By Fernando Bayón Martín, PhD
Researcher. Leisure and Human Development. University of Deusto.
Hans Dreher, Essen-Ruhr (ROTTSTR5 Theater); Marcin Garbacki, Warsaw (Projekt Praga) & María Mur, Bilbao-Bizkaia (Consonni)
[Interviewer]: You already mentioned the inclusive character of your activities and your intention to involve many different groups of population…
Hans Dreher [HD]: Yes, by far not all of them. Not all our activities are inclusive, it is just a handful, but our theatre is handicapped accessible, so anyone is welcome; but what we actually do in the theatre for that purpose, that is, dubbing into sign language – that is only a fraction of what we are doing.
[Interviewer]: Would you still say that you’re enriching the public sphere and animating the citizens?
[HD]: Yes, I would say so. Something that every theatre does, but often is forgotten, is the constant contribution to cultural education of both young and old. That is something which no one dares to say in public: The numbers of visitors are decreasing massively, probably throughout Europe, which on the one hand has to do with the demographic change, but not exclusively. And that is why any theatre that still exists and has an audience has to provide for new generations, both on stage and in the audience. So cultural education is a major part of our range of services; continue doing theatre and filling people with enthusiasm for theatre. Because once they have been here with us, they recognize how much more interesting it is than spending the night in front of the TV, or in the movies, or in front of a games console. That’s why it is great to do theatre for the very youngest and also with the very youngest; our youngest actress is five years old. It is just crucial to start soon and show the children why theatre is interesting and why it should stay interesting.
Marcin Garbacki [MG]: “Animation” was a really huge part of the project, but it wasn’t our part. It was the part of the cultural animators on the site; they organized 100 events, exhibitions, parties and so on. They wanted the people to know Soho Factory as an address and to come. There is a part of internal animation, between the different users on the site. So this is a goal.
María Mur [MM]: […] important to work in a united way with the district, and to do it in the most permissive, respective and united way.
[Interviewer]: What about neighborly networks? Do you in any way contribute to building or promoting such networks?
[HD]: A lot. The weirdest connections have arisen. There is a big Asia shop next to us, where we go shopping for food but also for props, such as vases. That has resulted in a true friendship with the owner. In front of us, there was a peep-show, where we were changing money; but they had to close, unfortunately. Down the street, there is a bar which we recommend to our audience. There is a neighborly solidarity. It isn’t about artistic co-productions, but one can say that we help each other in a pragmatic and friendly way. I mean, I am not interested in bringing Chinese theatre on stage â€“ it is just about helping each other out.
[MG]: “Activism” what does it mean exactly? I’m not sure that the closest neighbors are using the space very often. There were some meetings and parties, organized by the Museum of Modern Art, for example, to connect the gypsies of the neighborhood with other people. But it was only 2 or 3 events; I’m not sure it created constant relations. Also, the land is not closed, so you can walk in. There are some chairs where you can sit down. The goal for next year is to create more activities between citizens here. Now that people are living here – it has been only 6 months that people moved in the houses here – social networks need to be created. Because all of us who work here, we leave at night, so social networks are still missing.
[MM]: Sarean actually is an attempt to generate activity in the district and to generate a direct conversation with the institutions and certain pressure to let them know that we are here, that we are in this district. The majority of us are also a direct consequence of some of the policies of the City Hall, when I told you earlier that there was no relation. Another relation with Bilbao Ekintza is this space; this space is approved of by Bilbao Ekintza, so in this sense we’re in a system of renting with the right to buy. It will run out in five years, well, five years since we bought it, so actually it will end this year, and we have to start with the renewal, because we aren’t going to buy it, we don’t have the money. So we are somehow aware of the fact that most of the spaces within Sarean, that most of the partners that have spaces are a result of a City program to regenerate the district. We might as well call that gentrification of the district. So being aware of that, it is true that it is important for us to work in a united way with the district and to do so in the most permissive, respectful and united way possible, as I already said. That implies not to transform ourselves into second-rate or pompous activists and start developing projects with Black people, Gypsies, etc. We haven’t come to integrate any collectives of the district in our projects until the project doesn’t have a proper sense itself. Gaulrekia is a program that takes place on a Saturday in December, and all the spaces in the district open their doors, that is, not only cultural agents but everyone here in the district: the association of Gypsies, the carpenter’s workshop, the bars of Bilbao La Vieja and Sanfran. So a whole lot of different spaces – some of which don’t have a typical public dimension, while others do – open their doors with a concrete program. In this case, we developed a program with the artists Sra. Polaroiska which implied converting this into a black box; and then a number of artists of the district participated: flamenco singers, a rapper; and it was a different way to understand and listen to the district, and to perceive it in another way. So, in that case, it indeed had a meaning and we indeed worked; that’s why I believe that Sarean is important so that we can organize us and be aware of the role we are playing here, and not to do it just somehow.
