Clear the ring for street art - urbanatix style
Artists whirl through Bochum's Jahrhunderthalle again. An interview with director Christian Eggert.
From 11th to 20th November 2011
What sets "Spinning Around" apart from previous shows?
After the last production, we were looking for a topic to serve as orientation point. What sets it apart is there are numerous moves where the artists turn around their own axis. In addition, "Spinning Around" is a synonym for us to look in all directions and to stay open to new developments. To "spin around" (and be bonkers; translator's note).
A new central element is the ring.
We play in a former gas-fired power station which also represents the entire steel industry. As an itroduction, ot was our idea to make steel dance. In form of a ring that is spinning on a metal plate. The entire thing is a metaphor that humans try to dominate their resources. Due to structural changes in the region, it is becoming more and more important to reorientate. To turn around your own axis and to develop new opportunities to make a living or to feel good in the region.
Does this make urbanatix "typical for the Ruhr area" or can it be exported randomly?
The Ruhr area is sowing the seed. It can be noticed when taking a look at the mix of street artists who have their roots in many different countries. Moreover, it went past the borders of the region and even past the borders of Germany and it is recognised in many different countries. Our videos and our Facebook page receive comments from Russia and Asia all the way to Canada. We even received applications for the show from Australian artists. We were the first project worldwide that took street art onto the stages and as far as I know we are still unique.
Which impressions did you get from your performances abroad?
We are very spoiled. With Extraschicht in Gelsenkirchen, we had shows twice a day and played in front of up to 6,000 people. Abroad, it was totally different. In Vienna and Zurich, only a few hundred people showed up because hardly anyone knows us there. The audience was thrilled but it was a pain for us to make people come to the shows. It's not enough to put up a few posters and to be present on the Internet. To be able to tour we have to have strong sponsorships.
There is also the situation that our kids go to school, attend university or have their jobs. We could go on tour for one or two weeks during the vacation period but that time isn't the best either because many people go on holiday then. At the moment, the best day out of the week is Saturday. Yet it takes a huge effort when you take stage setting, projection technology etc. into consideration. We are happy to play here and it's best if people come to this place. Ticket reservations show that the radius is getting bigger.
Let's talk about "sponsors": In the beginning, urbanatix was a project supported by the city of Bochum. Are they still prividing support?
There is no financial support. Partners of the city such as the local savings bank and the public utility company are on board. Yet there are no public funds supporting the project. We have to finance everything through the shows. Our office employees, the rent for the church, requisites and transport. We also rented the Jahrhunderthalle at its normal rate. More than 60 per cent of the revenue goes to venue and technical rentals.
We talked about shows outside the Ruhr area. What's up with the video on the Internet that shows your artists on the autobahn in the middle of the night?
There was a full road block when we were on our way to Leipzig to attend the ver.di Federal Conference. Our boys and girls can hardly sit still anyway. So they got out of the vehicle and started performing. Trucks turned on their headlights, the SiMiRi trio took out their instruments and played a session and everyone was dancing.
The roots are in the streets.
It's a real zest for life. No matter where we have to wait, the group starts dancing, battling and beat-boxing.
Adolescents are not always easy to guide. How do you find the balance between incentive and moderation?
They regulate themselves perfectly. They can only learn their choreographies if the people are present that you need for the choreographies. I.e. they get extremely pissed off if they arrive at the church from Monheim, Mönchengladbach or Gelsenkirchen to practice and two people are missing. Then, they call each other and act more intensely than we could or would do. Group dynamics and the social play an important role. We give them a lot of freedom when it comes to creating their choreographies. The majority of their own ideas shall remain. I don't want to make it smooth - I simply want to give it some structure, a beginning and and end.
Apart from the upcoming shows, what about the feasibility study for the artist school?
We haven't commissioned it yet. We have intensified our own research but there is no official study yet. This is due to the fact that we can only start after subsidies have been granted. We show what potential urbanatix has for the region and we sell 14,000 tickets à 29 euros for a show that has only been around for one year. This speaks for the quality of the product. I would like to show the decision-makers that with the installation of an artist school, they don't create a pedagogue work that will get them three crosses in heaven one day but that we are on our way to become a creative economic power by educating young people and thus being able to integrate the shows on an international level.
Who are you catering to when it comes to financial aid?
We are talking to the Arnsberg Disctrict Council, the state of Northrhine-Westphalia, the Federation and several foundations. All these people and institutions know about our cause. There will be a NRW-table to sort out who can provide what. Everyone loves it. The city of Bochum, the mayor, the head of the cultural department, the district president. But no one says: Here, take the money. Go! Instead, they are waiting for someone else to pay for it. It's nothing that would be interesting for us as the DACAPO agency from a monetary point of view - it primarily follows the intention to further develop urbanatix. For an agency, it only becomes interesting to use the new artists' potential three or four years after the school's opening.
Teaser photo: Stefan Daub