Through the eyes of objects
By Sara Castro
You are a co-founder of two production groups recently founded, Alica Minar & Col (2020) and Rawtrip (2021). How do both companies’ approaches differ from one another and how do they relate to each other?
Alica Minar & Col. is residing in the Czech Republic and it was created shortly before my graduation together with Katarína Bakošová, Lenka Vořechovská and Alžběta Konečná. Rawtrip was formed with Melissa Kiefer at the end of 2021. We wanted to be more present in Germany together, strengthen each other, our networks and branch out a bit from Berlin to Freiburg. Yet, we realized that we can't dedicate time to regular meetings to keep things going, so we decided to close again recently.
Do you still work with her?
Yes, we still have a project together with the choreographer Breeanne Saxton called: “Durch Hilma”. Rawtrip was also part of DEVOURER and I'm sure we will continue collaborating.
Does this mean your productions are from now on from the collective?
We have a company in the Czech Republic and then I'm working here as a freelancer. For that reason, we always find partners in Germany and create Czech-German productions.
In your performances, you interact a lot with objects. How do you relate the body to objects?
Objects have a rich world to offer. I feel that even if I have a certain necessity for my body to move, the objects have a legacy that makes them easier to enter. The objects and the body are like partners for me, there's not one more important than the other, they coexist together and through their meeting, we can express certain things, which are maybe spiritual, physical or emotional.
Are objects always present in your performances?
Yes, they are my entrance point. I'm not saying that I can't work without them but that's where my creativity unfolds: through visuality and the body, how the body changes through the performances, how we can go out of what we know in normal life. Objects open all this playfulness. And I think playfulness is the key to creativity. Even if you have some difficult, heavy topics or even if you have funny, light topics, it doesn't matter. I think you need to enter this state where you stop thinking and you'll just play. This is what objects offer to me.
What do you take into account for the selection of objects you want to work with?
It depends on the project. The stage designer has a big influence on the selection. I like to work in a dialogue with other artists. For DEVOURER Claudia Besuch and I had a walk around the Spree and she proposed the black table tennis balls. Originally we planned to work with very heavy clothes, but I had an injury on my elbow, so I couldn't carry heavy stuff and then she proposed this. The objects need to have a playful potential around themselves.
What kind of objects has inspired your performances?
I´ve had experiences with frames, Christmas tree machines, balls, tights, boxes, rubbers, or fishermen's overalls. It really depends on the topic. I'm always curious to experience something new that fits the concept. Now we are working with paper pipes, in the context of the forest ecosystem. I enjoy the combination of organic and artificial materials.
You emphasize providing the audience with physical experience through your performances. How do you achieve this without giving them an active role?
I think certain actions create certain states in the body. So the audience first connects to the emotion through the physical activity that is happening, like when I'm sitting in the audience, my muscles get activated. There is a certain flow of physicality happening in me as a performer while on stage. I believe that this flow also transfers to the audience.
Do you mean to say that the audience accesses the physical experience through the medium of emotions?
Yeah, I think the emotion and the body come together. There is this chain of states happening on stage, gradually experienced in the presence. But then there is also the whole package of associations that you just throw into the face of the audience.
Do you also aim to create an experience in which the audience is exposed to feelings of discomfort or maybe strangeness?
This strangeness and this weirdness are part of the extravagance and aesthetic that I'm working with and that I try to offer. This bizarreness of certain situations in life creates humor. I think that if you have a difficult topic, it's easier and more accessible to enter it playfully and weirdly. It gives you more freedom. You can process through laughter or through this weirdness the other stuff that would be otherwise, let's say, too pathetic or too serious. To sum up, I think it is the balance between seriousness, playfulness and humor, which is crucial for such a creation.
Are you hoping to achieve a specific reaction from the public or prefer to leave it up to interpretation?
I would leave it up to interpretation because everybody comes with their imagination and with their own experiences anyways. We work precisely on dramaturgy defining the contents and meanings. We are concerned about the dramaturgy of the performance, the music of the lights, etc. We really try to weave it all together. But what the audience gets out of it, it's really up to them. It's amazing because people come up with their own stories and they project different meanings. You offer something rich and multilayered, allowing for the stories to be read differently. And it is not about giving the statement, like f.e. "Greed is a terrible thing and you should not be greedy.", but it's about contemplating "What happens to you if you become greedy?" How do you perceive it? How do others around you observe it? This leaves space for individual processing of the topic.
You first studied financial mathematics and then choreography in Prague and Berlin. How come you started in the field of science and then changed so drastically to performing arts?
I was enjoying math in high school and I was quite good at it. I felt like: “Sure, let's study the most difficult stuff that exists, I want to be challenged!" (Laughing). Moreover, I knew it as a stable and financially prosperous work field. When I arrived in Prague and started studying, I felt it wasn't enough for me, that it wasn't giving me a deeper meaning. I didn't want my life to be divided into personal and professional and I discovered the alternative scene and got completely overrun by that. I still finished the math course, but it was quite clear to me that I wanted to become a choreographer.
Have you found ways to apply mathematics successfully to your choreographies and to poetry in general?
Art and science, they meet in this kind of parable. If you draw an arc consisting of two separate lines, there's a point on the top of the arc, where these two disciplines would meet. The analytical way of thinking is something that you actually learn while studying mathematics. It's not about the numbers. So that's what I found interesting and it's something that still forms me in my artistic practice now.
You are presenting DEVOURER at the Performing Art Festival, why did you choose greed as the main topic of your piece?
To name one of the motivations: We don't really see the physical body of greed anymore and I was curious about it. We are partially living in a virtual world. The physical act of greediness, of taking something and putting it in your pocket, is not really happening in front of our eyes anymore.
How was the research process?
It was long and amazing. It was also difficult because it was the first solo after three years. I hit the border where I felt like, yeah, I cannot work alone. So towards the end of the project, we had different residencies where different parts of the team would come together. I invited my friends from Berlin and Prague to see some of the rehearsals. That helped me to keep going, to stay in "the performance mode", letting me discover the body of greed, the character on the stage.
How did you obtain the funding for this performance?
I went to Poland to have one month of research through the Visegrad Fund. We applied for the “Berlin Senate” but it was not accepted. We received some funding from the Czech Republic and some from Germany and glued it together. The funding process is not easy considering the number of applications.
So for the people who won't be able to see your wonderful performance, is it going to be online? Are we going to get the chance to see it again here in Berlin?
We don't plan to put it online yet. We hope to tour DEVOURER. You are invited to come and see the next show. Just follow, subscribe or like us to have updates. Yeah, and I mean, if anybody is interested to see it online privately, I can provide the link. It's not a problem.
Are you presenting DEVOURER somewhere else?
We have shows in Chemnitz, Leipzig and Prague in the Autumn. We are planning to come to Berlin again next year.
To wrap up, is there anything you would like to add or share from the experience you’ve had?
I think Berlin is very rich and I still, after four and a half years, don't know the whole landscape of the artists that are working here. It's still a new discovery, on the one hand very inspiring and on the other hand a bit overwhelming. But that's what makes it amazing. One does have so many possibilities! I would suggest grabbing the possibilities that are in front of you and never giving up. When I was about to graduate, I was asking my professors or mentors: How did you manage? How did you go through this difficult phase, especially after graduating? And they said that you just have to start even with smaller projects but keep at it. I'm still trying to apply this advice. As a freelancer in Berlin, it's crucial to make friends, have contacts, work with the people that are around you, be kind to each other and help each other. I think that helping each other is really important because nobody can pull the boat alone.