[Interviewer]: But, for example, those projects actually do promote social cohesion in the district.
[MM]: Yes, I guess so.
Q9. Entrepreneurial Spirit
[Interviewer]: It has become a common place to say that Cultural & Creative Industries have in our time such a great influence on the entrepreneurial spirit, that they help spread it in a variety of emergent, sustainable and dynamic forms… what do you think about it in the light of your own – and very different – experiences?
[HD]: I believe we are making a small contribution. It has happened quite some times that people went to the Asia shop after they left the theatre– and probably the other way around, too. That’s great, after seeing one of our shows you can head to one of the bars. So we may have a small, economic input there.
[MG]: As for the entrepreneurial spirit, if you need to make your own office and to finance your development, it becomes more complicated and more challenging than the normal architectural activity in a normal office. And then people come here and see the different way of working and using space, sharing space. That’s not normal that you have to offices working together, normally they compete with each other; co-working is also unusual. It’s the fifth year we are here and I know that there are more and more co-working spaces. I don’t know if it’s our influence, or if it is just the time for co-working. When you go to Barcelona, there are a lot of co-working spaces. So I don’t know if it is our impact. I understand it can be related to the first part of our conversation: there is no city in it, or any authority. A few years ago, I was working in Paris, and there is a strong cooperation, and maybe in Barcelona it is the same. But here in Warsaw, it is not usual to work like this, which is a pity. And the last, the “entrepreneurial spirit”, the creative industries, there are like post-industrial aesthetics. So people want to work here, they are trying to find parts of the existing buildings to make their own studios. And in our example of the co-working space, we were renting the tables to creative people, to freelancers. And from this group, two start-ups were created. So this kind of places creates attractiveness for young, creative people. It’s not the only place in Warsaw, but yeah.
[MM]: entrepreneurship is a concept, I also don’t feel very comfortable with, whereas I do with the idea of professionalize it; but well, maybe we will somehow try to design our projects in a way they are different and open to different people. Well, there actually is the intention to know which are the options to expose oneself politically these day; so the field to which consonni actually can contribute something is that of political reflection rather than to the creation of a public sphere as an intent to understand the notion of the public nowadays, which sometimes has come to being called the public welfare, but it seems a bit, but well, the issues of the public, how all that can be operated, which is our responsibility as cultural agents; I use to say that those who program culture – we do cultural policy; and I believe that what consonni really may contribute and what really is our goal is a political reflection of the cultural policies.
[Interviewer]: And that is a clear objective you attain.
[Interviewer]: How about promoting the formation of new competences? Do you, for example, offer workshops?
[HD]: No. Those are ideas we also had before, but then couldn’t realize them for staff and spatial reasons. We hardly ever act pedagogically – not because we don’t want to, but because it isn’t feasible. Well, once a year we do offer workshops, but they are mostly offered by guest ensembles. Otherwise, no, that is an aspect that is absent – whether on purpose or out of necessity, remains to be seen.
[Interviewer]: Alright. Finally, do your activities favor the spreading of new competences and specialized knowledge, for example like the workshop for architecture students you mentioned before?
[MG]: Yes. And two things are interesting for young architects and students. The first: two young agencies here in the space that also came and talked to them. The second: the big scale of revitalization and new projects, which is unusual in the case of Warsaw. So, on the one hand we have the land, and on the other the special activity. Together, this is interesting for young people. Also, in Poland, there aren’t that many examples, so maybe it will become a good example.
Q11. Belonging and Attractiveness
[Interviewer]: Do you feel like your activity favors the identification of the people with their neighborhood and the development of a feeling of belonging?
