Review of the Galway Lab
The ‘Make a Move’ project got off to a great start in Galway, where Galway Theatre Festival hosted the first Pilot Art Incubator of the project from Thursday April 25th – Saturday May 4th. We welcomed Anne Corté (France), Dmitri Rekatchevski (Russia / France), Rodrigo Pardo (Argentina / France), Deise Nunes (Brazil / Norway), Sébastien Loesener (France), Nicole Pschetz (Brazil / France), Yucef Zraiby (Lebanon / Barcelona), and Eva Maria Hofer (Austria) to Galway city, along with representatives of the partner organisations IAB and UAT, Loránd János and Lia Contiu. It was exciting to meet the artists who had been selected in person and to begin to realise the project’s ambition to bring independent theatre artists from Europe together to exchange practices and create together!
The first two days of the lab focused on the core residency group (including James Riordan (Ireland)), allowing them time to learn about each other’s work and share elements of their practice through ‘contact-making sessions’ – short practical sessions where they led a warm-up / creative activity they use in their own practice. We spent these mornings and early afternoons in the welcoming environment of the St. Patrick’s Band Hall, with its warm, wood-floored hall and walls covered with pictures telling the history of the St. Patrick’s Band. We learned about Rodrigo’s roof-top performances, Dmitri’s dance with his shadow, James’ mask work, and much more. The artists shared practices ranging from imagining the most impossible show you could ever create, to yogic meditation, to counting as a group up to 40 (not as easy as it sounds!). Eva asked the group the question – ‘why do we need other people?’ – and recorded everyone’s answers in their own language(s) … that recording would later made its way into a beautiful short performance on Inis Oirr.
In the afternoon of Day 1 & 2 we transferred to bright, open meeting room of Galway 2020. On Day 1 the artists were officially welcomed to Galway by Marilyn Gaughan of Galway 2020, and by Fiona Neary and Fintan Sweeney of the GTF Board. Then the focus turned to digital media, and under the guidance of Loretta, Aghna and Ali of LORG Media, the artists got to grips with ‘mobile journalism’, shooting and editing short videos on their smartphones. The Mayor of Galway, Neil McNeilis, made a surprise visit to the workshop, adding his welcome to all the group. On Day 2 the group heard from Darragh Doyle on the why, how, when and what of blogging. ‘So that Google can find you’ was the short answer to ‘why’, and by the end of the session the idea of blogging felt more practical and less overwhelming than it had before. The artists went on to create blogs and videos for the ‘Make a Move’ website, which you can check out now!
On Day 2 disaster struck, as our plans to travel out to the island of Inis Oirr that evening were upset by the arrival of Storm Hannah, with winds in excess of 130kph … but with some help from Galway 2020, and some fast phoning around to hotels in the city, we managed to feed everyone and find everyone a bed for the night! On the morning of Day 3 we proceeded out to the island on a sea that was still choppy after the previous night’s high winds – the bumpy ferry-ride was a stark reminder of the reality of life on an island on the Western periphery of Europe.
On Inis Oirr we were joined by the national and local artists – Anja Kersten, Eileen McClory, Sorcha Ní Chróinín, Cathal McGuire, Liza Cox, Gráinne O’Carroll, Conor Geoghegan, John Rogers, Sandra Gonzalés Bandera, and Orlaith Ní Chearra. We were also joined by our digital technology experts – Brian Kenny, Tom O’Dea, Niall Campion, Karl Caulfield and Esteban Moreno – as well as Maria Gill (artist, Portugal), Ivana Peranic (Artistic Director of ‘Make a Move’), and Traian Penciuc (UAT).
Over the next days the artists and experts worked together in Áras Éanna, the arts centre on Inis Oirr, to explore new digital technologies including 360 filming, infrared sensors, live camera, pre-recorded video and video mapping. In groups and individually the artists experimented with the technologies, bringing their own performance practices and artistic questions to bear. The landscape and remoteness of Inis Oirr wound itself into the work, with artists drawing inspiration from the silence of the sunken graveyard, the bleak magic of the abandoned ship The Plassey, and the endless tapestry of stone walls that pattern the island.
Half-way through the week the artists reflected on the challenges and potentials related to collaboration and co-creation, describing what worked and what didn’t work in the group processes they had worked in so far. One creative challenge that emerged was the fact that everyone was a creative ‘leader’, making group work sometimes difficult and fraught. The group discussed this and looked at ways of working around this, including sharing the leadership role between the different participants. Understanding each others’ processes, and giving time to different peoples’ ways of working, also formed part of the discussion. These reflections were documented by the project’s researchers, Lia Contiu and Traian Penciuc and will provide key learnings from the project.
A final flurry of individual and group work in the last days of the lab resulted in the creation of 12 short ‘experiments’, including a one-on-one experience using Virtual Reality and a real knife, an intimate audio experience in a bed, a collective experience that invited the whole group to get up and dance, a meditative performance that used sound to weave a narrative between people in a room and people outside in the landscape, and a surreal and exhilarating ‘non-technological’ group performance on the road outside Áras Éanna.
IRELAND AND ME – Galway Lab Day 5 & 6
By Anne Corté and Dmitri Rekatchevski
On the evening of Day 8 we bid farewell to Inis Oirr and returned to Galway City. This time the sun shone, and ferry-ride back was smooth and clear. On Day 9 & 10 we were joined by the project’s external evaluators, Darko Lukic and Cristina da Milano, who participated in the final talks and discussions of the Pilot Art Incubator. A small invited audience joined us on Day 9, and we show-cased some of the VR and ‘non-technological’ performance created out on Inis Oirr. Then artist Paula Kehoe discussed her own practice with 360 and VR technologies, reflecting on what these technologies have to offer, and suggesting that, even if artists don’t continue to work with these technologies they can open up new ways of thinking and new forms of practice.
The evening of Day 9 finished with the opening of the Galway Theatre Festival 2019, where our international and national guests got to experience the vibrancy of the local theatre scene, and enjoy the exhilarating drumming of the Carnival-esque Macnas Drummers. Day 10 saw an informative discussion around Creative Europe funding, in particular the new pilot artist mobility project i-Portunus, led by Katie Lowry of the Creative Europe desk at the Arts Council of Ireland. As the Pilot Art Incubator wound to a close the national and local artists bid farewell to the group. After a final evaluation the core residency group and our international partners and evaluators had one final night in Galway before bidding farewell to Ireland. We were sorry to say goodbye to such a wonderful group of people – but we hope that they will be back to Galway and to Ireland very soon!
Read all the details about the Galway Lab HERE.
Check out the short video about Galway Lab …