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Artist Feature: Stella van Lieshout

Stella van Lieshout

Sometimes writing is a way of making sense of the world as I experience it. But my writing is also meant as a ‘conversation’. Meaning is created partly through the eyes of the reader or the audience and my work doesn’t try to show the truth, but can contain many.

– Stella van Lieshout

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

SvL: My name is Stella van Lieshout. I grew up in a small town near the coast in the Netherlands, lived in London for a year in 2012/2013, spent 3 months living in Kathmandu and currently I’m preparing to go to Malta for two months as a writer-in-residence.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

 SvL: To me, reflection and response are extremely important during the writing process and even after the play is finished. I write alone and preferably night after night, but there are always several moments where I discuss the play or story with different people from different backgrounds to sharpen my thoughts and get valuable feedback to make it even better. The best ideas are often created with more than one mind.

Staging the play after writing is continuously reflecting and responding as new ideas and thoughts emerge from the minds of the director, actors and designers and through working with the material itself. And these connections are extremely valuable and can teach you a lot of new things.

Reflection also means hiking. I’ve walked a couple of long-distance paths and for me it is a way of processing experiences and reflecting upon them, while discussing with myself along the way.

 How does your work fit in with that definition?

 SvL: I write a lot about people who feel stuck and lost or are trying to find a sense of belonging. My characters usually have strong beliefs and dare to question. Through these characters I can reflect on life and respond to issues that are important to me from different points of view. Sometimes writing is a way of making sense of the world as I experience it.

But my writing is also meant as a ‘conversation’. Meaning is created partly through the eyes of the reader or the audience and my work doesn’t try to show the truth, but can contain many.

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

SvL: The last play I wrote (and directed) was a play for a group of young actors (19-24) in Kathmandu, titled “+2, The School of Life”. In the play, a group of friends forms ‘The School of Life’. It’s a secret society where they learn everything they find important to life, but don’t learn in school. The play was written in English and then translated and performed in Nepali, an amazing experience.

Fragment from “+2, The School of Life”, 2014

SCENE 8. WHEN THE GIRL WANTS IN.

The Narrator walks up on stage and comes really close to the audience. In the back, THE BOY and THE GIRL dance, without touching each other.

NARRATOR:

In the last few months there were so many cups of tea
That even I lost track of time
She had been afraid to let him know
that she had been following him
He was afraid to tell her what he was doing
And so they spoke about all and more,
but never about the School of Life.
It was something that slept between their dreams
So they could never be close enough
Until today…

THE GIRL AND THE BOY have stopped dancing. She looks very serious.

THE GIRL:                   I want in
THE BOY:                   You can’t
THE GIRL:                   Do you want people to find out?
THE BOY:                   You wouldn’t
THE GIRL:                   Wouldn’t I?
THE BOY:                   You don’t even know what it is we are doing
THE GIRL:                   I know nobody is allowed to know.
That should be enough

THE BOY:                   You have nothing. No proof.
Besides, It’s not like we’re doing anything illegal
THE GIRL:                   You call it the School of Life
And you really believe nobody will be mad?
That they just allow you to think, dance and speak out loud?
And in the middle of the night…You must be joking!
THE BOY:                   Can’t you just leave it?
THE GIRL:                   I want in
THE BOY:                   No girls allowed
THE GIRL:                   Girls are also a part of life
THE BOY:                   You got me there
THE GIRL:                   You have no reason not to let me in
THE BOY:                   Can you dance?
THE GIRL:                   I think so
THE BOY:                   Where is Paris?
THE GIRL:                   In Europe. France. Too far away.
THE BOY:                   What do you dream of?
THE GIRL                    Doing the impossible
THE BOY:                   All right. Can’t say no to that.
Guess you’re in.
THE GIRL:                   Guess I am
THE BOY:                   See you tonight
Bring your dancing shoes
THE GIRL:                   I will.

Girl turns around, ready to walk away.

THE BOY:                   Wait! You need to go to…

The girl turns back again and looks at him

THE GIRL:                   I know where you’re hiding

Currently I’m working on a play about six people surviving death after ‘the others’ burned down their town. In June and July I’ll write a new play as a writer-in-residence for a theater – Teatru Salesjan – in Malta, where we’re looking beyond the borders of culture and writing. I’m very excited to see what comes out of that project.

Who or what inspires you?

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Artist Feature: Ángel Rams

We’re excited to welcome Valencia-born and Leipzig-based comic book artist and illustrator Ángel Rams to the LIFESTYLE collective. Angel sheds light on the roles of Reflection during the process of interpreting an author’s scene and Response as the illustrator’s goal to tell the story through that interpretation. He goes in on the importance of telling a story without sacrificing the narrative for superfluous illustrations that only aim to impress readers. Ángel showcases these different features of the creative process using dope examples from his portfolio. He also sheds light on exciting future projects such as serving as the artist for  Alfred Ngubane‘s book Shaka Zulu, the upcoming release of a graphic novel set in post-WWII, and his participation in the 2014 Egmont Graphic Novel Contest with his graphic novel Cayuco. Check out the dialogue below accompanied by samples from Angel’s eclectic collection and links to various projects he’s got going on.

Ángel Rams

 

One of the main rules of sequential art is that you are here to entertain people, telling them a story throughout panels, not to gather a bunch of cool pin-ups on a page. A good comic book page can be understood without the dialogue on it, because it responds to the script.

– Ángel Rams

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

AR: My name is Ángel Rams. I´m a comic book artist and illustrator born in Valencia, Spain. I currently reside in Leipzig, Germany.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

AR: I consider myself a comic book artist that takes occasional illustration commissions. The bulk of my artwork is what we call “sequential artwork”, in plain English: comic book pages. So I guess I should respond as a comic book artist. I believe Reflection and Response are a great part of a comic book artist’s work.

