M ° A ° I ° S & C O N T E M P O R A R Y C U L T U R E
COLOGNE, April/May 2000 Robin Brouwer
In our present culture we can observe a growing need to communicate and connect different experiences and views. In the worlds of visual art, architecture and new media a new generation of young professionals is engaging in a broad collaborative projects involving architecture and videoart present new views and images, trying to bridge the still existing gaps between these disciplines. People coming from the worlds of new media, visual art and choreography join in cooperative activities in order to discover new techniques and styles. Over the last five years many of such initiatives were undertaken in Europe and the United States. This current need to cross borders expresses not only a will to connect different techniques and knowledge, it above all represents a growing need to escape personal and professional boundaries. For many years the different artistic and cultural disciplines were embedded in a territory or domain consisting of traditions, techniques and styles. Academies and universities advocated the borders and traditions of these Professional and cultural identities. Photography, dance, painting or fashion therefor remained well devided worlds; their orientation was mainly directed inwards. Many of the present interdisciplinary activities as mentioned above manifest an awareness of the traditional structures which have dominated our culture for many years. Instead of only connecting different techniques, skills and experiences, these new forms of cooperation are concentrated on entering the 'in-between zone which used to devide disciplines such as architecture, sculpture or painting. By engaging in this in-between area these activities are able to produce new styles, experiences and forms of knowledge. Entering this new zone of exchange also has an effect on its participants. Many of them change their state of being (as being a painter, filmer or dancer) and become involved in a process of perpetual change and becoming. A choreographer who is involved in such an activity becomes something or someone eise by working together with videoartists or painters who seduce him to leave his habitual condition. Many of todays projects involving people from various backgrounds present this need for escaping the limitations of identity and territorial segmentation. Of course these activities also imply a (micro)political awareness of the conditions of todays culture. Alternative locations such as lounge bars, squaterhouses, clubs or industrial objects are being used to present and manifest such activities. Institutional environments like the established galleries and other arena's for art and culture, are avoided in order to maximalize an openess towards change and transformation. The Cologne based MAIS-project is a good example of the need for cooperation and connection. A group of 45 artists coming from 20 countries will join in a projeet for a period of six weeks, which will take place at an old bunker in Cologne. Coming from different cultures these artists manifest the will to break down national, ethnic and cultural boundaries in order to enter a 'no man's land' of mutual exchange. The MAIS-project focuses on the walls or borders which seperate cultures, personal histories and professionalism. By providing an open and transparant environment for exchange and collaboration, MAIS makes way for transformation and becoming. The Russian, Nigerian or Brazilian artists involved in this project, are challenged to escape their state of being (as being Russian, Nigerian or Brazilian) in order to become a 'nomad' or 'traveller' in the in-between which devides national or etnic origin. MAIS challenges the territorial and historical segmentation which is manifested by people through their habits, language and traditions. Escaping such territorial practices makes way for the unknown, for new experiences, forms of knowledge and artistic expression. MAIS will present a wide range of activities to actualize its ideas and intentions. Apart from the construction and presentation of many works of art, MAIS will manifest dance performances, fashion presentations, reading of poetry, filmpresentations and theory. In many events its participants and spectators are able to mingle and exchange ideas and experiences. Due to its higly international and intercultural character, MAIS adds an important aspect to these contemporary developments. It is significant to notice that these new initiatives not only manifest a new approach of art and culture in general, it is also proof of the existence of a new mentality present among a large group of young artists today.
Amsterdam, January 2000