»The Vibration of Things« or »On Interconnectedness«
Elke aus dem Moore in conversation with Sarie Nijboer
Elke aus dem Moore is leaving Akademie Schloss Solitude after five years as its director. She talks about the social responsibility of cultural institutions, models of collaborative work and cultural participation, her hopes for Akademie Schloss Solitude after her departure and how the institution will continue to dedicate itself consistently to the impact of artistic thought, action and research on society.
Elke aus dem Moore in conversation with Prasanna Oommen — Mrz 7, 2023
Elke aus dem Moore: »Mein zentrales Anliegen ist es, Kunst und Gesellschaft stärker zusammenzubringen. Ich glaube zutiefst an das Potential von Kunst für eine gesellschaftliche Weiterentwicklung.« Foto: Kahrmann
Prasanna Oommen: When we initially met in 2019, you were in the early stages of your directorship at Akademie Schloss Solitude. I was very inspired by that first meeting and all your incredible plans for the Akademie. And now you are leaving the Akademie after five years in the post of director. How are you feeling about this decision?
Elke aus dem Moore: I am delighted that we have the opportunity to conduct this conversation and reflect on what the process of reorientation and opening up of the institution, which I initiated, has achieved. Where does the Akademie stand today? And how do I now hand over this institution?
Historically, institutions have been very much shaped by their respective leadership teams and the individuals who have opened themselves to this task. I would like to see institutions, and the people and structures of which they are formed, embrace the constant processes of change we face in the world as a form of potential. This requires a »translation« of institutional structures, be it in the field of diversity or cultural participation, as well as an openness for artistic thinking, action and research that can be more widely disseminated within society. One of the key changes in the orientation of cultural institutions is that they are increasingly aware of their social responsibility and develop forms of cultural participation for this purpose. At Akademie Schloss Solitude, we have developed a profound foundation through various processes and approaches.
Prasanna Oommen: You just mentioned that the institution is always very much shaped by its leadership. How did you start in the post? Where did you come from and what were your goals when you took up this appointment?
Elke aus dem Moore: Before joining Akademie Schloss Solitude as director, I headed the art division at the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (ifa) for a decade, where I helped to plan and curate international art exchange programmatically through exhibitions, symposia, online platforms such as Contemporary And and the International Biennial Association. These were extremely formative experiences both at home and abroad, which have had a great impact on my understanding of cultural policy and my self-perception within this field. During this period, my expertise as a »cultural translator« and curator in the area of international art exchange emerged.
Making international perspectives accessible in Germany and vice versa, i.e. transporting perspectives, discourses and contexts from local cultural life abroad, were extremely important experiences that I carried with me to Akademie Schloss Solitude, which welcomes fellows from all over the world – and their diverse perspectives.
I came to Stuttgart in 2003 to take over as director of Künstlerhaus Stuttgart, and before that I was curator of contemporary art at Shedhalle in Zurich from 1999 to 2002. I started to curate exhibitions that prioritized artistic thought, action and research as early as the mid-90s. Connecting local and international positions has been important to me since I embarked on my curatorial work decades ago. The central concern of my work is to build bridges, to understand different points of view and to make respective knowledge and different artistic approaches accessible.
Akademie Schloss Solitude's jury 2019 (from left to right): Marie-Hélène Gutberlet, Sepake Angiama, Robyn Schulkowsky, Neo Muyanga, Gabi Ngcobo, Michel Bauwens, Siafyatudina, Nikita Dhawan, Rasheeda Phillips, Maya Indira Ganesh, and Solitude director Elke aus dem Moore. Not in the picture: Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, C. Giovanni Galizia, Cristina Gómez Barrio & Wolfgang Mayer (Discoteca Flaming Star), Fotini Lazaridou-Hatzigoga, Anh-Linh Ngo, Alya Sebti, Nishant Shah, Stefanie Stegmann and Pinar Yoldas. Photo: Jessica Plautz
Prasanna Oommen: What expectations were present when you started in the post? You applied to Akademie Schloss Solitude with the concept of a transdisciplinary and thematically focused program in mind, which was subsequently implemented under the title »Mutations«. Could you elaborate on that?
