowadays is regulated by mankind, and therefore part of our culture, Drenthen says we can still think about nature having a life of its own and a right in itself. According to him, nature does have a history and existence that exceeds every human perspective. He therefore proposes to create monuments of wilderness: wilderness parks have to remind us of something that Western Europe might have lost forever. But they also place wild nature as something radically different within the realm of culture. In the concept of wilderness there is a notion of discontinuity that you can never exceed, yet in the form of a monument it becomes in a paradoxical way possible to relate to it.

Let us now return to the house. According to the model of Sloterdijk the house can grow and grow and grow, as if it were a process of self-intoxication. It is the model of homeopathy: by intoxicating yourself with small doses you create antibodies and resistance, so the body or house can expand at its fringes and include heterogeneity or otherness while becoming bigger and bigger. But even when there doesn’t seem to be an end to this process, there might still be an absolute outside to the house, which can never be absorbed by it. Martin Drenthen suggests that this absolute outside to the house is wild nature.

MN You are right. It is true that there is something that will always remain outside of any house. The ultimate thing of course is death, and I think the ultimate fear we have in relation to nature, is that death is inflicted on us by another creature. The otherness being at stake here, really is ‘other’. It is not understandable, neither is it embraceable by any techné. It is not me who devours, once I am prey, I will be devoured. I will be swallowed. Any cultural imperialism stops at this moment. I read this really great text by the Australian feminist ecologist Val Plumwood who, while being on a canoe trip somewhere in Northern Australia, got attacked by a crocodile. In this text she describes the attack and, without being sensational about it, she reflects on herself becoming prey, which is totally different from being killed by another human. For me this triggers something that totally escapes us: death, inflicted to us by another creature with two eyes and a mouth, which has hunger like us.

So when we do try to imagine this radical outside, this notion of otherness that cannot be culturally appropriated, a good exercise might be to imagine becoming prey. Once you’re prey, you are out of control. A lot of things happen physically, and you have to deal with ultimate, that is last relations.

JP The one artist I can think of who symbolically reflects on respecting otherness as being totally ‘other’ is Maurice Blanchot. His poetics revolves around this, and Martin Drenthen’s idea of wilderness as monument is a Blanchot-like idea, integrated within an ecological and environmental philosophy. The problem is though: what do you buy for it? Such symbolical thinking merely acknowledges the impossible. I can imagine that some Land Art artists use these Blanchot-like poetics to produce art and to place the idea of wild nature within our culture and make it an object of debate and imagination. But it remains a somewhat specialized discussion.

LK Martin, your work often deals with sensations. Do you think it would be interesting to imagine what would it feel like to become prey?

MN Once you imagine yourself becoming an object for someone else, you are thinking of becoming prey. As a dancer that is what you are dealing with when you are working for a choreographer. You make your body available to this person’s ideas and in that sense you are devoured. What is great in dance, is that it is always about one’s body. The exercise of imagining becoming prey, the pain, or the shock, as much as it is at all possible to imagine this, is an extreme exercise in being aware of this.

JP We have our next workshop theme, that’s for sure.




MN I heard in England this transition culture is so strong that some don’t even travel anymore. They attend conferences via Skype, because it is too energy-consuming to travel. For me professionally, there is a border. When we talk about sustainability, we are talking about our relations to each other and to other species as well, and the necessity for these relations to be physical. You need to meet people, to be able to sustain the dialogue. So you need to travel.

JP I totally agree. Artists and choreographers can contribute to the discussion to what it means to work locally. Staying at home, in your transition town in London, and only communicating with the rest of the world via screens, is a very narrow understanding of locality. If you travel somewhere, and you engage with the surroundings, the people and the history of that place, then you engage locally. That is something important to take into account when you are thinking about how to reduce your ecological footprint. Instead of isolating yourself from the rest of the world, you better start by asking: how much local weight does a project need to have, before you can say, okay, it is really worth the trip?

MN The word 'experience' comes from taking a step out. In German Erfahrung comes from fahren, to drive. Er-fahrung means to drive away. The first thing I always ask myself, is: how do I travel? Do I fly or not? That is something we can discuss. If you look at people like Mary Wigman and Martha Graham, they also toured worldwide, but they did it by ship and by train.

JP It is also about calculating time.By only calculating your own time, a trip by train takes eight hours, while the plane might take two. However, there is also the indirect time needed for such a trip. All the time needed to pay for it, to produce the energy needed for it, to repair the environmental damage caused by it, and so on. If you count time this way, it might turn out that we better go by bicycle throughout Europe.

