Learning is always unlearning

PARASOL Gespräche II


PARASOL Gespräche II

In the format, PARASOL Talks, the persons involved in the artistic training project PARASOL – a dance group of Tanzquartier Wien – meet with Luca Büchler and provide insights into the creative process of two pieces that are being developed over the course of a year. Currently, rehearsals for the project SCHOOL are taking place under the artistic direction of Krõõt Juurak. Luca Büchler sat down with them to chat about what they love about their new job, what there is to expect from the performance, the feeling of always being in the wrong and how that can give you a certain freedom.

Luca Büchler: Each week, you have a new topic for the project. One week it was ‘Getting away with it’. How did you come up with that?

Krõõt Juurak: ‘Getting away with it’ is always on my mind. Like, am I going to get away with this interview? I don’t know. I hope so. At some point, I understood that my whole career was about getting away with things. In the beginning, it was about making it. Like many artists struggling with the impostor syndrome, I thought I had to prove myself somehow. But twenty-something years later, I still don’t feel like I have the proof, nor am I ever sure if I will get away with it, but I have somehow learnt to enjoy the thrill of it. It is like a game I play with myself. The thrill of finding out what else I could get away with. Maybe it has something to do with my East-European background – no way to know. But for example, this year, I have an annual ticket for public transport in Vienna, but still, I’m always ready to get caught by the controllers. So, no matter how many tickets I buy, I still feel like I’m in the wrong. But that also gives me freedom because if I’m always in the wrong – wrong and right no longer apply!

LB: How does ‘Getting away with it’ articulate in a performance? Is it pretending?

KJ: No, I would not say pretending. There are multiple aspects. One is how good of a time we can have and still make work. Or with how little suffering we can get away with. And that includes this question of productivity pressure, where you force yourself to do something just in order to feel productive, aka protestant work ethic. It’s this general question of how to transform what work should or could be. Of course, we can have a great time while we work, but often we seem to block that out as if it is not real work then, not real value. It seems almost as if you benefit from it; then we call it leisure, not work. And that is so not true. Work can feel like play; there is nothing wrong with that! Or is there? (laughs) It’s that which I find a great victory to get away with, not to work out of obligation but rather from some kind of desire.

LB: The piece is called SCHOOL. What was your experience in school, or why did it come up as a topic? Is it somehow connected to your past?

KJ: School is not really the topic but an excuse for this project. I hated school and am still looking for answers.  But sometime in the middle of this project, I also started to remember what I liked about school. What got me through the hard times were the breaks, the moments before and after the classes started, and the togetherness. The times we were there doing whatever. So, this is also what I have mainly focused on in this SCHOOL, not so much the ‘production’ but everything that happens in between, before and after.

LB: How is it for you to be in this position as a teacher?

KJ: By the way, I am officially not the teacher but the choreographer. Being called a choreographer is already quite uncomfortable for me, but I seem to fight discomfort by making things even more uncomfortable. Like claiming to be a teacher in a project called SCHOOL… I definitely cannot take myself too seriously there.

LB: That’s a very interesting strategy!

KJ: After about ten years of art practice, I realised that I did not enjoy many of the processes associated with being an artist, and I found out I did not need to pretend that I liked it either. And now, with this project, before I started, I was not sure at all if I would enjoy working with people or doing this job. But I have come around and found out that I do like working with people. I had this hoodie with ‘I love my job’ on it and was always wearing it as an ironic statement, but now with PARASOL, it’s not ironic anymore. I actually love my job. (laughs)

LB: So, you came up with this idea of school, but how did the tango become part of the process?

KJ: I just enjoyed dancing tango so much. So quite selfishly, I started thinking about how to implement it into this project, so I could continue engaging with it and share my fascination with my colleagues. And then I realised that, hey, tango is dance, and PARASOL is a dance group, and we want to learn something new, so why not? Now it seems very clear and simple, but it took me some time to dare to go for it. In fact, it was only the week before the start of the rehearsals in January when I finally asked Maurizio and Martin (ed., the tango teachers) to come to teach us.

LB: And what did you learn?

KJ: Amazingly! Martin and Maurizio are absolute gems of teachers, teachers I wish I always had both in primary, middle, high school (and dance school). And we have learnt not only tango but also about being awesome human beings in general. M&M’s tango classes have informed this project more profoundly than I had expected – for example, the multiple layers of performing. The first performance is for oneself. The second layer is for one’s dance partner. And then comes the audience – that’s the third level. This could also somehow be the focus of this entire project. Starting always with ourselves, then each other, all this while trusting that this gives something to the audience as well.

LB: It’s not about showing off.

KJ: Well, not in the sense, like, for example, ice skating is considered showing off. It is true that we don’t have a lot to show in terms of athletic skills. (laughs) But we do want to be seen, nevertheless. This is all we got.

LB: Sounds like school did a lot with you. What is your biggest challenge at the moment?

KJ: (pauses) To be present – this is very challenging. While you were asking, I was drifting away to all the possible problems that could arise. My biggest fear is, for example, that I get so fearful and undecided that I simply freeze. And then again, I guess it is also okay to freeze too, and it will be kind of hilarious to think back one day about how I tried so hard to do this project and worked for months and then simply froze on stage. (laughs)

LB: I joined you for the open comedy mic where every one of the PARASOLs had to perform, including you. And there I got the impression that you didn’t want to do it. How is your relation to performing? On the one hand, it seems stressful, but then you also like it?

KJ: It’s horrifying and challenging. It’s partly due to the habit that I need to get myself scared. And somewhat, I enjoy suffering. So yes, I like to perform. It’s weirdly euphoric and addictive. Probably therapeutic even.

LB: Therapeutic is an excellent description of some of the tasks you’re doing in the rehearsals.

KJ: When I say therapeutic, I guess I mean educational. Because that’s what learning is, and that’s what personal growth is. I would not put therapeutic and educational so far apart. The good part of learning is therapeutic; the rest should go anyway. It can be googled.

LB: As I read, unlearning is also a part of SCHOOL. How do you understand that?

KJ: Learning is unlearning. If you learn or understand something new, the previous version doesn’t apply anymore. That is how I understand it.

LB: What can people expect from the performance?

KJ: If you, as an audience member, decide you like this, you will have a good time. But if you come in and realise in the first moments that I, for example, mess up my opening speech and you feel like that’s not something you have time for, then you’ll have a hard time. There is nothing there that is going to convince you that this is time well spent. So, you have to convince yourself. You have to work too. I don’t know if that can be said. (Laughs) It’s a bit like there is nothing. Try to enjoy it. But if you read into the performance, it’s vibrant because it’s real. – That’s a good question. I will probably make that a writing task for our next rehearsal.