Stuttgart Seen From Peoples Homes
This lorgennale, the festival in charge of the endogenous art happenings inside private homes, spiced up Stuttgart’s cultural scene May 24–28, 2017. lorgennale is a festival initiated by Solitude fellow Jean-Lorin Sterian and co-curated with Paula Kohlmann in Stuttgart, until very recently, a host in the now-defunct project space LOTTE – land of the temporary eternity. The festival was entirely financed and supported by Akademie Schloss Solitude.
by Jasmina Al-Qaisi
lorgennale anchors performances, concerts, lectures, and exhibitions in the intimacy of local residences. In Stuttgart, where the second edition of lorgennale took place, audiences were invited into different homes across the city twice a day, for one to two hours, all in the name of offbeat art. This is the story of an unabridged enjoyable experience I had as an invitee in Stuttgart, seen from within.
Berlin-Stuttgart is a long beautiful ride. I was accompanied by Odeta Catana, the Berlin-based documentary photographer who captured lorgennale. Loud in the speakers, Nina Simone. We drive to the address through forest land and arrive in a quiet, chic neighborhood. We are outside a big wooden house, looking special enough to us to be able to tell the house is created by an architect. It is 7pm, the time for Rapprochement a performance (voice/drawing) by Frauke Aulbert and Simone Rueß, Solitude fellows from the present, namely the past.
The lines and letters are just-intelligible interpretations
Frauke is questioning Odeta’s camera shutter. The crowd is slowly moving like an organism. Raw concrete, steel, a Persian carpet, small photos attentively arranged, drinks in the hallway. We enter a sunless room, sit on different chairs, confused, but well behaved knowing that we have to be silent. The hosts are behind us. The performers in front. No words are shared. One big window is open and another intentionally closed, but coated in a translucent soap-looking liquid. A flipped scored stand covered with a cloth is a table. Two plastic glasses, one sound amplifier, a toy microphone, a soap bubbles maker, one violin bow, a whisk, and some unidentifiable objects seem to be part of what we are about to witness or listen to. We are sitting between a piano, a big white table, and a tall, packed library. The sounds that the performer is making are accompanied by lines drawn on the opaque window. Barely obvious, the lines and letters are just-intelligible interpretations of forms that we all know. What appears to be the beginning of a heart quickly becomes a letter in an undiscovered alphabet. Frauke first uses her voice, and slowly with deep-breathing pauses she starts using the objects on the table. Natural light comes from above and neon light from below. Birds start to sing, and tiny feathers falling in the very discreet light place us outside the performance. Out there in the world. There must be some magic to a literal explanation. I think of the nonmusical madness of Martin Burlas, but it’s not that. Wait, I can get into further detail. A sneeze, a squeaking sound coming from the belly of a pregnant lady, the camera shutter, a motorcycle, and water drops get sucked into the heavy recorder on the big white table between us and the performers. Books on Moholy-Nagy, Gerhard Richter, August Sander, Gursky, Klee are standing on the shelves, breaking the sound into pieces. Frauke is rubbing a small glass object on plastic. I smile. Nobody moves. I never thought something so small could be so loud. This listening experience is simultaneously an allowance given to our senses to reflect upon the usage of the body and common objects. Welcome to lorgennale.
We hop into the cars. The sun goes down. It’s just on its way down. This time, we’re on the way to a hill in the middle of the city. At 9pm, Diaspora Poetry, a poetry slam by Deidra Freemann, Aneisha Jones, and Barbara Gilchrist Feyl – in cooperation with Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland Bund e.V. – is about to begin.
We shake hands with the poets. Open hearts, one by one
A yellow light sets in corners of a living room with decor that speaks the dialects of both east and west Germany. A super-homey atmosphere. We shake hands with the poets. Open hearts, one by one, served with personal biographies and poetry practice tricks. Frozen in the depth of either laughing or gloom, we experience questions of migration, post-migration, displacement, from the United States to Africa, set in Germany. All poetic about life. The group’s activity generally inquires into heterogeneity and intersectionality in the black community. It got close to crying. But what more can one say about poetry when poetry is already reaching above the world?
It’s my turn, for the Omnidisplacement lecture. A girl with the same name as mine is opening her living room to host the happening I am about to put up. I sip southern German wine and discuss the scenography of what is supposed to be a fake exhibition where object-ducks replace PowerPoint slides. We move the pillows around and watch the ducks blend into the scenery of this living room. It’s one of the times I speak about long-distance love relationships. But now I am using this romantic idea of a fake exhibition where the collection of ducks my dear friend Johanna Glije lent me are strong pillars of a randomized discourse on the subject. The audience, almost unanimously, knows how it feels to love at a distance. We chew on olives and share our romances. I am content I exorcised this academic research. It felt colloquial.
