The authors are an interdisciplinary female collective with a strong interest in blurring the boundaries between different artistic fields. In 2017, dancer and choreographer Soňa Ferienčíková /SK/, digital visual artist Mária Júdová /SK/ and sound artist and architect Alexandra Timpau /ROU/ joined forces and since then have continued their vision to explore the potential of performance and redefine the field of contemporary dance. We bring you an interview about their artistic residency during 3rd throug 12th March 2023 in Záhrada - Center of Independent Culture.
Q: What would you say about your artistic creation from the early times up to now? How would you divide it in some periods of time, taking motherhood/pregnancy into consideration etc.?
Mária: When all three of us met we started working on the “EVERYWHEN” performance. In that piece, we were already concerned about “how do we transmit the ideas through generations?” and we were trying to use very personal stories and and discuss private family life as a space where ideology is transmitted from generation to generation. I think when we dive into family situations ourselves, going from being single freelancers to becoming mothers/expecting, we question how to make a better future, not only for ourselves but also for our kids and future generations. That’s also what the upcoming piece should be dealing with. It’s mostly about this personal line that has been there since the beginning up until now.
Soňa: I totally agree with what Mária said. On a personal note, I would add that with our first piece we did together, “EVERYWHEN”, I was already very much trying to start a family. It wasn’t easy but it was already very present in that creation process. From my own experience, motherhood and familyhood taught me a lot, especially because now there is a big contrast between how I used to function as a freelancer and someone who loves planning even a year ahead of time. It threw me into being in the present moment constantly and not being able to plan anything. I can also say that these two ladies were very supportive throughout my process of expecting a child and also trying to figure out how we can still work together with the addition of a small baby. Now I feel like I am on a good path of understanding how it works and it makes me happy, even though I am still in the process of learning how to accept how the process is changing. Even recently we had this open rehearsal and my kid was there. It was not all going as I imagined, but the environment the three of us have created for ourselves is very warm and loving. I am now also learning how to deal with this situation and make profit out of it, because it surely is enriching me personally, my creation, my artistic views and I think it translates further to the team. I am also okay with the fact that it’s not fully there yet and that it is still in the process of settling up and finding the balance between work and family.
Alex: I am not a parent, except for being a parent to my cat, but I think it’s really nice to experience it through the girls, being in this trio. I also think that if it’s happening - let’s see what we can do with it! It’s a normal part of life. Let’s see what it brings. Everything is an opportunity and this is obviously also one. I am not planning one year ahead, I’ve never done this before working in this business, so planning for me was always very short term, so I am very happy to adapt to changes and things like this.
Mária: For me, what is interesting is the fact that Soňa is a mother, I am expecting and Alex, even though she’s not planning to start a family, is the one that is really helping us embrace this improvisational attitude that we need to adapt to. Both me and Soňa are very much into organizing, planning and having everything under control. I think that Alex is the one who is bringing the ease into the process.
Alex: It’s the cat energy!
Q: The next question is a little broader - how do you perceive art as a whole?
Soňa: Art and culture is everything. It is part of my everyday life and I wish it would be a part of everyone’s everyday life. I mean - it already is, but that it would be more conscious. I wish that people had more appreciation towards art, more patience and curiosity to discover all the culture and art which is around them. I don’t mean going to museums and concerts etc. - I mean the culture of talking , culture of eating… How people can do that is via education. Education is the key stone in the process of us as a society being more receptive and appreciative of arts and culture. This would be a very broad vision of mine and of what I believe in. If I go more specifically into art which I am a part of creating and which I love to be a spectator of - the key stone for that is communication between the artist and the recipient. What I value the most is how to create an active dialogue - how I, as a spectator, can be involved in this dialogue, how it touches me, how it affects me, how it forms me, how it makes me think differently. It’s the same thing as what I am trying to give. It’s really not something that is closed, it’s actually the most open. The most valuable thing for me as a performer is the connection between me and all the people that are there. That’s what I love about it.
Mária: I would just follow up that I think even this everyday aspect of “how can we stay open-minded, accept the others and try to have a dialogue that is respectful” - that is something which I feel there is a close connection between what we are trying to do in art and how we can kind of bring it into our everyday lives. When I have my close family around, especially my boyfriend’s that is not really in touch with art, what I really appreciate is that they are not really trying to understand everything rationally and they are being open and willing to have a conversation. That’s something that I really like and I value more and more.
Alex: One thing is “digesting” art, and the other one is making it. I think that the bridge between both of these is that I crave digesting and exposing myself to art. I feel welcome there and I am not intimidated by it and I go in 100% to anything I can experience. On the creator's side - I want to create that feeling. I want people to feel like they can dive in, understand it, question it, be angry about it and also be happy about it. I think that’s the most important part of whatever kind of art. Whether you like it or not, you need to not be intimidated by it. I think that a lot of people are and there’s a journey to make sure that everybody feels like they can say what they feel.
Mária: And I think that this is a really big question for us creating the latest piece of our trilogy - how to create the least amount of obstacles for the audience and how to make it accessible for people? That’s what we’re discussing currently.
