Travelling around Europe in a caravan of ideas

27 May

Back on the road – and I have to admit, it’s been the dream. I wrote the last blog post (“Chasing Hugh Thomson to London“) on a train to the Stuttgart Airport, and finished it at the airport while waiting for my flight to Holland. Now I have just returned from a week in Holland, and keeping this blog is becoming a brilliant way to digest everything that has happened.

Some background info:  Mark Klawikowski and I have been travelling to Holland for 3 years now to give a film workshop entitled Children of Roots. If you want a full recap, here’s the original post on it: Children of Roots

Or watch the workshop trailer:

This year, Mark couldn’t accompany me. He’s too busy being famous! Last year we won an award for the puppets in our film The Tailorettes of Ulm (read about it here) – and since then, he has received several lucrative offers to create puppets for Big Companies. He’s been very busy lately making films with these puppets and I’ve been pestering him to start a blog because he’s doing truly fascinating stuff at the moment. Just to give you a basic idea: he was recently commissioned to create several props for a film in Cologne, including a “suicide bed” and “poison machine”. I’ll see if I can post a picture of that (and let you know when & where the film will be showing) – until then, here’s a sweet one of our award-winning puppets.

main characters of the film “The Tailorettes of Ulm”

Mark’s work has impressed me so much over the years – and he just keeps expanding. Illustrations, paintings, giant robot suits… And the fact that hhe can create anything out of foam, any weird and bizarre creature you can think of. As long as there is foam in this world, there will be earth for more exciting films and characters. Working as a team we had a ball over the past 3 years making puppet-documentaries. The concept for Children of Roots was a 100% joint venture and I won’t lie: heading off to Holland without my art partner made me quite nervous. Truth be told: he really wanted to come but his film dates conflicted with the workshop.

We actually just spoke about the future of our collaboration this afternoon (in Ulm). Since the end of The Tailorettes of Ulm, we’ve been heading in different artistic directions: I’m concentrating on my writing and he’s accepting commissions from companies all over the country. But we agreed that as a team, we have too much fun and too much imagination to just let it go. We’ve decided to continue working together in the future. It’s just too infinite to stop!

No ideas yet. We’ll see what ideas we have when I return from Peru.

Mark’s work will surprise you with simple and tender interactive pieces, like this little hand made out of foam grabbing his finger

My week in Holland turned out to be fantastic. Apart from working with interesting young adults – some of whom, in their 14 years old age, can speak up to 6 languages and have already lived in at least just as many countries – being in an international environment always feels like “coming home” to me. I remember the first time I walked into the international school in Holland and felt a familiarity that made me think: “These aren’t the people I grew up with, nor is this the country, but this is what it felt like.

It’s always a pleasure to poke around the school, chat with the teachers and nurture the growing interests of students in film making. Since Mark wasn’t around, I needed puppeteers to film Ochoa walking around the school, poking around, exploring. There are always students who are happy to stay after class ends and film around the school with me. It amazes me whenever someone picks up puppeteering quickly for it is such an art in itself. It’s always exciting to watch a 14 year old do it and I think to myself: there’s so much talent there…

Ochoa preparing for an interview with the puppeteer hiding behind the chair

student posing with Ochoa

I really enjoy working with children and adolescents, and this time in Holland was just as amazing as in the past. I don’t want to repeat myself, so if you’re in the mood for more, here’s where I gush: Children of Roots, The Merry Moods of Mexicans

The following picture is random – BUT! I just had to include it. One evening at a pub, I suddenly blurted out that I had a blog and since it came at such a random moment, no one knew quite how to react. “I didn’t know if you wanted me to congratulate you or just how to react!” It became a running joke while I was in Holland and a friend created this picture to celebrate the moment. Yes, it’s random but it’s totally, totally relevant.

still loving it!

After a beautiful week in Holland – so many memories! Reunion with old friends, making new ones, teaching, dancing salsa in the Art department, road trip to Zeeland … – I got on a (by my standards) ridiculously early train to Schiphol airport and prepared for my return to Germany. I had a long long day ahead of me: I was due to give a reading in Karlsruhe at 7pm on the same day. So, this past Wednesday, I left Amsterdam at noon, was in Frankfurt at 2pm, took a train to Karlsruhe, and met up with my performance colleagues at 4pm. Three hours later, we were on stage.