[HD]: Yes, very much so. We are located next to a big multiple-family dwelling, and in the beginning we were like the unloved child: quite loud, also until very late, and the police stopped by some times. But now that we have a fix operating time until 10 p.m. things have changed: The residents are very proud of us, they also come to see our shows and identify with us to a certain point.
Ever since we are located here – it remains to be seen, whether that is because of us, or partially because of us, or independently – studios and galleries have been established. I would say that probably is because of the huge empty space and the relatively low rent here in RottstraBe, more than it has to do with us. But it is possible that those galleries say, We’re right next to the theatre,– I don’t know. Above all, creative workshops dealing with the fine arts have been established – but I guess it would be difficult to establish a direct correlation.
[MG]: It’s becoming attractive for working. Now they are transforming a huge building so it can also be used, because right now, there is not enough space. So it’s attractive for young creative people; it’s attractive because of the good restaurants around here; it’s attractive for living, because of the new housing; it’s attractive because it’s close to the center, has a lot of green areas, public services; and it’s attractive culturally because there are two art galleries, theatres. So both the Soho Factory and the whole area are becoming attractive for various reasons.
[Interviewer]: And would you say that it has “partially” to do with your activity or the fact that you are located there? Or is it rather the whole thing of the creative people working there etc.?
[MG]: I think it is both. But the whole thing is interesting. In the first phase of the project, we tried to create an attractive space, and we discovered the green areas around here, so we organized some events there. But it’s not only because of us.
Q12. The social construction of collective Memory
[Interviewer]: Cultural and Creative Industries have a big role to play in the social construction of regional memory (and urban memories), many times they do it by giving old postindustrial buildings or areas new functions and meanings (we can call a “resignification effect”)…
[HD]: Our building is located under the metro rails, which is said to have been a munitions depot, then a smith’s shop, and finally the depot of an antiques dealer. So far, we haven’t made that subject of discussion. Of course, it is obvious when the metro goes over our heads during the performances, just as the special architecture that is always present. So no explanation is necessary to give the space any more meaning than it already has anyways.
[MG]: Okay, so “memory”: we, as architects, try to make a connection between the former activities in the building. It was a scooter factory, before that, it had been a munition factory. We just emphasized the scooter factory, because I have a scooter that was created here. So we tried to make this memory living. For me, personally, the main problem is the name of the land: “Soho Factory” is not from here. And this is the barrier: some kind of new name not related to the old, important and interesting activity of the building. So this thing is not used properly, as for me, it could be more developed and more related to the past. But it was the owner’s decision and we couldn’t do anything about. So there is some memory relation, but it’s not strong enough. I think, when you have authentic places like this one, it’s nonsense to call it “Soho”.
[HD]: It has to be seen which effects the “Anneliese Brost Musikforum Ruhr” will have on our district, i.e. the building for the Bochum Symphony that is currently under construction and subject to some scolding because a city as poor as Bochum shouldn’t saddle itself with a new building like that. I myself am curious to see what will happen, that is, whether it will be frequented, how people will take it on; and then I am looking forward to a huge, stylish cultural center around the corner. As it is a music building, I am optimistic that they will complement each other rather than sabotage. That is it – I am excited. I am painting a black picture for the future of Bochum, but I might be just too pessimistic. I am just happy about being open as long as we are able to afford it ourselves and the city and population want to have us.
[MG]: Maybe I will start with non-architectural activities. Our activity in the big space next to our office: some activities in the space are influencing the neighborhood; it creates some kind of activity. We are cooperating with some guys, who run the bars and the cultural places in Warsaw and they put it in the space during winter. And now, every weekend it’s free and open for the public. So we can say, the space next to the office is working for many activities, one is a slow-food-market. But it is mostly because of the space and our idea to give it to others; it is not our activity, we are not organizing the slow-food-market, we just give the place. And the second part is our revitalization on the site. When you transform the empty space, it has an impact on the neighborhood, it is more safe, people are comfortable to walk around there; it’s not empty anymore, people are working here, the restaurants are open 24 hours, so that helps with â€“ this kind of animation is good for the security of the neighborhood, it’s not especially our architectural work. We are speaking about only our activity, not that of the other places in Soho Factory. There is a lot going on. There’s a neon museum, they use the old neons, protect them from being destroyed and renovate them, and then put them outside so you don’t have to buy a ticket and go in. Then there are a lot of markets, exhibitions and theatre in the Factory –many urban activities. It goes rather as part of the project, but it is not our goal, because we are not working constantly on the Soho Factory project. We did some projects on revitalization, but now we are just staying here, and the project goes without us, it has its own life. So we didn’t have a permanent goal. We have a goal for our own place. It comes accidentally, but for example the two architectural places we have here are interesting for students of architecture; so an external organization organized with us an event for young architects and students and then we had an exhibition later. But it is not our main goal.