Elke aus dem Moore: My central concern is to bring art and society closer together. I deeply believe in the potential of art for social development. New formats of collective learning play a central role in my reorientation of the Akademie. First and foremost, I must mention transdisciplinary work, a strong point of Akademie Schloss Solitude for which it is indeed predestined as far as the composition of its both artistically and academically active fellows is concerned.
My central concept, the thematically focused and transdisciplinary new program that I set up in a collaboration with KfW Stiftung, was rapidly implemented. In this program, work on the topic »Mutations« was pursued over a period of nine months. Seven artists and scientists from different disciplines and cultural backgrounds came together at Akademie Schloss Solitude. The focus was placed on mutual professional exchange: With each other, with other fellows and with experts. Part of the program involved the question of how to distribute the knowledge created, which led to various formats, including an exhibition, a magazine, a lecture series, and web residencies.
From a structural perspective, I found it important to facilitate collaborative working at all levels and to push for this more strongly. I also designed the selection process to be collaborative and diverse by creating a multi-perspective team and the formation of a core jury group with whose members I developed strategic as well as thematic-programmatical issues.
A central concept by Elke aus dem Moore, a thematically focused and transdisciplinary new program that she set up in collaboration with KfW Stiftung, was implemented during her time as director. In this program, work on the topic »Mutations« was pursued over a period of nine months. Seven artists and scientists from different disciplines and cultural backgrounds came together at Akademie Schloss Solitude.« (from left to right) Angela Anderson, Rose Field, Joana Quiroga, Sabina Hyoju Ahn, Daniela Leykam, Clara Jo, Maxwell Mutanda, Elke aus dem Moore, and Grayson Earle. Photo: Frank Kleinbach, Akademie Schloss Solitude 2020.
The project »War, bin, werde sein« by Ana María Gómez López and Grayson Earle, fellows from the transdisciplinary program »Mutations«, was presented during Sommerfest 2021. Photo: Frank Kleinbach
Prasanna Oommen: How important was the network you brought with you to the Akademie?
Elke aus dem Moore: One’s own network is invariably very formative and nurturing. Encounters like the ones you mentioned at the beginning are always energizing in some way. These encounters are not lost, but are usually pursued, continued, expanded and shaped in different constellations. At Akademie Schloss Solitude, my large international network played an essential role – in the reappointment of the jury, for instance. The broad local network is also of great importance as far as the integration of the individual fellows’ professional knowledge and artistic positions within the local cultural landscape is concerned.
Prasanna Oommen: What does that signify in concrete terms? As a new arrival to both a federal state and a state capital, which skills and knowledge did you need to acquire?
Elke aus dem Moore: As director of Künstlerhaus Stuttgart, my focus was very much on artistic-curatorial processes. This orientation has changed somewhat with my subsequent positions at the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations and Akademie Schloss Solitude. The cultural landscape in Stuttgart is highly evolved, especially in the sense of a lively interplay between the various institutions and the free, independent art and culture scene. A central aspect of my work at Akademie Schloss Solitude has been the cooperation with various partners, both independent venues such as Produktionszentrum Tanz + Performance, Kunstverein Wagenhalle e.V. and the initiative Chloroplast Stuttgart e.V., and with institutions including the State Theater, the Art Museum, the State Gallery, the State Academy of Fine Arts Stuttgart and various community-based urban initiatives. In this way, Akademie Schloss Solitude makes a significant contribution to ensuring international exchange in the city and the state as a whole.
Prasanna Oommen: What are the challenges of maintaining an international community and offering it a temporary home together with the cooperation partners?
