(c) Melanie Zanin

Arts & Encounters Academy – The podcast by Melanie Sien Min Lyn and Lydia Sarges

Cultural institutions are places where people come together to engage with one another in a common space. But who exactly are the individuals and groups served by these venues? And what kinds of encounters actually take place in these spaces – and what kinds do not? Today, a number of practices have emerged that shed light on precisely these questions. Carried out at the interface of communication, dramaturgy, outreach and public relations, these practices include everything from performative strategies of participation to collective authorship and audience development techniques – on site but also increasingly in the digital sphere. As a way of reflecting upon these practices and developing them even further, the Alliance of International Production Houses initiated the Arts & Encounters Academy. It was originally conceived by Cornelia Hinterschuster and Yasmine Salimi as an outreach and communication programme for the independent performing arts community. The ultimate goal of the programme is to establish a forum for networking and further education, specifically for individuals already active in shaping the space between art and society as well as for people interested in doing so in the future.

The first edition of the Arts & Encounters Academy was chronicled step-by-step and in a documentary style by Melanie Sien Min Lyn and subsequently given artistic expression in a podcast created together with Lydia Sarges. The Academy took place from June to November 2021 in the form of several different multi-day modules, each examining a different topic or challenge. Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, these gatherings were held online, but also sometimes in person at the cooperating venues, which included Kampnagel in Hamburg, HAU Hebbel am Ufer in Berlin, tanzhaus nrw and FFT Forum Freies Theater in Düsseldorf. A number of interdisciplinary experts were on hand to share their experiences and report on their own practices. The Arts & Encounters Academy is a limited-capacity programme, which means that the final 18 individuals chosen to participate responded to an open call, applied in advance and were selected by a jury. This new podcast provides a behind-the-scenes look at the events associated with the first edition of the Academy in 2021. It aims to convey the ideas and approaches explored at these gatherings and make the content accessible to people beyond the limited circle of participants.

The podcast is in German and English. A transcript is available for each episode.

Episode 1: “Working on Situated Encounters / Arbeit und Wissenstransfer”

The Arts & Encounters Academy is aimed at individuals who see the focal point of their work as lying at the interface of the arts and human encounters. Among the questions explored as part of the academy are the following: What are the practices associated with knowledge transfer and the exchange of experience? How are these practices reflected in individual projects, in everyday work and in the Academy itself? How can we shape the environment where encounters take place in such a way that we generate a sense of cohesion? To achieve this commonality, do we have to adjust our approach, the way we work and ultimately how the venue itself is structured? What is the nature of the relationship between fostering human encounters as a professional practice and fostering human encounters as fulfilling a particular socio-political objective? Is it possible for cultural institutions to function as laboratories where we can examine the factors that lead to social cohesion and a sense of togetherness?

In an effort to provide answers to these and other questions, a number of guests contributed fresh ideas, experiences and impulses at the various workshops and discussions. For example, Irina-Simona Bârcă and Stella Konstantinou spoke about how they came up with the idea for the Arts & Encounters Academy in the first place (from min. 03:20). Tereza Stejskalová and Hana Janečková reported on their work at tranzit and Display, where they found themselves operating between the two poles of feminist practice and fixed institutional frameworks, while also thematising the specific challenges associated with feminist and anti-racist artistic production in the eastern European context (from min. 07:35). Gatari Surya Kusuma spoke on the radical nature of friendship as an anti-capitalist concept and artistic method of human encounter (from min. 17:20). Academy participant Ioulia Kokkokiou brought the event to a close with a guided meditation (from min. 23:00).

The first episode of the podcast features Irina-Simona Bârcă, Cornelia Hinterschuster, Hana Janečková, Ioulia Kokkokiou, Stella Konstantinou, Gatari Surya Kusuma, Melanie Sien Min Lyn, Yasmine Salimi and Tereza Stejskalová.


Episode 2: “Spaces of Encounter / Räume der Begegnung”

The scope of arts and encounters is very much dependent on where the two are situated, that is, on local contexts, cultural infrastructures and the general social landscape. What kinds of interactions take place with the general public and members of local neighbourhoods? How are urban realities similar to rural ones? What makes them different? And what are the implications of this for local, on-site artistic practices?

Using the example of HAU Hebbel am Ufer, this episode provides insights into public outreach practices at HAU and in cooperation with youths and schools in the context of the Houseclub (from min. 01:10). Sascia Bailer reported on her work as the 2019/20 artistic director of the Arthur Boskamp Foundation’s M.1 in Hohenlockstedt (from min. 24:15). Three academy participants, Sophya Kallista Frohberg, Ioulia Kokkokiou and Thủy-Tiên Nguyễn, reflected on their work in this field of encounter, including the dangers of tokenisation and the often unequal power relations between cultural institutions and marginalised groups in the cultural sector (from min. 17:55). In an open discussion, Tmnit Zere gave insights into the work carried out by Nyabinghi Lab and spoke about the project “Freistaat Barackia — Landscapes of Liberation” (from min. 32:55). In addition to these practice-oriented examples highlighting concrete strategies, questions and challenges, the second module of the academy featured an “Open Space” which allowed participants to identify specific themes and concerns and then work through them in self-determined groups (from min. 17:05). The Open Space was led by Yaari Pannwitz.

Guests include: Sascia Bailer, Sophya Kallista Frohberg, Cornelia Hinterschuster, Ioulia Kokkokiou, Stella Konstantinou, Melanie Sien Min Lyn, Thủy-Tiên Nguyễn, Yasmine Salimi, Thu Trang Dong, Volkan Türeli, Tmnit Zere

Our thanks go to the “erklär mir mal…” education collective for providing content from the TikTok channel @theatern (speaker: Josephine “Pepita” Niang).