MN Maybe, but for economy that might be really bad. Some environmental damage produces labour. It puts people at work. There’s economy and ecology. Both deal with the oikos, the house. One is the logos or science of it, the other one is its nomos or law. I don’t know if there is to be a contradiction. In Germany there are ongoing discussions about the possibilities of the ecological factor becoming an economical one.

JP Germany is quite far with it.

LK I agree, but their socio-economic model still presupposes economic growth, and in all the other European countries it is no different. Without pretending I know any alternative for this model, it becomes more and more clear that the ideal of sustainable living is hard to combine with the dogma of economic growth.

JP This reminds me of a lecture of Karim Benammar. In the first Burning Ice festival he spoke about excess and abundance, in relation to economy and the writings of Georges Bataille. He gave the example of Java, where people spend 15% of their time working to fulfill their basic needs. They still have 85% of the time left for sleeping, raising their children and other activities. There is a very lively artistic culture there. Because they have so much spare time, without being in this ever-growing situation to produce and consume more.

MN There we get to an interesting point that can be transposed to artistic activity. I make a dance piece every year, or every second year. Doing this I also feel the demand to make something new, to innovate… the market is constantly looking for the next hot shot. The mechanism that reigns the art world is very similar to the one that reigns capitalism, only it is more about fame than about financial profit. How does the fame flow go? That is our currency.

How can we make art sustainable? Not by making new work, but by referring to old work, and putting yourself into a relation to that. Why can’t Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker be busy for five years with Rosas danst Rosas, and keep rethinking and reworking that, until it really becomes something else. Lots of artists do work like that, but the overall attitude doesn’t highlight this aspect of their work as such. It highlights the newness of their creations instead. So maybe we should develop another kind of attitude towards the production of cultural goods, comparable to the one in Java.

JP I recognize two different ideas in what you propose. One is to invest more time. Rather than producing one piece a year, you say ‘I have one specific topic of interest, I spend several years with it, and sometimes there are products coming out of this process’. This product then could be a piece, a text or something else: artists are also researchers, engaging in dialogues and so on. The second idea is the one of recycling. We talk about re-enactment all the time – it is the new European hype – but what if we consider re-enactments or reinterpretations of older work as a form of recycling?

MN When I created Urheben Aufheben, I didn’t think of recycling at all, but looking back now, I think it deals with it to some extent. Recycling by re-contextualizing choreographies is an interesting thought. In doing so you consider a choreography, an artistic thought or authorship as something that is material, without having to refer to a financial value, which is the bourgeois notion of authorship: this idea is mine and I can make money out of it.

JP Up to now we have been speaking about two models for a sustainable way of creating choreographies or other cultural ‘products’: recycling and infusing more time. I think there is a third model that also relates to locality, and to the idea of art as something immaterial, for which I refer to the open source idea. Belgium and Germany have very different production systems. In Belgium there is an institutionalised independent scene, while in Germany the municipal theatres are still strongholds of culture, and next to them you have a ‘freie Szene’, or independent scene. An interesting model for me would be to rethink the role of the municipal theatres, where you have ensembles and local groups of actors or dancers working – the local ballet ensembles are a good example of this – and invite artists from elsewhere to work with them, or have them recycle ideas from elsewhere. When it comes to recycling we always think like ‘Let’s do a piece from the sixties’, but wouldn’t it be interesting to have contemporary artists work with local groups, rather than having large companies travel. Instead of, let’s say, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Rosas travelling to Japan, it is just Anne Teresa who goes there, or her assistant, and works there for two months with the local company.

MN This is how they work in classical dance.

LK Could you see yourself working like that?

MN Yes. I did it once in Freiburg, where I made Looking for Johnny. You need some time though. In Freiburg it was tricky, since they were used to a very different approach. So first you have to teach your approach. I like doing that, but to make a piece you need a bit of time. Deborah Hay works like this a lot, but she is a kind of specialist. She knows how to instigate hyper-quickly a certain way of thinking and moving. Teaching new approaches is really an expertise. Talking about ecology in terms of relations might be the new expertise that you need as an artist of the future. It is all about how to relate to people, and how to channel my desires, develop kinships, familiarities… They shouldn’t become other people’s desires, though, because then we would become a global family, and that’s not what I am thinking about.

JP If you want the new model to become part of the common sense, you need to find a bridge between its development in schools and its relevance for the ballet ensemble or the municipal theatre ensemble, which we don’t consider as places where experiments can happen. How to combine them and wipe out the cliché of the ensemble, while promoting the way the model is developed in schools into the mainstream?




LK Martin, you belong to what is called the 'residencies generation'. This means you have to travel a lot. How do you travel?