Elke aus dem Moore: The act of hosting is extremely central to the work at Akademie Schloss Solitude, as it is for many other educational institutions. What does it mean to have international guests in a city like Stuttgart in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, and what responsibilities does this entail? In a certain sense, Akademie Schloss Solitude serves as a model for social coexistence. The fellows come with very different professional expertise, from diverse cultural backgrounds and with different approaches and definitions of time, work and commitment. This can lead to exciting dialogues but also misunderstandings, and invites us to discuss different models of time, as explored in the recently published Solitude Journal entitled »Time After Time«. The cooperation between fellows at the Akademie is not based on competition, which is really excellent. This also explains why residency programs are a model for the transcultural society in which we live. They show themselves to be extremely resilient in times of crisis.
Akademie Schloss Solitude has been organizing a »Namibia fellowship« since 2020 as part of the Namibia Initiative of the state of Baden-Württemberg. Theresia Bauer who was Minister for Science, Research and the Arts at the Ministry of Baden-Württemberg until September 2022 visited Akademie Schloss Solitude and fellows from the program. Photo: Akademie Schloss Solitude 2022.
The 2021 network meeting of the Arbeitskreis Deutscher Internationaler Residenzen (ADIR). Photo: Akademie Schloss Solitude
Prasanna Oommen: How did you address event formats at the Akademie? In your view, which event formats actually facilitated accessibility, but also included your idea of linking the international and the local?
Elke aus dem Moore: Overall, the event formats have changed somewhat. It is important to give fellows the opportunity present their own work to the public during their residencies. In this context, what we have changed are more content-based, thematic group constellations such as the new format »Horizons«. As a result, we open up new horizons and perspectives and help fellows make their artistic working processes visible. This can pose a challenge in a market-driven art system in which the focus is placed on finished artworks rather than the processes and movements that create them.
An astonishing number of festivals has been developed together with colleagues in the last five years. »Soft Power Palace« a festival curated by Paula Kohlmann that celebrated the importance of independent art scenes in Europe, put Solitude’s Eastern European network at the center and networked with others, was the first of these. »Membrane – African Literatures and Ideas« should also be mentioned here, which was a collaboration with Literaturhaus Stuttgart and the Institut Français and still resonates today.
We worked with Martina Grohmann from Theater Rampe and Christine Fischer from Musik der Jahrhunderte to organize »The Irritated City«. A decidedly transdisciplinary festival was conceived of and held in public space, making use of the civil society expertise running through urban society. Other partners included the city of Stuttgart with the »Tanzpakt« program, the independent dance and theater scene and the Produktionszentrum Tanz + Performance.
The Akademie hosted the digital festival »Magical Cohabitations« during the pandemic, as well as the meeting of the international and local network of Solitude’s digital program, entitled »Fragile Solidarity – Fragile Connections«.
Prasanna Oommen: Cue accessibility: The Akademie is not particularly well connected to urban society on the basis of its topographical location. How do you reconcile this with your desire to make the institution more open?
Elke aus dem Moore: It is true that Akademie Schloss Solitude is indeed quite detached from city life thanks to its geographical location. It can also be a challenge to provide a warm welcome to international guests in such a remote location, and yet we certainly manage to do this time and time again. The fellows’ well-being is a key consideration, as is how »safe« it is to move around the city of Stuttgart as an international guest. Again and again, we see incidents of discrimination and even racial profiling, when fellows move around public spaces or travel within Germany. These incidents are immediately recognized for what they are, addressed, documented and entered into the state statistics. This is very important both to me and to the entire institution.
Prasanna Oommen: Now we’ve arrived in the realm of the structural. In many places, cultural institutions are faced with the major task of creating non-discriminatory structures and spaces in all areas of the institution. How can this be actively implemented?
Elke aus dem Moore: It is important to approach this topic in a very conscious, deliberate manner in order to examine one’s own mechanisms. We started offering our co-workers training courses critical of discrimination, which are funded by the Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts Baden-Wuerttemberg, in the first year of my tenure. These transformation processes, which are, after all, the work of the individual, require time, patience and a willingness to engage. Today, I believe that we are at a point where a certain self-image has been built within the institution. A Code of Conduct was drawn up with all employees that is binding for everyone: co-workers, fellows, visitors and partners alike.
