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› 3 Questions to James Leadbitter

You will come to Bremen with three different projects: a performance in an apartment and two lectures which will be presented in the frame of Utopia film festival. All projects are dealing with mental health. How would you call your personal perspective on mental health issues: artistic or mad, anti-psychiatry or alternative psychiatry?
I’m into what we call in the UK Madpride and Neurodiversity. Both of these are ideas that come from social and disability movements. The idea that madness or how your mind is, are not bad things, but a natural human response to the many causes of madness – trauma, stress, poverty, the environment, the bigger political system and possibly how our brain are wired.
For me there are two really important things. To reduce the struggles mad peoples experience, both feelings of being stuck (internal struggles) and the social stigma that exists (external struggles). And then moving on from this – the liberation journey we should be supported to go on, a journey of discovery and wellbeing.
As we say in disability politics ‘Nothing about us, without us, is for us.’

You have experience with psychiatric labelling but you are first of all an artist and a political activist. Could you give us an example from your practice that shows how art can effect social, cultural and political change?
One of the things that I love about art is its ability to imagine things that don’t exist. But for me a lot of art sells itself short. It imagines, but doesn’t make any attempt to make this real. This is the intersection between art and activism that excites me. How can an artist’s visions become real, in the real world for real people. SO, with the project Madlove: A Designer Asylum, we are creating visions of what a perfect mental health hospital could be like, and getting mad people to lead on the design of this. But we also trying to make this real, by working with the health service in the UK to design actual hospitals, or aspects of them.
I’m excited by artists that work in the real world and help shape that world.

You also offer lectures on how cultural institutions should prepare in order to welcome artists with mental health issues. Could you briefly sketch your most important recommendations?
I guess the most important thing is being prepared be flexible. Madness isn’t a consist state, it changes. You have good days and bad days. So, institutions need to respond to this flexibility.
Practical what does this mean?
Being disabled is expensive, it costs money. So disabled artists need to be paid properly, including their access needs – whatever that may be…. Rest days, support workers, soft deadlines, other ways of traveling the Ryanair (which will drive anyone mad….)  – most disabled people will happily explain this to you.
I think also we need to drop this bullshit seriousness around how art is presented. This means creating a more relaxed environment for art to presented, and also address how most art is not accessible to a disabled audience.
For me disabled artists are radically changing the aesthetics of how art is made and presented. Along with other oppressed groups, artist of colour, LGBTQIA+ artists etc, we are creating whole new types of art, and that’s really fucking exciting. Why would you not want to be a supporter of that?
You can view my disability awareness document here – this is a document that I share with everyone I work with – that explains my impairments as you can’t tell I’m disabled by looking at me (invisible impairments)

FRI 26 + SAT 27 Oct  8 p.m.

MON 29 Oct  9 p.m.

› 3 Questions to Anna Mendelssohn

You will come to Bremen with your lecture performance „Cry me a River“ which you call "a solo about inner and outer climate catastrophes“. The piece will be part of the Utopia film festival. Is there anything utopian about it at all?
There are several passages in the text that are concretely utopian, for example when I talk about a Great Turning of our society. Humanity might then understand itself as a part of a bigger whole.
But the piece itself to me is not utopian. I would describe it as very ambivalent. It contains multitudes, contradictions, a variety of angles and viewpoints.

„Cry me a River" is very emotional. Do you think that art and emotion are needed in order to sensitize us to climate change?
I do not know what is needed to sensitize us. Economic incentives, rules, regulations? I think this last summer has been the biggest wake up call so far. No, Cry Me A River is emotional, because the topic itself is very emotional. Thinking about climate change we are confronted with the biggest topic of all - the relationship between human beings and the earth, it's plants, it's waters, it's creatures. Cry Me A River is about responsibility, awareness, guilt, hope, time, my place in this world. These are very emotional topics.

In your work you generally focus on the role of language and rhetorics. Which form of speech can we expect during the one hour monologue? And how did you generate and practice this way of talking?
In Cry Me A River I sit at a long conference table. I don’t sit on the unoccupied chairs, but I speak for them. The piece is an accumulation of public people speaking at conferences and discussions or giving interviews. It is like a small excerpt of the public debate around climate change. And then there is also my private, personal voice that is trying to come to grips with all these ideas and scenarios. I try to make sense of them by finding analogies to my very own immediate, daily life. The piece is finally strung together by means of intuition and association. The search was very long, the putting together happened very fast. Much is missing, but after eight years of performing this text, it still makes a lot of sense to me and I continue to find new meaning in it. I am still surprised by it.

Anna Mendelssohn ›Cry me a River‹
THU 1 Nov + FRI 2 Nov 2018 7 p.m.

› 3 Questions to Zwoisy Mears-Clarke

Physical touch is at the core of your 1:1 performances. Which dimensions and effects of touch are you particularly interested in?
One of the reasons touch is interesting to me is because of my understanding of it as a relational style of communication. Touch is about the two and not the one. Even in terms of physics, when two solid surfaces touch one surface exerts a force and the other surface exerts the same force, but in the opposite direction. It is this implicit interdependency that I find beautiful. Another side to my interest is using touch to access memory locked in a particular place of the body, understanding that violence, trauma, comfort and just a whole range of other things exist there. In that sense, the topics of nostalgia, memory, and protective instincts can seep into both a performance itself and my understanding of this sense. That being said, what sparked my initial interest was to create a performative context in which the audience can also enjoy inhabiting their body, just as much as I have done throughout my years of training as a dancer.