Q13. Measurement of effects
[Interviewer]: We have talk about possible effects you are likely aware of (mainly social, indirect, intangible, CCI’s effects on regenerated areas), but what about the tools you have in order to identify that kind of inmaterial impacts? Do you use any kind of formal methods to measure those effects so that you could get a vibrant feedback from your local stakeholders, agents, administrator and citizens?
[MG]: It’s only our perception! And also, it’s not only the impact of Soho Factory, but also of the redevelopment. There’s a big private school in the area, which was here before us, and they started the activities. Soho Factory consists of 8 actors. Then you have new housing with new shops, new restaurants etc. So it quickly becomes safer. But it’s not measured, because we don’t have any tools. Maybe the city does, like crime rates. I don’t know. So far, it’s only our observation. It’s only that, when we organize something, we can see if people are coming or not. And very often, there’s a big crowd, so you can see that people are using the space. Also, on the weekends, people are just coming by to see what we are doing. Sometimes, we feel like in a zoo, when they watch us through the windows.
[MM]: Well, more important than measuring it, is the issue of instrumentalizing those concepts. We are aware of the fact that we are a group of modern people located here because it is cheap, so one has to be careful of how those matters are utilized or how we utilize them ourselves. Because social cohesion, well, it also has generated other kinds of discourse, such as upgrading the quarter, which is a direct form of gentrification. So one has to be careful.
Cultural and Creative Industries
Sector: ARCHITECTURE & DESIGN
Marcin Garbacki + Karolina Tunajek (an architectural duo)
The leading motif of their activity is the revitalization and dialogue between the past and the present. They design buildings of various scale and function, public space, interiors, and furniture. Since 2010 they have been connected with revitalization of the post-industrial grounds of Soho Factory. Currently, they are working on the project of converting the interior of Warsaw Museum of Modern Art. Together with WWAA and SuperSuper studios, they have initiated the adaptation of office space in building “73” where all of them currently work and make this space available to the coworkers from creative business.
Sector: PERFORMING ARTS
Hans Dreher: Co-founder and head/manager.
ROTTSTR 5 is one of the most creative “Off-Theater” in the Ruhr Region (with a versatile programme staging own and guest productions, lectures cycles, concerts, etc.)
RottstraBe 5, 44793 Bochum
+49 163 7615071
Sector: INTANGIBLE ART PRODUCTIONS
María Mur, Director – Consonni
Consonni is a producer of contemporary art, located in Bilbao. Since 1997, consonni has invited artists to develop projects that do not generally take on the appearance of an art object shown within a space. consonni researches formulas to expand curatorial practice, production and the notion of programming. It also analyses possibilities of publishing art books and is committed to charting different ways of engaging in critique today.
After consonni’s 17 years out there, there are currently 5 fundamental production lines, which interweave and affect one another:
1/ Open invitations. Work with artists including Jon Mikel Euba, Ibon Aranberri, Andrea Fraser, Hinrich Sachs, Itziar Okariz, Iratxe Jaio&Klass van Gorkum, Martha Rosler… who borrow the tools they use from the contemporary, developing art projects with very different formats.
2/ Bird-cum-ornithologist. Investigation into the meanings of the production concept. Cross-practice exploration in the shape of residencies (Matadero, Hangar, IASPIS…), publications, interviews, productions…
3/ ENPAP (European Network of Public Art Producers). Along with other European organizations, consonni participates in this network that researches the possibilities of art creating a public sphere.
4/ Publications. The publishing side of consonni runs three collections: Projects, Paper and Beste, for publishing a diversity of formats and exploring publishing possibilities.
5/ Programming in consonni. HPC, with_texts and activities out. Experimental programmings in consonni’s street level office.
Direction: MARÃA MUR DEAN
Adress: C/ Conde Mirasol, 13-LJ1D, 48003 Bilbao
+ 34 944 078 265