Q: Your residency in Záhrada was about creating a piece called IHOPEIWILL. However, you already worked together on two pieces - Everywhen and INBETWEEN. How did you actually meet and what made you work together again in creating this trilogy?
Alex: Soňa and Mária actually lived together. That’s what I know because we were asked this question before. They lived together at some point in Prague. They got along very well and they were sharing food and everything. Then they decided they are going to work together. After having collaborated on two projects, they decided they wanted somebody to do sound with them for the first piece “Everywhen”. Through friends of some friends, Mária reached out to me, we met and it was all followed by months of dinners and chats. That’s how the first piece came about.
Mária: The important thing is that me and Soňa collaborated together in very specific roles. I would work on a virtual reality piece and I would ask Soňa to collaborate and make a dance piece for it. Or the other way around - Soňa was working on a dance movie and she asked me to do the camerawork for her. Later on, we were trying to see whether we can work on a more collaborative base, on a somewhat less defined hierarchy. I think when Alex came in for “Everywhen”, that was the turning point. Initially, we were looking for someone doing the sound, but then she came in and we started to open up. All three of us started discussing the conceptual side of the work, how we can build the scenography on the site and we worked with her architectural background. It was also what made us continue working together - this kind of equality in the dialogue and open ground which all three of us share.
Alex: That’s right, even though we are all credited with our respective roles, we really work with each other. It’s very much a ping - pong, it’s all constantly discussed and it’s not like “I do this thing and that’s it”. It doesn’t work like this. We enjoy this kind of dialogue.
Soňa: It somehow clicked with Alex. Although we are all very different in character and we all have different vibes, our perception of art, society and all these fundamental things are on the same level. There is total understanding between us. Of course, there are some interesting debates where maybe one can take another stand than the other one, but overall, we are in harmony. This diversity of all of us, that we all can be scenographers, dancers, musicians, choreographers, producers - we try to really equalize the roles. And at the same time, I can say that all three of us are responsible. There is not only one person taking the weight of it all. There’s a certain chemistry that works. That’s the thing which keeps us working further. Recently, we’ve also taken a big step in founding a company together. You’ll hear about us even in 20 years!
Q: You’ve already touched on the subject of my next question, but if you’d like to add something more. How did motherhood/pregnancy affect your creative process?
Soňa: It’s quite a big shift in every family life and everyone’s personal life. It’s all natural that you can’t divide it, it’s just there and it’s affecting life constantly. When the three of us met, all of us were in completely different life situations (base, partners, etc). These all are the aspects which are forming our personal but also artistic lifes. I know that it’s a huge change to become a parent. First months or years are very difficult, and society is like “you had one life, now that life has ended and it's a totally different life”, but I don't feel it's like that. It’s also about how you take it in. I am still creating, I am still working and my partner is doing the same. There has to be a claim that I am a very lucky person, because I have a supportive environment and I have enough resources to be able to do this, so in a way it’s a luxury. I am not a different person, though. I’m the same person and all the things from my education, from an early age in my family are still forming me and my artistic journey…
Mária: The question I have in my mind is “how can you balance it and how can the personal life and work life work together naturally and enrich each other?” This enriching part is very important for me and I hope that I can build up on that and find that out.
Q: The last question may be a little more personal for Soňa - how would you describe the relationship between art and politics?
Soňa: As I already answered to the previous question - one of the key elements of art and culture stands in education. Who is in charge of how education will be built? It’s the politicians, the ministers, the Ministry of education etc. which is giving all the rules, regulations and overall directions to the educational system. There were maybe times when I was a bit naïve and when I thought “okay, when there’s a great teacher, he can change the world!”. He can in a way - I know many examples of teachers who created whole societies of amazing people. Amazing not just on the professional level but on the human level. But still, in the reality of one's everyday life, if the system you work in is not created and adjusted properly it's very hard to change something. I see, how this fighting against the system is devastating them. They won’t last long because we all have a certain amount of energy that’s not infinite.
And about the connection on a totally personal and funny level: when my partner is preparing for the debates, we can talk about body language, about facial expressions, about the tone of his voice, overall performance and its dramaturgy, even the choreography of the evening. For me, art and politics are deeply connected. I am very interested in politics, he’s quite busy yet still interested in arts, so I think it’s a beautiful connection that is not pointed out much. For me, if you want to be an artist, you have to follow the politics and if you are a politician, you depend on the culture of your country and your people.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add about your residency in Záhrada?
Alex: Well, we really enjoyed it! This place feels very welcoming. As soon as you enter you feel like you belong there, no matter where you’re from. It feels inclusive on all levels - financial, gender, whatever - and I think that’s very important. The lobby is already telling you you’re welcome. For me that’s what the space seemed to say. I hope to see it in the summer one day to enjoy the garden in the morning!
Mária: We are still in the beginning of the creation, we had all these ideas which we would like to transmit in the piece, all the concepts. Coming together physically and creating in Záhrada was very nice, to see the “clicking” of the core values. It was all coming to the surface, which was nice.
Soňa: We are looking forward to coming to Záhrada next January and then bringing this piece to you in spring/early summer 2024, guys!
Rezidenčný program Záhrady v roku 2023 podporil Fond na podporu umenia.