We will present your works in the frame of the queerfilm festival. Which role does queerness play in your artistic work?
Is it a subject, a method or a fact? As a non-cis-gendered feminist and an artist who performs in his own artistic work, queerness in relationship to gender and normative gender roles is a layer I always consider when developing an artistic work. As a part of my artistic research—not so much the movement part of it, but more the talking to people and theoretical research parts—, I continually work on my awareness and knowledge of these topics so that I can give myself more ways in which I can choreographically play with the projected gender and its associate mannerisms I experience in my day-to-day and in performances as well as integrate feminist principles within each artistic work. The focus of the content of my artistic work is not on the topic of queerness, but rather racial discrimination and prejudice; however, I would fail to think that these are not inextricably linked. To answer your last question, I find queerness to be a fact (located on/in/around/at my body), a method (detailing ways in which to experiment with gender roles and gender presentation that can be used choreographically), and a subject (as I enter the performative space my queer self becomes the subject of witnessing).

In contrast to most stage works your performances are radically inclusive. What were the biggest challenges for cultural institutions that you have been working with in the past regarding inclusion?
One of the biggest challenge I’ve experienced so far is the topic of personal/preferred pronouns. I have not borne witness to many moments as of yet where a staff member, much less the staff as a whole, of a cultural institution is an ally to trans*, gender queer, and gender non-conforming artists, leading to failure personally and professionally in terms of hosting/welcoming the artist(s) and doing the job of accurately presenting/introducing that artist(s) to the public, journalists, or even other staff members and colleagues. As I have started to consider my ableism, another sense of inclusion that I’ve started a couple years ago to consider is in terms of disability. My artistic teams, performers specifically, have included visually impaired, sighted, and blind dancers, and I also consider an audience that is a mix of wheelchair-users, sighted, (leg) walkers, blind, and/or visually impaired. I myself have yet to grasp the full knowledge of accessibility in terms of the needs both on the performer side and on the audience side, which is a focus of mine now. But I am interested in learning to be able to consider and care for other needs, and I hope for when that time comes that I meet no or few challenges when it comes to the step of working with cultural institutions.



› 3 Questions to Rosana Cade

Physical touch is at the core of your 1:1 performances. Which dimensions and effects of touch are you particularly interested in?
I'm interested in exploring touch from a few different perspectives. A participant who took part in
Walking:Holding once described touch as an extension of the voice, or a more pure form of the voice, of communication or connection between humans. When someone is really upset and we don't know what to say we turn to touch. And whilst language can be divisive, and put up a barrier between different people, physical touch has the ability to cross those barriers. It's a universal human language, there is something primal about it. For many people it is incredibly nourishing to receive physical touch from another human being, especially if they don't have anyone they can be intimate with on a regular basis.
However, that isn't to say that is easy or comes naturally, particularly between strangers. It can feel incredibly exposing to hold someone's hand and allow yourself to be felt. Also, when we bring that action into public space there are a whole new set of tensions around intimacy, identity and visibility, and it is this that I am most interested in. Who has the freedom to be intimate anywhere in public? Who do we deem as “untouchable?” When is touch a political statement? I developed the performance in response to my own experiences of same sex hand holding. My first girlfriend was much older than me and wanted to hold my hand everywhere, which was fine in London but felt completely different and difficult in the small town where I grew up. Another partner in Glasgow preferred not to draw attention to herself, whilst I felt it was important not to hide. Hand-holding always felt like a complex act – the tussle between visibility and risk, public and private intimacy, activism and fear. I also see the act of touch within Walking:Holding as one of radical acceptance and solidarity. In taking part in the performance you agree to hold hands with anyone and be seen with them in public, and I think this can be very affirming.

We will present your works in the frame of the queerfilm festival. Which role does queerness play in your artistic work? Is it a subject, a method or a fact?
As stated above, at its core Walking:Holding is a piece of queer activism, promoting the acceptance of different types of people whatever their gender or sexuality, in public space. I believe it to be both queer in its subject and method.
I identify as a queer feminist artist, this manifests in different ways and I'm passionate about the multi-pronged method in queer world building. An important question for me is around the role of my work within society. What am I offering and who is it for? Is it my role to use performance to create spaces for the queer community? Spaces where we feel safe, affirmed, represented, celebrated, understood, to develop our sense of self and our culture, in a world that still has very poor representation in mainstream media? Or is it about working outside of this community, trying to reach a wider public and spread more understanding of queer politics in order to create a better world? And these two things aren't necessarily in binary opposition to each other but they can feel like different tactics and I think I'm interested in both at different times.

In contrast to most stage works your performances are radically inclusive. What were the biggest challenges for cultural institutions that you have been working with in the past regarding inclusion?
I believe inclusion is a long term process and a multi-faceted task, but it isn't a mystery. Often I will work with venues and insist that the people we recruit to be part of Walking:Holding are not all cis-gendered and able bodied as I think it's important to consider access to public space from these different perspectives, and this becomes a challenge for them. The reason for this is because their audience is largely cis-gendered and able bodied, because the space they have created isn't accessible to people who aren't. For example the toilets might not be hospitable to gender non-conforming people. Perhaps they have never programmed work that features non-cis performers. Perhaps they haven't considered how people who are visually impaired or Deaf or hard of hearing might access the work they are presenting. If the venue itself has not taken previous steps to create a welcoming and hospitable environment to people, then one piece of work coming along will have a hard time engaging with them as it requires a big shift in perspective. However, it can be a step towards opening up a dialogue around these issues and creating bigger changes for the future.

ROSANA CADE Walking:Holding
18. - 21.10.2018