»The paradigm shift we are currently witnessing is informed predominantly by the artists’ need to localize themselves as a social subject, as part of society, and to have an impact on society.« Elke aus dem Moore. Photo: A workshop by Eric Macedo and Camilla de Caux, during Sommerfest 2021. Photo Frank Kleinbach.
LET’S WRITE A CURSE (LASST UNS EINEN FLUCH SCHREIBEN) Ulla Heinrich, Andara Shastika in concersation with Elke aus dem Moore and akiko soyja. Digital Solitude Festival »Fragile Solidarity/Fragile Connections«, Kunstverein Wagenhalle, 2022. Photo: Florian Model
Prasanna Oommen: When we talk about the responsibility of cultural institutions, how can we inspire the individual institutions to work on the issue of transformation, particularly as far as issues such as resource distribution, affiliations, etc. are concerned?
Elke aus dem Moore: The paradigm shift we are currently witnessing is informed predominantly by the artists’ need to localize themselves as a social subject, as part of society, and to have an impact on society. This includes not only the radical recognition of artistic work, but also the need to incorporate artistic thinking within political decision-making processes. I believe that this contains enormous potential for social development. Art has always thought ahead, beyond what appears attainable at first glance. That is an immense strength.
Prasanna Oommen: This is a groundbreaking demand. I would like to take a closer look at the topic of finances, especially with regard to third-party funding. During your time at the Akademie, you raised a great deal of third-party funding, which is exemplary, as it is likely to become increasingly important in view of the future budget situation. How important was this particular topic to you?
Elke aus dem Moore: A publicly funded institution should, if possible, be built on several funding pillars. As a result, it was important for me to acquire other public funding from the city, the federal government and the EU, as well as from other foundations, in addition to the central funding from the State of Baden-Wuerttemberg from the very beginning. A third pillar is private funding from individuals.
This is essential, because at the beginning of the war of aggression on Ukraine, we were able to help refugee artists from Ukraine at very short notice with little bureaucratic effort. Another key aspect is cooperation. Cooperations enable the interplay of different networks and are thus highly advantageous, besides facilitating mutually supportive collaboration. KfW Stiftung was an ideal partner for the realignment and the associated theme-focused program »Mutations« from the very beginning.
Prasanna Oommen: Finally, I’m curious about any developments you would like to see at the Akademie in future, and whether you can tell us a little about any future plans you might have.
Elke aus dem Moore: Akademie Schloss Solitude is a truly wonderful, effervescent place, sustained by the great commitment of its team and the diverse perspectives of its fellows and partners. Basic prerequisites for processes of opening up and the boosting of accessibility at the Akademie have been created in recent years, which can be expanded even further.
It is essential that artistic research and the artistic productions and processes that arise at Akademie Schloss Solitude are made accessible. With the »Weiterkommen« program run by the Zentrum für Kulturelle Teilhabe Baden-Württemberg (ZfKT – Center for Cultural Participation Baden-Wuerttemberg), we have not only worked on change in a project-oriented way, but have, together with the team, fellows and municipal representatives from Stuttgart, created a new mission statement for cultural participation. This also brings us back to the issue of codification, and the attempt not only to formulate transformations, but also to look at how they are implemented in terms of resources. This is a central aspect for an institution that holds the potential for social change – to talk about its resource allocation and to deal with it responsibly.
Prasanna Oommen: What are your post-tenure plans?
Elke aus dem Moore: I have now been working in institutions for 25 years and my expertise is intimately connected with further development in both the programmatic and structural areas. What are the central questions: What is needed in this time of transformation that we are all currently experiencing? After all, not just a social change is taking place, but one on a far larger scale. How can the effects of the Anthropocene be mitigated in order to ensure the continuation of life on this planet? What does it take to make change possible?
I will continue to devote myself to those questions in future, working on new methods of implementation in order to actively transmit the impact of artistic thinking, action and research into society. I look forward to doing that.
© 2023 Akademie Schloss Solitude and the author
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