On Friday at 7pm, Julian Knoth asks everyone to write down words that we love and words that we don’t. In German. Nodo, the Italian knot, is a sort of a theatrical performance. He reads the words slowly in a long sentence lacking punctuation. In anonymity, we all know what our soft spots and preferences are. Yet the quick-fire choices and giggles were not necessarily providing significant depth of thought, but rather a puzzling domestic play. Julian’s ambition was to untie some knots of perception, as he calls them – and that definitely turned into a blast.
Paula is not telling anything about the gang of friends
The next act, Und es wurde dunkel, #2 is the performance of Oana Paula Weiner. This performance gives rise to spontaneous nostalgia combined with deep curiosity. Especially now, witnessed in a private space with the blinders down, from a couch, as the lorgennalemakes possible. Paula is not telling the spectator anything about the gang of friends these images belong to, but through her, and in approximately 30 minutes, we get to feel we know them.To a slideshow of overlapped vernacular images, she gradually brings sounds and words that certainly enhance feelings of displacement, senses of belonging and a depth of friendship. Yes, these are Romanian mountains. And the schnapps is Țuică. The audience is predominantly German, formal enough to refuse the liquor that Paula is using as a bridge to the soiree mode in which the people whose images we were watching are still sharing their love for each other, regardless of how (in)frequently they meet. The repetition of these images, of the beats, of the words that Paula is murmuring, point to a momentous recurrence rooted in gatherings where friends reproduce the same stories over and over again to validate their bond. This is especially tender when the friends who emigrated illegally during the dictatorship are now spread all over the world. Und es wurde dunkel ends in the tonic darkness of a poppy song.
I spend one hour with each participant
On Saturday, May 27, May Tyska Samborska performs the six-hour piece My Pleasure, which we only heard rumors of. Tyska confesses: »Each hour the bell rings, I open the main door and wait until the person comes up to the third floor. I hear the steps, when she/he reaches the second floor I start to hear the breath. I know only know her/his name and my imagination is automatically trying to connect it with the faces and characters from my past. She/he enters, we shake hands, a bit confused. We talk about the pleasure request which doesn’t always come naturally with a stranger. My pleasure is a performance in which I spend one hour with each participant, doing whatever is a pleasure for him or her. I follow them while trying to be always one step ahead. This action did not allow me to stay in my comfort zone. Not even for a minute. I could not predict or plan anything. I will do it again.«
Later that evening, a bright, welcoming apartment hosted shakshuka star; a performative dinner by Julian Knoth and Caroline Flegel. Outside the flat, a small neighborhood festival competes with the flavors and sound. Julian and Caroline cooked Middle Eastern inspired food. Shakshuka is poached eggs in a sauce of pepper, tomatoes, and spices with flatbread and humus, and spices up the gathering.
Dinner is set and each seat is assigned a number. The number represents the waiting list for the kitchen, where Li Lorian is performing Posta, one-on-one conversations about memory, home, love, and food, resulting in a magnificent unique postcard crafted by Li.
During the breaks of completely hedonistic gastronomical and emotional enchantment, we gaze upon the Guilty Pleasure photo series by Odeta Catana. The series explores people’s usually secret pleasures and places these secrets into theatrical portraits associated with the protagonists’ short testimonies. The obvious invitation to gaze, which each of the subjects almost whispers through his or her pose, perfectly fits the sentiment shared this evening.
The hot Sunday invites us one by one to wear masks and join the Dog Day Afternoon arranged by Jean-Lorin Sterian, but performed by us, by fictitious dog characters and a nude ghostly feminine presence. We are all wearing the same face, the same kind of a mask. We are first invited to sit at the table. The effect of these masks solidifies my body. I want to be there for a while, to reflect upon a possibility of a facial uniform. Underneath this uniform, there is confusion and sweat, yet obedience. We are all on the floor now. The tenderness of the nude is gently torturing us with tools and drags us into torturing each other. The intensity is rather in thought, not in actions. I have so many questions, but no time, since time is off duty tonight.
Next day, south of Stuttgart, a chic mosaic of cheerful corners, a tastefully decorated flat is hosting various gentle pieces by Sabrina Karl. Sabrina manages to create a special dialogue with the house through her performance. To music by Nick Cave, she redraws sections of a piece by Georg Winter. Clothes and shoes, performing in the videos set in the living room, give a mnemonic formula to the setting. Sitting by the sink we can watch a video and silently chew on watermelon. Flowers, Nothing but (flowers) in the condo of a flower lover. We are thinking of home and talking about it.
lorgennale is on a quest to stage artistic experiences that satisy the senses. The final destination is anthropological, which can also imply that the journey is perpetually ongoing.
lorgennale continues in other European cities, not only through gathering people around art, but through gathering objects brought by participants in the festival, objects that remind them of home. In this moment, all the objects are on the studio floor of lorgennale’s creator, Jean-Lorin Sterian, waiting to be labeled and exhibited someday, when he finds his way back home.