EXPANDING THE POSSIBILITIES OF WHAT THE CITY CAN BE
By Daniel Belasco Rogers, March 2021
The publication Stadterweitern. Tracing A Practice not only brings together the traces and practices that arose out of Sabine Zahn’s labs and events called Stadterweitern, but also represents a body of knowledge, with terms, approaches and tools for urban intervention and performance.
Speaking as an artist with a long engagement in the city as a site for artistic practice and having worked for decades collecting every journey in the city in order to bring hidden aspects of movement to visibility, as well as an educator currently engaged at the University of the Arts Berlin, I am privileged with many ways of approaching Sabine’s work and the work of the people she has carefully gathered around her. I had the great pleasure of being invited into her project Fremdgehen both in Berlin and in Potsdam as performer and collaborator. Andrea Keiz and I conceived the first Stadterweitern lab and I was able to attend many of the subsequent labs, presenting the work of my company plan b together with my partner Sophia New at an evening event during Lab 2.
Creating and Engaging with artistic work in pandemic times
One of the effects of the global pandemic we are currently experiencing (in its second year at the time of writing) has been that many performance, dance and theatre venues remain closed and festivals cancelled. Universities too have almost exclusively switched to online teaching formats. Many people are asking themselves what is possible in these different times. Many artists with existing or anticipated institutional links are finding themselves literally on the outside, asking themselves how to continue and in what form. Many audience members have not yet adjusted to viewing work online or are simply not interested in engaging with performative work in this way. Many are tired of engaging with their computers all day everyday.
Ideas, approaches and terms for artistic work in public space
And so this publication is very timely. The ideas, terms and discussions represented here have a maturity that long predates the pandemic and they remain in the physical realms of body and space, rather than looking for answers in digital media. I am convinced that for anyone working in public space or trying to understand the issues of artistic work in public space, the ideas, approaches and terms in this publication will be very fruitful. I will certainly be using it myself in my teaching. Questions such as how the work is read from the outside, what the ‘offer’ is to an invited and non-invited audience, how can we consider our artistic work to be a part of the city-making that all its citizens are engaged in, are all addressed. Concrete techniques, suggestions, experiments as well as feedback from the experiments during the labs are presented for all to learn from, try out and expand upon.
Ideas that persist outside of performances
Sabine’s approach to working in public space, and those of her collaborators, is to be extremely sensitive and yet extremely insistent on placing ourselves as artists in urban space. It honours not just all of those urban activities and actors usually excluded from a theatre visit but also the creative work itself. Her calm insistence that our activities are as valid as any other urban activity emboldened us performers and onlookers to try many things out. She also has the intellectual perseverance and rigour to gather critical reflections on this practice so that the ideas can persist outside of the scope of a series of performances. Stadterweitern expands the possibilities of what the city can be and makes the kind of exciting, creative, bold, playful and down-to-earth place people want to dwell in.
Stadterweitern was a hybrid series of practice laboratories and linked public events, inquiring about how the city can be made and reflected through choreographic practices. The work was deeply rooted in practice as research and conceived as participatory and public processes. Initiated
and directed by Sabine Zahn it engaged with the city as physically enacted space.
Editors: Benoît Verjat, Sabine Zahn
Texts: Markus Bader, Alice Chauchat, Andrea Keiz, Arantxa Martínez, Katja Münker, Daniel Belasco Rogers, Joshua Rutter, Benoît Verjat, Sabine Zahn
Terms and Feedback: Lab participants, including the people named above, plus Judith Brückmann, Constanze Flamme, Saskia Hebert, Sophia New, Martin Peschken
Graphic Design: Roman Karrer
@ March 2021