Elfie Tromp: `What’s the relation between fish and water?`
- Series: INTERVIEWS
Elfie Tromp is not only an author for 2010LAB.tv but also a playwriter, novelist, copywriter, performer and editor of videoclips. She lives and works in Rotterdam (e.g. in the Creative Factory) and just started her own copywriting company.
She’s an avid supporter of the idea of the Creative.Quarters and so it didn’t take us too much hesitation to interview her about the structural changes in her hometown Rotterdam, parallels to the Ruhr Metropolis, public funding and (of course) creativity. Sit back and enjoy what Elfie Tromp has to say...
Name: Elfie Tromp
Current occupation: playwright/ novelist/ copywriter/ performer
Three crucial turning points in your professional life:
*touring with a street theatre group through Europe
*setting up my own copywriting company
*publishing my first book
The three most important regions in the structural process of transformation in Rotterdam are:
What kind of potential does culture bear during the process of a structural change in your city or region?
Culture has the ability to combine learning and fun and hence making it a lesson that ‘sticks’. Culture is the way to inform an audience and keep them involved with the changes in their surroundings. Besides that, it has a strong reflective nature, so it can question and/or give insights in new developments.
Have public or private investments in culture (institutions or projects) ever been part of a process of structural change?
I believe every institutions and project marks and progresses the structural changes of a city. I’d say all the statues bij Sculpture International and the CBK (Central Bureau of Art) have given a face to the city and hence influenced how the city is perceived by its inhabitants and visitors alike.
*The Creative Factory Rotterdam: a breeding ground for young creatives, situated in a historical grainery that lies in the periphery of the city. This has boosted the surrounding area of the Creative Factory Rotterdam.
*The Beat Burger: instead of squatting an empty store on an A-location, the Beat Burger crew suggested to the city to let them flip burgers and put art on the menu too. Amidst a gallery and performances, you can enjoy a great burger: an artistic breeding ground and hang out was born in the city centre!
Do you see any parallels between the development in your region and the one in the Ruhr area?
Rotterdam has come a long way: being bombed in the second world war and getting it’s main income from the harbours, it has always been considered a city of workers. Slowly but surely, art and culture are finding its way among the industrial buildings and no-nonsense attitudes.
How does political leadership matter in the process of structural transformation?
It matters everything. I’m still amazed at the amount of money and time the local politicians are willing to put into a good idea. Transporting the good ideas to the higher regions of power is still a struggle however.
Many factors – private or public cultural institutions, private commitments, subculture, off-scenes, the cultural and creative industry – contribute to a change: what is the key impulse generator leading to success in your changing city /region?
Political policy and individual instigation. These two factors are in a constant lovemaking embrace, where the one influences the other and the other way around.
According to your experience, when has a region / city successfully realised a change by means of cultural impulses? Please state at least two criteria or examples for that.
*when a place becomes a desirable place to live and work
*when cultural tourism has generated a constant, year-round income.
Under which conditions is creativity possible?
Creativity is dependent of the same factors that all things alive are dependent of: time, money and space.
Which factors prevent people from being creative?
Too little time, money and/or space.
To which extent can you plan or even control creativity?
Creativity is like quicksilver; it’s hard to shape or keep in check. I believe you can only make the conditions favourable for creativity to ‘grow’ and let time do the rest.
Rotterdam has recently started an employment agency for artists living in the city. Aim is to ‘connect’ them with bigger, commercial partners. The first results still have to come out of this, but it’s an interesting development in trying to control/streamline creativity.
How much freedom is acceptable for creativity?
I believe the capitalistic reality should always be kept in check with art. It seems that assigned work/ applied work and free work are a favourable mix for artists to work at and it will help an artist avoid getting seized up in an entirely artistic world.
How does creativity influence your daily work?
I need to implement creativity in my work. It’s the fun-factor that gets and keeps me going. Without creativity, I wouldn’t want to work.
Which role will creativity play in the developing knowledge society?
Art and knowledge have always been upperclass activities to indulge in. Hopefully art can bring knowledge to a broader audience, without watering itself or the knowledge down.
Does grouping of creative people (in artist communities, creative quarters, or others) increase creativity?
Not necessarily increase, but it makes the artists more self-sufficient/independent. Lending each other a hand, learning from your neighbours’ mistakes, brainstorming about future plans are all ways for finetuning and streamlining the work that’s waiting to be done.
What is the relation between creativity and art?
What’s the relation between fish and water?
Who is your role model regarding creativity?
I have a big love for megalomanic artists like Christo.
Besides that, I love artists that are able to work in different (creative) fields.
Is it possible to plan creative quarters? Which conditions are important for the development of creative quarters?
Planning creativity has the same risk of sowing a crop: sometimes plants simply won’t grow, but conditions can be made favourable. Succesful breeding grounds have the following charateristics in common:
*open character towards audience/public
*favourable rent and good working spaces for the entrepeurs residing in the quarters.
*a good coherence between the different entrepeneurs.
How much public funding is acceptable for a creative location?
This is completely dependent on the size of the location, the amount of development costs, the expected economic/cultural impulses the location is expected to generate and for how long the location is expected to serve this certain purpose.
Bearing the funding in mind, how important are beacon projects such as investments in architecture or high-profile events?
For the ‘big players’ in the commercial and artistic fields that have already established themselves, these beacon projects and events are essential to maintain their top position. For the young and starting talents, they are of little use, although they give the city an alluring image in the media and perhaps help create a creative ‘buzz’ that will rub off on the younger generation of artists and entrepeneurs.
To which extent – in a negative or positive way – do local players matter?
In working towards sustainable creative energy, local players are crucial. They are the ones that live in the same place that they work at and will bring that creative energy alive and not only durking working hours. Besides that, they will be a positive influence on their certain neighbourhood. It’s because of that age-old wisdom: you don’t shit in your own backyard. Hence, only improvement is expected by local players.
When is a creative quarter successful?
I’m not quite sure how to measure success; there are many facets to be looked at. I think an even balance between local/neighbourhood improvement, development within specific cultural sectors and economic/commercial success, could be considered a success. So far, I haven’t encountered a creative breeding ground that had these three aims on an even level.
How can a creative quarter stay successful – without becoming a victim of gentrification or its own success? Do you know any examples of such quarters?
Perfecting and reaching the aims a certain quarters has set out and then setting out new ones. It’s essential to keep developing and not fall prey to a comfortable position of rigidness. Besides that, I believe there should be a space for a guided development lab for young, ambitious talents that want to learn the ropes of entrepeneurship, working side by side with a more professional quarter.
I’m quite fond of the Witte de With museum. It has embraced the role of inspiring and teaching, without giving in to ‘easy’ or more low-brow art forms. For example, they give intensive one-year training courses for artists that want to learn about ‘the other side’ of the museum; becoming a curator. They are well known for their diverse and hybrid manifestations and are very keen about keeping their audiences well informed and challenged by their shows. They set out for a new subject to be explored by art each season and are mainly characterised by their thoroughness in doing it.
Photos: Roel Roscam van Abbing & 2010LAB.tv
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