Blogging From a Comfy Bed

25 Oct

So I’m in Holland now, and for the next two weeks, I’ll be a teacher. I know it’s been quiet around here lately. I’ve been active on Twitter, re-tweeting interesting news and updating my whereabouts and activities. So if waiting for the blog gets too cold, come find me on twitter @RittiSoncco

In Holland, I’m giving two workshops:  Visual Language and “Children of Roots”. For all those who aren’t familiar with my work: I’ve been giving the “Children of Roots” workshop for four years now (really? has it been four years?!), usually with Mark Klawikowski on my side. In the workshop, I teach my 14 year old students the basics of filming a documentary, wherein they (and their multicultural lives) are the subject matter. It’s the ever-present all-encompassing theme of my work: where is home, and how do you keep your roots alive while you are travelling all over the world?

In the space of a week, the students learn to film and interview one another, listening to each others’ stories. It’s beautiful work, surprising and challenging, and – as a Third Culture Kid myself – very close to my heart. It’s no coincidence that my students are 14: I was 14 when my family made the Big Move from Nigeria to Germany. It was a very vulnerable age, raging with hormones and madness, and it sent me spiralling in a million directions at once. Sometimes I think I only just got over it last week. It will always be the secret ingredient in my work.

When I first offered the workshop to the school, they asked me what age group I was considering working with. I didn’t need to deliberate. I immediately said: “Fourteen.”

I think this is my way of preparing them. I want to shake them and say: “Be conscious of what’s happening! This can be the richest thing in your life, if you’re only conscious of it!” That’s my mission in the workshop. Here’s how we do it:

We’re having a great time in the classroom. If that made you thirsty, the main post on “Children of Roots” is here.

I said I’m “usually” accompanied by Mark, but the last two years he’s been unable to accompany me and I wasn’t allowed to tell you why. Now, after all the secrecy, the news has been made public and I can tell you a bit about what’s been going on: Mark has been commissioned by the foam industry to create several puppets for a series of short films ! He’s been working very hard on this challenging new project, testing puppets, drawing up storyboards, puppeteering and directing.

Last week the first two short films celebrated their premiere in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Work on the next film is already well underway, with Mark feeling optimistic and happy with how things are going. Here’s the second of the films – my secret favourite:

Congratulations Mark! You’re on the road with Jim Henson, ofcourse!

So this week, I’m a teacher in Holland. Last week, I was performing EXODUS at the Roxy with a set of fantastic artists.

from the Südwest Presse

There it is again, in the sub-title: “Exodus 2012 asks the question: What is the meaning of home?” It’s the red thread in the scarf I wear around my life.

We were a group of artists from all over Germany, brought together by the director Udo Eberl. The only way to brainstorm and communicate was via email, and for two long days before the premiere, we locked ourselves up in the Roxy and pieced our ideas together.

Christine Chu

Ritti Soncco & Christine Chu

Silvia Pfändner

It was a daring project, but what we had on our side was that everyone was clear on what they wanted to contribute. The two rehearsal days became a matter of deciding the chronology, the “taste” of the performance. Ofcourse there were tense and challenging moments, and ofcourse heads bashed against heads. It was interesting to observe how differently every artist approaches the “creative process”, and after my bits were clear, I curled up in the large theater seats and watched how the others approached “creation”; what they liked, what they hated; how they dealt with criticism and what they felt was art.

Christine Chu

Ritti Soncco

Silvia Pfändner & Thomas Maos

It was my first time working with the intensely great visual artist Haegar, who did everything you can see projected on the large screen behind us. As I held a monologue about my personal exodus, I brought the audience closer to me by filming myself live on stage, like a personal diary. Haegar had a ball playing around with my face, distorting me in all sorts of fun ways.

Something I learnt during my four years at SWR Television was that media designers are my favourite kind of people. They are a species of their own! My best times at work have been hanging out with the technicians: brilliantly nerdy people with loud laughs and shy smiles, great to have a night full of beers with, and always up for a creative misdemeanour. They’re the ones behind the scenes, the ones who hardly ever get noticed – but trust me: they are among the most interesting people in the world.

Haegar rocked my Exodus. We shared great laughs and got all nerdy over editing software. When I started making technical demands for my camera-monologue, he nodded at me quickly and said: ”

Haegar: “Fine, I’ll set everything up so you can do it that way.”

Ritti: “Really? Can you do that?”

Haegar: “I can do everything.”

Good man! Follow him on twitter @haegar3d and read his brilliantly mysterious media tweets. If you get the chance to see him at a show – GO. His manipulation of live projections is stunning.

In the rehearsal days at the Roxy, I got to know the people who work there and I explored every nook and cranny of its many theatrical rooms. Exploring and getting to know the Roxy crew was my personal highlight. There are some very sweet people working there!

