The School of Visual Theater in Jerusalem has upped its ante.
That is clear from the roster of the upcoming Performance 0:2 Reenactments and New Versions conference. The event is taking place for a second time, following last year’s inaugural outing that was attended by close to 1,000 members of the public.
Guy Gutman, the school director, is delighted that the event is upon us again and says that the conference is a natural thematic development.
“This event is an ideological progression of what we do at the school,” he says, adding that the institution has paid its dues. “We have been around for quite a while.
Last year the school marked its 25th anniversary. That’s a long time, especially in Israeli terms. We were considered avant-garde, but now performance is considered part of the mainstream.”
Now into its second quarter century, the School of Visual Theater has lined up some big guns to thrill the audiences that will attend the lectures, panel discussions, workshops and shows in the Performance 0:2 program.
One of the big draws next week is Julian Maynard Smith, renowned performance artist and co-founder of the London-based Station House Opera performance company. He set up the performance establishment with Miranda Payne and Alison Urquhart in 1980 with a view to exploring the possibilities of combining sculptural, architectural and theatrical elements. Station House Opera’s best-known offerings include Drunken Madness , in which performers zigzagged through the air in and out of a system of interdependent platforms and pulleys; and the 1989 project Bastille Dances , in which 40 performers built and dismantled a creation of 8,000 breeze blocks within nine days.
Polish video artist Katarzyna Kozyra is also on the foreign VIP guest list.
After graduating in 1993 from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, she studied at the School for Visual Arts in Leipzig, Germany. Some of her works over the years have caused quite a stir, such as Pyramid of Four Animals , which comprised the dissected bodies of a horse, a cat, a dog and a rooster. It is said to reference the Brothers Grimm story “The Four Musicians from Bremen.”
Gutman feels that his chosen art form has made great strides in recent years, and establishing the annual Performance event was an important statement of intent.
“All these people have been busy creating things over the years, but we wanted to provide them with a platform. We called this a conference, even though it is both a conference and a festival, because we wanted to hold a gathering for everyone involved in the field and to really investigate what we’re all up to,” he says.
While the term “conference” infers a somewhat sober mindset, Gutman says that things won’t get too heavy.
“This is a conference of an art school, not of an academy. An art school references academics but also research, and there is the side of research that takes the form of actual activity. Creating something artistic is also a form of research.”
Performance 0:2, he says, is about blending thought and action. “There is the philosophical side, and there is the practice of art.”
While he is happy with the progress achieved in the performance field, Gutman feels that artists and the establishment to which they belong have to be clear-sighted about the path they are on. “The cultural institutions in Israel must have a defined artistic agenda that doesn’t have to adhere to the clichés of left wing or right wing. It should be something the artist is advancing – something that is bigger than him or her.”
That, says Gutman, impacts on his role as head of the school and of that of the teacher. “We need to be attentive to the directions the current generation of young students is taking – what factors impact on them, what new things they need. We also have to look at what art does for us, what it adds to our lives.”
That also applies to the powers-that-be.
“We have to consider what art does for our lives in general,” he continues. “Art is beneficial for everyone.”
While Gutman hopes that Performance 0:2 will help to raise the discipline’s public profile, he says there is more to the event than that. “This isn’t really about promotion; this is a welcoming conference that invites people to talk about things, to show off their work and to create.”
Even in the era of instant global communication, Gutman feels there is much added value to people physically convening in the same actual place rather than conducting ongoing virtual encounters. “We wanted to bring people from abroad to show us what they do, but also to show people from outside the country what we are getting up to here,” Gutman declares.
That, he hopes, will spawn meaningful discourse. “This is a conference about questions, where people can bring up ideas and can agree and disagree about things. It is not a matter of someone coming from abroad and deciding we are going to discuss this topic or that topic.
As soon as yo ur environment accommodates that sort of discourse, wonderful things can happen.”
The theme of the conference has a somewhat political origin.
“We thought of 2 Reenactments and New Versions around the time of the last elections,” Gutman explains. “I thought that if we had a second round of elections, we’d have the same old signs and slogans, and they’d be reenacting the same old political system.”
There is also an artistic slant. “You can reenact a sort of formal state act. You can take, for example, a state ceremony and turn it into performance art. By reenacting the event in a different forum, I completely change its meaning. It raises all sorts of questions about ceremonies, and I think that can only be a good thing,” he says.For more information about Performance 0:2: (02) 673-3435 ext. 2 or firstname.lastname@example.org