MN Most of the time I try to travel by train, but often it is not possible. I am not a big fan though of producing in residencies. It is an important way of producing work, being in a new environment means you can seclude yourself from another one, you get new inputs, you can concentrate differently… but it has become a habit. When everyone is constantly moving, there is no real exchange anymore, because no one is at home. Most fruitful exchanges happen when someone is at home, and someone is a guest.

LK How do you try to put this into practice?

MN Since my partner and I have a kid, we are discussing how to travel less. A kid is a good way of putting into practice the idea of staying at home more, because you simply have to (laughs).

JP Another good thing is having residencies in your own town.

MN At the moment I am thinking a lot about a new working model for companies. For me such a model could start from the idea of meeting wherever the choreographer is at home, or creating situations where you can be productive with colleagues in your own environment, which in my case is Berlin. For me it has to do with looking for work in Berlin, and then I talk also about working with teenagers, or making pieces with kids. You extend your range of artistic practices, which I am nowadays willing to do, because I want to stay in the same city. In the idea of having residencies there is also the idea of ‘jetset’. At the beginning it was glamorous, but it feels good when the glamour stops, because now we can think of staying more at home.

LK It is interesting you are talking about working with younger generations. I see it happening in the work of lots of artists growing a bit older and not wanting to stay on the same spot. Instead of widening up their geographical operating range, they are widening it up to other generations. The economical perspective of it also makes sense, because you can earn money by teaching. The same might go for you, Jeroen?

JP Through teaching, yes, but otherwise it is difficult to make connections between different generations. You feel the different practices that each of them has, and here I also talk about social practices – how do you relate within a process. The way how artists of 25 conceive of relations in their artistic practice nowadays is different to how our generation does it, and is different again from people that are 20 years older.

MN Another important aspect for me is slowing down. Also younger generations take joy in slowing down - aesthetically, but also in their practice. This seems important to me in terms of residencies. How to take the speed out of your own momentum? I feel that a lot of people are interested in this. There is a need for being involved in something that you can follow with your senses, something you can understand. There’s a need to be able to trace the experience in the making of. While doing all these residencies I tended to travel so fast and produce so much that I couldn’t trace this anymore. There was too much travelling and movement going on. This is what lots of people, once they get the experience of slowing down, appreciate. It is not so much to think about the experience itself, and how to frame it, but about the possibility to trace it, to sense it, to have space and time just to be with it.

JP It has also got to do with age though. When you are older than 30, only then you might have the right network and production conditions to slow down. Some people want to slow down, but they are totally trapped in project-hopping.

MN Yes, that is true. Maybe I am projecting. I work with students, but once they are not students anymore, they have to speed up again. The intergenerational relationships form an interesting aspect. The reconstruction work I have done, I have done with a woman who is now 95. She has a strong sense of slowing down. The older you get, the more you seem to slow down. It doesn’t mean that there is less happening, it just means there is more time for details and more time to appreciate small things. Old people are also allowed to waste time. My mom, who is now 70, doesn’t mind wasting time. It might be very simple: to be more sustainable, to waste less resources, the only resource we have to waste is time.

JP Yes, but people are afraid of that. That’s why we are working and consuming so much. We don’t allow ourselves to waste time.

LK It is one of the crucial things we have learned while being young. You should do things…

JP Have hobbies, do sports, go to music school,… today they call this ‘projects’ – it’s a bit frightening.The question is: is a choreographer during a period of time in which he works somewhere with a group of people, allowed to waste time? Or is he or she bound to work during the whole time with those people? I would love to have a residency for loitering somewhere. I would be in for it.

MN I saw a great piece of a student of the SNDO in Amsterdam about performance time. It was basically about saying ‘we are performing anyway all the time, so why do we have to do something right now…’ They were dressed up and they did things, but it was all about not achieving the performance. They basically wasted time; and they pushed it so far that I even felt welcome to leave. Imagine a performance that achieves this! That the audience is welcome to leave (laughs). This pushes to the very extreme the fact that the performing arts always contain a notion of wasting time.

JP It is important to put the concept of wasting time in a relational perspective. That you expose yourself wasting time to others. That is very different of having a private residency somewhere. I am now thinking of projects I organized with the Paul Deschanel Movement Research Group a few years ago. Basically our research dealt with strategies of wasting time, but seen as a collective artistic strategy. After a week you think, let me go, because doing nothing takes a lot of energy. We are simply not used to it.

MN It is also different to waste time during a residency, than to do it at home. Wasting time at home is easier. You go into a residency to be productive.

JP Wasting time during a residency will have you end up in boredom. You are in a generic space. There is no witnessing of you doing nothing. Whereas at home you are in a familiar environment, where even doing nothing can become familiar and meaningful, because it is part of the practice of everyday life.