EUROPEFICTION – the international youth art project
In a network of five theatres for young audiences from the Ruhr area and five European partner theatres, we want to research transnational encounters and develop new aesthetic forms together with 150 young people and other partners.
The time for change is NOW
That is the guiding principle of the Europefiction project. Encountering creates the basis of our society: community and solidarity. When this guiding principle was established, there was no pandemic, encounters were still possible and important for this extraordinary international art project to overcome borders, real as well as imaginary.
To counteract the division of our European society – of which Brexit is only the most drastic example – to develop an artistic utopia for a common future, this was and is the goal of this project with young people from Germany and five other European countries.
As a result of political changes and an exceptional pandemic situation, Europe has recently experienced the shock of how vulnerable basic democratic rights, freedom, prosperity and the opportunities for transnational encounters are. None of this can be taken for granted – that’s what makes these achievements so valuable. Let’s create a counterbalance.
Who is doing what?
EUROPEFICTION evokes encounters and dialogue at a time when borders have become visible and perceptible again, when international relations have to find new ways. Working together in solidarity – even within Europe – is not a sure-fire success, but a flexible process that has to be constantly redesigned. EUROPEFICTION creates an awareness of this and seeks artistic answers to the questions that arise from dealing with this process. The project is based on five theaters in the Ruhr area, which started with the predecessor project “pottfiction” for the Capital of Culture RUHR.2010, to ask young people: “What kind of world do you want to live in? And what are you willing to do for it?” – and to find artistic answers to them. Since then, the once unique project has stabilized and internationalized. EUROPEFICTION is supported by a network of Consol Theater Gelsenkirchen, Junges Schauspielhaus Bochum, HELIOS Theater Hamm, Theater Kohlenpott Herne and KJT Dortmund. The Theater Rotterdam from the Netherlands, the Kolibri Theater from Budapest/Hungary, the Theaterhaus Larf! from Ghent/Belgium, the companies La Transplanisphère from Paris/France and La Baracca from Bologna/Italy.
EUROPEFICTION invites you to engage with the present – and to experience that everything could be different. In living together and in artistic dialogue we invent the future of the Ruhr area, Europe, and a future world. EUROPEFICTION is a future laboratory that is here and now and can be anywhere at the same time. Before visions and wishes, ideas and concepts can be carried into the world, they must be created. With and by those who are most affected: the next generation. EUROPEFICTION works at eye level. Participants, artists, theatre educators and theatre directors learn from each other. In this way, the project radiates in all directions and initiates lasting changes in the theatres involved. Each of the ten theatres forms a EUROPEFICTION group with 12-15 young people and young adults between the ages of 16 and 23. The groups develop performances in their cities and in exchange with each other and experiment with various artistic means. Throughout the year, the theatres seek encounters with artists who provide special impulses for artistic work. The aim is also to establish lasting contacts and networks of institutions in the Ruhr area that work artistically with young people. Throughout the year, the theatres from the Ruhr region exchange ideas with each other and with international theatres about their working methods and content-related approaches. At the annual EUROPEFICTION summer camp, everyone involved in the project meets for nine days in the Ruhr area. The groups show their work and exchange ideas. In artistic workshops, the young people open new forms and paths. EUROPEFICTION is sustainable. In all project components, an attempt is made to act according to ecological aspects. A concrete example: When catering at the camps and network meetings, attention is paid to vegetarian/vegan nutrition and the avoidance of plastic waste. Our efforts also relate to travel activities and material consumption.
Content and regional partners
The main theme over the three project years is ENCOUNTER. Where and how can encounters take place, how can they take place, when do they remain unique and when do they develop further – become relationships, communities, networks? Each individual project year has its own question, which is worked on by all groups with a focus on one artistic area:
– 2021/2022 Urban Art – Encountering as an artistic means and expression in a post-pandemic era
– 2022/23 Digitality – In which spaces, with which means can we meet? How can we use digitality as an artistic medium?
– 2023/24 Contemporary Circus – Where do I reach my limits? What can WE achieve together – and how?
The selected artistic and artistically usable areas each stand for themselves with their specific perspectives and characteristics but build on each other. In their differences, they should get in each other’s way and stimulate each other.
Urban Art: We will start in 2022 with reclaiming public space through artistic actions. And with the recapture of personal encounters as an artistic and political act. We take encounters into public space. What places do we create and use to meet, how can we risk encounters while being protected and open at the same time, and how can we enter new relationships? Urban art is accessible free of charge, outside established places of art education and is therefore particularly suitable for transporting ideas for democratization and participation. Through street art, performance in public space, flash mobs, audio walks, guerrilla gardening, installations, etc., direct contact with a predominantly random audience is established in a subtle to provocative way. The reactions of the audience can be experienced directly and have an influence on the progress of the project. Which encounters arise, and which ones might even lead to relationships? Urban Art plays with the urban space, the existing, and transforms it through artistic intervention. Urban Art opens the dialogue for a further discussion.
The second year is about the topic of digitality as a pool of interactive media that can overcome borders and create new meeting spaces that function independently of physical limitations. Which encounters are possible here, to what extent does digitality expand the interaction among us and where does it possibly reach its limits? How democratic encounters in digital space can be?
The theatres have already had intensive experience with digital media because of the challenges of the corona crisis, have held online rehearsals with young people since spring 2020, exchanged ideas in video conferences, created digital image, sound and video material and the possibilities of social networks for themselves artistically tested and used. It became clear that theatre is a medium of direct encounter, physical co-presence and exchange between players and audience on many levels.
We want to push the knowledge we have gained further, develop digital art forms from visual arts, music, film, and programming and put them in the context of theatre and live performance moments and try them out.
