büro für zeit + raum

interview with anne hirth on the occasion of the invitation of “wait here for further instructions” and “Past is in Front of Ego” at the baltic circle festival helsinki may 2008
(questions: heidi backström)

You do not have a steady ensemble, but form each group based on the needs of the upcoming performance. The list of members of the büro für zeit + raum is both international and consists of artists from different fields of art. How are these single project groups formed, and what is the input of a particular artist in the process of making the production?

One big advantage of working in the fringe scene is that I can choose who I`d like to work with on my own, including technicians, assistants etc. It´s the combination of people and the individual input of each artist (and non-artist) that turns the project into what it is in the end. I work in a very collaborative way, but I don´t think that´s very unusual. I choose artists because I like their work, of course, or their way of being on stage, and I try to bring people together who I think could be inspired and have fun working with each other. They should have the ability to also work independently and to share. I don´t have a fixed image of what the piece should finally look like, I rather try to give tasks, provide images and ask questions. In the end, it is my work to put the puzzle together, but if I worked on the same subject with a different choice of people, the result might be completely different.

What is your relationship to theatre? What is your relationship to dance?

Actually, my “roots” are in the so called spoken theatre. It was more by accident that I first ended up doing a physical theatre school, and then returned to the “intellectual side” by studying directing afterwards. But finally, also through the experiences as an assistant for dance theatre, I felt that my fantasy finds more possibilities within the use of movement, space and images. I often felt limited by the determinating effect of words, language, concrete situations in written plays. I am a big fan of the associative approach as well as a creator as a spectator, and stealing from dance theatre and performance art is a great help to achieve this.

Do you think about which audience you make your productions for - the “local” one as in Berlin, or to the international one, as in festivals? Are the audiences’ reactions different home and in different countries?

When I start planning a project, I already think of it as to be shown (hopefully) at international festivals – in a way, they are my “employers” (or clients...). And anyway, until now, the themes I was interested in didn’t depend on a locally conditioned knowledge – but we also haven’t performed outside the “western culture zone” yet – I assume the “waiting” issue would be perceived differently in Nigeria or Brasil. Generally, I always think about the audience, since, because of the associative character of the work, the audience is invited to somehow “complete” the performance and make up their own version/ story/ meaning of what they perceived from the stage.

Your performance “Past is in Front of Ego” deals with the concept of time of the native-American tribe Aymara, who sees “time” in a different way to how we Westerns see it. What is büro für zeit + raum’s own concept of time?

To have enough of it.

Why is time something to think about today?

Oh, there are a lot of reasons… For me, one is that we treat events in time as things in space, and our body in relation to those events. Most people would, for example, place their 18th birthday (in case it has already happened) somewhere behind themselves, and locate the next edition of the Baltic Circle Festival in front of them. This concept of a timeline draws one forward very strongly, and sometimes I have the impression that somebody is pushing and shoving from behind my back. The vision of our own lifetime is still very much connected to the image of a ladder you climb up: Up is better, down is worse. But you get a tense neck from always looking up the stairs. Perhaps, if we imagined the things we wanted to achieve as around us instead of mainly as in front of us, the way we move(also in our heads) would allow for more variety: Less march, more dance.

The performance is rooted in Professor Rafael Nunez’s studies. Why did you start working with his theory? How did the theory transform into a performance?

I was reading an article about Prof. Nunez´ investigations by chance, and the effect of understanding that, since there are apparently other cultures which have another “system” that “works”, our concept of time is actually only a concept, was striking. I felt the challenge of trying to transmit this irritation about the perception and spacing of time to the audience. Even though I was also lucky enough to meet Prof. Nunez and ask a lot of questions, his studies of the Aymara rather functioned as a trigger for the work than as something we wanted to “directly translate”.

Is theoretical study often an influential form of inspiration for your works?

No, there are many possibilities that could spark my fantasy: a sound, an object, people´s behaviour, a space..

What is the past and what is the future of büro für zeit + raum?

Well, by showing our two productions, the büro`s past is present at this festival, and its future already started last year in planning the next project which is called “Hares on skates. Fantasy training for the real reality”. It will be a work on paradoxes and will premier in Berlin at the end of this year.

What are you waiting for from your trip to Finland?

Hm. Tango?