One night, we were sitting backstage with Martin Luding, who is currently touring Germany with Caveman, and after he went onstage to perform for a full house, I climbed the technician ladders all the way up to the stage lights, to peek over the curtain and see a bit of his show. The next night, Martin invited me to watch from a seat in the audience, where I was seated next to Michael, the sound & lighting technician. I intended to go home straight after the show, but when the Roxy turned into a wild disco at 11pm, I ended up dancing up a storm with the Roxy crew until morning.

So – thank you Roxy – for making me feel so at home.

German band Blumentopf performing at the Roxy

Our EXODUS received a good critique in the newspapers Südwest Presse and Augsburger Allgemeine. Unfortunately I only have the latter to show, but here it is:

Neu-Ulmer Zeitung

That is the biggest newspaper picture I have ever been in. Intense. I’m so proud.

I’d like to say that the Neu-Ulmer Zeitung has been very supportive of my work since the beginning. When my play, The Garden of Beautiful Lies, came out in 2008, they published a strikingly positive review that I carried around with me for a few days, showing it to all my friends. The journalist made a kind comparison between The Garden and the style of Franz Kafka, calling my writing style “Kafka-esque”. Ever since then, the Neu-Ulmer closely followed all the film work Mark and I did, reporting and supporting our work. This article on Exodus was written by a keen and observant journalist who really sought to understand our messages. What more could an artist want? Herzlichen Dank Neu-Ulmer!

Thank you to everyone who came, and THANK YOU for your emails afterwards! I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the performance, how it all felt from the audience seats – and thank you for sharing with me how you could still feel it move you days later. It’s you we do this for. As artists, this is how we digest and cope with the world, and to me, there’s nothing more rewarding than when someone from the audience approaches me to tell me how it made them feel. For this, I thank you.

Two days after Exodus was over, I packed my suitcase and set off on the road again. It’s a month on the road before I return to Ulm. And right now, I’m in a comfy bed in Holland, and this week, I am a teacher.

It really makes me smile.

goodnight from Holland!

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2 Responses to “Blogging From a Comfy Bed”

  1. Gerhard October 30, 2012 at 2:21 am #

    Ritti-the time you spend with the teenagers is extremely valuable for them. They are really lucky that you`re there teaching them although it`s only a short time, but intense. I`m sure they will not forget it and will remember and reflect a lot of times in their future lives. Your mission is absolutely the right thing. It`s about that they raise questions to themselves and urge for answers. It`s about to overcome being shy and realize that they are young people with own personalities, skills and backgrounds which they should never deny nor ignore. It`s such a great lesson they learn from you.
    You and Mark are having a quite creative and powerful phase right now. I`m impressed. The films of Didi are really cool and it`s now clear that he has gained some big fans of people that are related to foam. The puppets are extremely well made which needs profound handcrafting skills and patience as a puppeteer which he definitely has.
    Exodus was a project that should be continued as it was such a great combination of artists that brought that theme to a united ensemble where the individual feelings about exodus of each performer made it that special, together with the effects. The newspaper picture is stunning. Yes – you really can be proud. I smiled when I read your sentence that you thank the Roxy – for making you feel so at home! What a nice commitment to Ulm and what`s related to this for you after all your longing and searching the last 12 month (also for Qayqa and Munay). I`m eager to here more about your new novels which means to get more known of you in your writing.
    Gerhard

  2. rittisoncco October 31, 2012 at 5:09 pm #

    Gerhard – thank you for all the fantastic comments you’ve been writing on my posts. I enjoy them so much! Actually, after reading your comment, I decided to blog a bit more about the details of this week’s work, because the “Children of Roots” workshop has taken a COMPLETELY new path… one I think you may enjoy reading about! So I’ve been taking a lot of production photographs to post and I’ll hopefully get that done today or tomorrow.

    I really just enjoy drawing you (you, Gerhard, and you, the audience in general) into the behind-the-scenes of my work. I often consider showing the darker sides, the shadows, because it’s not all full-on energy, and I am quite often exhausted, and I do quite often have no idea how all this will end. But then I go to bed early and just sleep, and the next day beings with lessons learnt and more strength to focus. I know that a few people read this blog because this artist life is so different from their own. They’re enjoying a sneaky peek into a totally different life, and due to that (as well) I’d like to show the downs as well as the ups.

    But the work with the kids here is so rewarding. Yesterday killed me – today was fantastic. The students seem to be enjoying it immensely. Teachers and students give me enthusiastic feedback. So I’m very very happy.

    Thank you so much for your comment, Gerhard. I am, as always, so happy you are out there reading this. I enjoy your comments very much! Please keep them coming, even when I am too swamped to reply, please know that I read everything you write – and delight in your feedback and criticism.

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