The Academy for Theatre and Digitality, Dortmund, was won as a partner for this. The academy offers changing scholarship holders from all over the world the opportunity to research and work in digital methods (motion capturing, coding, VR, AR, robotics, computer science) every six months. The academy is funded by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Federal Cultural Foundation, and the EU. It is an institution that is unique in Europe with a high international appeal and will remain associated with Europefiction as a partner throughout the project period.
“We are now faced with the epochal task of investigating the numerous new connections between the digital and analogue worlds, i.e., digitality: phenomenologically, sociologically, philosophically, technically and – as the core discipline of the AKADEMIE – artistically.” Academy for Theatre and Digitality
Getting physically close, relying on each other, holding on and pushing off each other – all of this is just as elementary for contemporary circus as the willingness to fail and try again. In contemporary circus we experience and recognize our own limits and meet our vulnerability.
When we meet, we take a risk. Encountering means leaving the safe space, questioning, and specifying one’s own point of view and entering interaction. In our interconnected world, the actions of everyone can have an impact on the community. It is therefore important to relate to each other, to understand the situation and the point of view of the other person. Solutions to global problems can only be found in large contexts.
The willingness to take risks, to start experiments, to fail, also together, and to keep asking and searching anew is elementary for every artistic work. But also, for social interaction, as an important basis for mutual acceptance and living together.
OPENSPACE, Bochum, was won as a partner for urban art and contemporary circus. The OPENSPACE, which emerged from URBANATIX (an annual show that takes place in the Jahrhunderthalle Bochum and consists of elements of contemporary circus and urban arts), offers a 1,200 square meter training hall with plenty of space for uninhibited creativity and cross-scene work in the field of modern movement arts from tricking, dance, and parkour to biking, acrobatics and aerial artistry.
The motto “each-one-teach-one” is lived reality: When it comes to showing new moves and styles, everyone in OPENSPACE learns from everyone else and does so on an equal footing. The athletic director of the OPENSPACE training facility, Silvester Kiunka, says: »In OPEN SPACE, origin, social status, or the degree of professionalism in the respective movement discipline play no role. Because we are all united by a common enthusiasm … In the field of movement arts, we all enrich each other through our individual differences! «
EUROPEFICTION targets young people and young adults between the ages of 16 and 23. Around 15 young people are taking part in the project in each of the ten groups.
The project aims to reach and address young people from all socio-economic backgrounds. The influx of many people with a history of flight to Europe is also reflected in the structure of the participants. The partner theaters network with local initiatives, institutions and associations in their respective cities and have contacts to different target groups and communities as well as experience in working with heterogeneous groups.
The variety of perspectives is the starting point for all artistic activities within the project. The focus in the work is on common interests and goals, complementary resources and the creative and artistic possibilities that arise from this.
The participants discover their creative potential, formulate their own topics and needs, get involved and develop the courage to derive political demands from them. You enter an open dialogue with professional artists from various disciplines. The young people are experts in their own world and the artists are experts in their field. They develop concrete questions, thought possibilities and tried out for how the participants can artistically influence their surroundings and change their environment in their interest. Theatre- and dance projects, performances, music, and film works were created, modern technologies are combined with classical methods, public space becomes an installation.
In addition to the artistic processes, the participants are also involved in structural and content-related decision-making processes right from the start. They support and organize processes and take on tasks on site, from working on their performance such as sourcing sets and props to helping their theater host a camp or weekend. In this way, the young people gain insights into organizational processes and their own experiences and can help shape and determine the realization of the project.
The highlight and center of each year is the large EUROPEFICTION summer camp, where all participants meet. The summer camps will take place in Gelsenkirchen in 2022, in Dortmund in 2023 and in Herne in 2024 and will be conceptually prepared and organized by the local theaters. The camps extend over two weekends and the week in between, so a total of nine days.
They form the end of the project year and – in 2022 – at the same time the start of the new project year with the new topic. With a variety of program items, the camps are aimed at the participants in the overall project, at outsiders and those who are newly interested.
At the camps, the ten groups show what they have worked on together over the year. In addition, workshops are held on the various working methods, in which the young people work together in new constellations. External artists are invited to the workshops, who provide impulses and impart basic skills for the artistic field and the questions of the respective camp.
In addition to the participating young people, the summer camps are also aimed at the residents of the Ruhr area, the neighbors of the respective camp and the already inclined audience. On individual evenings during the week and especially on the second weekend, the EUROPEFICTION Camp has an open festival character: with public events such as presentations of the theater performances that have been created and insights into the workshop work, as well as a supporting program of concerts, open spaces to try out yourself, External visitors are addressed through talks with the participating international artists, a snippet disco and a party.
Annual work at the theatres
Each of the ten participating theaters works with a group of 12-15 teenagers or young adults in regular rehearsals throughout the year. The overriding theme of ENCOUNTER is dealt with in a different artistic medium and with a different content-related question in each annual cycle. The sub-topics on which the ten theaters work are discussed and formulated for each year together with the participants. For impulses on the respective topics and art forms, the theaters in their cities and in the Ruhr area join forces with institutions and individual artists. The open space in Bochum or the Academy for Theater and Digitality in Dortmund are exemplary institutions with which we would like to work in relation to connections between digital media and theatre. The groups are in constant contact with each other throughout the year. To do this, they use the possibilities of digital communication. The groups take inspiration from the camps and workshop weekends (see below) for their annual work. All annual work is presented at the summer camp and discussed in follow-up discussions with the other groups. It's not about a competition, but about getting to know the artistic approach of each group and about the exchange about the means used and the respective topic.