I had been invited to perform at a fund-raiser by Celia Endlicher, a friend and professional actress. Accompanying us on his guitar was our good friend and guitarist Matthias Göppel. It was to be an evening dedicated to Peruvian literature and guitar music, to raise money to build a kindergarten in San Juan de Lurigancho in Lima.

The themed evening continued at the bar, where pisco sour and papa a la huancaina (delicious dish of potatoes with a unique cheese sauce) were being sold. I couldn’t stop myself and went straight to the bar to sample the pisco sour before my performance. To get in the mood, etc.

Bad idea when you’ve had such little sleep. I sat on my barstool during the performance, listening to Celia read the Peruvian literature she had selected, and felt my head getting hotter and hotter, and the alarm bells rang in my head: “O no, tipsyalready…” I keep sneaking peaks over at Mat, who was sitting with exemplary respectful rigidity and I kept trying to copy him.

No one noticed.

(But you can spot my pisco sour glass at the foot of my barstool … and the water that saved me, behind it)

Celia Endlicher, Matthias Göppel & I

By the time it was my turn to read, I had sobered up – but it was thoughts of a million other writers that made me not worry about being drunk on stage! I would have been in good company.

Celia had selected a marvellous array of Peruvian literature. With the exception of Mario Vargas Llosa, Peruvian literature remains quite obscure on the international bookshelf. There were several writers I didn’t know and not only Celia’s selection me was impressive but also her remarkable performance. She told us afterwards that during her preparation she fell in love with Perú and now hopes to fly there soon.

I read from my novel Qayqa.

Here’s a very short video clip from the evening. I would love to include more footage from the performance but this is all I have! A million thanks to Rafo for filming, taking the pictures, and ofcourse for organising the event. It was a beautiful evening in Karlsruhe!

Outside the performance room was an information board on the kindergarten the money was being raised for. Looking over the pictures, I was taken straight back to my memories of Helping Hands Cusco. At the top of the information board was a saying I immediately fell in love with:




Reading this, I remembered building a house for Helping Hands Cusco with Mario and Kwinten. Neither of us had ever done this before; we certainly had no architectural skills or a diploma in construction. But why should that stop anyone? We built the best house we possibly could and learnt the lesson don’t let anything stop you. If you want something, teach yourself and do it. I think the fear of imperfection is too closely equated to failure, and is the line where most people stop trying. 

To round up the marathon of the week: after a well-received performance with a lovely, lovely audience (and some more glasses of pisco sour), Celia, Mat and I piled our suitcases into her car and drove to Ulm. We arrived at midnight, I went straight to bed, and on Thursday morning, I gave yet another film workshop.

A few weeks ago I mentioned shooting a short film with the characters of Qayqa. Mark helped with the building of the set, and with a team of four 10-year old boys, the film was shot. The boys built the props, set up lighting and camera, and operated all the puppets! The story is set in the world of Qayqa but has its own story. If you know Qayqa, you’ll ofcourse know the characters Ti and Damian – but the film will still make sense to you if you don’t know Qayqa.

Mark and the film team building the set

putting knots onto Damian’s head

Thursday evening I took the film material home and, still hot from the shoot, editing was wrapped up quickly. I made it a “silent” film because I love the genre very much and I felt it suited the film. The boys thought that idea sounded boring, but they haven’t seen the final product yet, so who knows, perhaps I can convince them still! Or perhaps this will be my personal version of the film. Haha, enjoy!

It’s been a crazy crazy week, my friends. I remember in the interview Mark filmed in Ulm, when he asked to what extent I am living the life of my book characters. I tried to distort the truth by saying that the flying people travel on a vertical level whereas I travel a geographical level… But let’s call a duck a duck: yes, I’ve been travelling around Europe with my own caravans. They may all be little artistic caravans in my head, but they are caravans nonetheless.

It’s actually a dream come true when your art enables you to travel. Loving the comparisons with the circus: your ideas are your circus troope and your work are your caravans. It’s where you live, it’s how you travel, it’s what you love. So far, I’m not tired, but I think that’s also because I’ve given it a limit: this ceaseless wandering in Europe will end in 3 weeks when I fly to Perú. There I will catch up on all these lost hours of sleep.

It’s a circus life! And like the caravans in Qayqa and Munay, I’m just looking for the next place to set up the big tent . . .


One Response to “Travelling around Europe in a caravan of ideas”

  1. micha May 27, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    I love it!!
    Funny how you kept your balance on that stool!! 🙂
    Entertaining as always!

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