I would say Reflection describes my intention when I draw a scene, an object or a character. I try to capture on paper how I conceive that scene, object or that character. I try to reflect my perception of reality through my artistic skills. Of course that reality doesn’t really exist; it’s a reality the writer created. My task is to read, interprete and reflect. And that leads us to the next question: Response.

I understand Response as the artist’s level of commitment and efficiency toward the story. Rule number one is: tell the story. The closer my drawings are to the writer’s initial idea, the better Response I provided as a professional. In my opinion, a good comic book is the one where art and dialogues work along so well that it makes you wonder if it was made by a team or by one single creator. For this to happen you need a collaborative effort between writer and artist, or such a complete, well written script, that it gives the artist information enough to provide a good Response. Luckily I’ve been in both situations.

One of the main rules of sequential art is that you are here to entertain people, telling them a story throughout panels, not to gather a bunch of cool pin-ups on a page. Sadly, many artists focus their efforts on showcasing lots of boobs, muscle and plasma beams in cool postures rather than telling the story effectively. They adapt the story to the art and it should be the other way around, and that creates divergences. There’s nothing worse than divergences between artwork and dialogues. Seeing a character doing something or showing a body language that doesn’t match what they say, drives you out of the story and makes it less believable. A good comic book page can be understood without the dialogue on it, because it responds to the script. You don’t really know what they are saying but you know what’s going on.

Ángel Rams - Tunnel, page 9

Ángel Rams - Tunnel, page 10

How does your work fit in with that definition?

AR: When you look at the pages [from Tunnel] above, even with no lettering work on them, they convey the defenselessness and vulnerability the wounded character is feeling at that point of the story. His posture laying on bed, the martial mood of the military character that’s talking to him, the dark empty infirmary room, how the doctor approaches step by step with his apron stained with blood… All of this is telling you that wounded dude is in trouble. My task as an artist is to convey that idea throughout the page, to respond to the writer’s idea. Even the page layout imitates the shape of the window’s grid. All these elements subconsciously affect the reader, they create a mood and make the story believable. They all work together to tell the story.

At the same time, I have to reflect on the look of the room (it’s not a civil hospital, but a camp hospital), the ethnicities of the characters (the doc is Japanese) and every single object in an effective way. That means hours of documentation and study before even picking up the pencil. How many amateur comics did you see where cars look like shoe boxes? That happens because they don’t reflect real objects properly.

The next scene, below, [is] pretty much the same. The female character has the sensation of being observed, and so does the reader, because  the position of the statues, the deer head and the empty library convey that feeling.

Ángel Rams - Tunnel, page 23

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

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Artist Feature: Timo Vollbrecht

Composer and improvising jazz musician Timo Vollbrecht lives and works out of New York City and Berlin — collaborating with various musicians along with leading and performing with his own group. He discusses Reflection and Response as a multi-faceted concept, and highlights the subtle difference between creatively responding to specific experiences and responding to a collection of indistinguishable stimuli. Timo’s music represents the moment-based nature of improvisation as well as the decidedly trained character of composition. Check the dialogue and showcase of his work below!

Timo Vollbrecht

Some of my compositions are a direct response to an experience…Most of the time, however, my music responds to a conglomerate of different things that are often hard to distinguish. The beauty about improvised music is that you can respond to the very moment. This is what makes it so special – for musicians as well as for the audience.

– Timo Vollbrecht

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

TV: I was born in Stadthagen, a small town in Northern Germany. After living in Wyoming, Berlin, and Barcelona, I moved to New York in 2010. I am an improvising and composing artist, who plays saxophone and reeds. I live and workin between New York and Berlin, am involved in several projects and lead my own group.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

TV: Reflection can unveil your source of inspiration as an artist. If you take your time to reflect on your experiences in life, on your encounters with other people, their cultures, their points of view, your thoughts and especially your emotions and sensations, you have SO much to tell. The most important thing is to keep an open mind in life. Then, responding to your experiences in your art will happen naturally. If you are true to yourself, you will develop your own taste and thus, make your original musical decisions.

How does your work fit in with that definition?

TV: Some of my compositions are a direct response to an experience. An example is “Tale of Jordan”, which came into being during a Middle Eastern tour with my band. Among other places, we also played in Amman, Jordan, and took a bath in the Dead Sea. In Ramallah, during our concert on a roof top, the Muezzin next door started to chant and we spontaneously integrated his chanting into our free improvisation. “Tale of Jordan” reflects on these unforgettable moments. Most of the time, however, my music responds to a conglomerate of different things that are often hard to distinguish. The beauty about improvised music is that you can respond to the very moment. This is what makes it so special – for musicians as well as for the audience.

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

TV: I have been composing music for my next album, which I will record in June, before taking off to an artist residence in Italy with my partner-in-crime, guitarist Keisuke Matsuno, where we will be working on a duo-program. Besides that, I am getting ready for a month-long European tour, which will start on April 3rd in Osterode, Germany, which happens to be my grandparents’ hometown.

Who or what inspires you?

 

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Artist Feature: Franz Rothe

We’ve been fortunate enough to have become close friends with Dresden-born musician, writer, and filmmaker Franz Rothe over the past year here in Brooklyn, and his versatility and creative output are huge inspirations for us. In an insightful interview, Franz guides us through his perspectives on Reflection and Response, explores how these concepts fit in with his musical process, reflects on a recent album called Away that he worked on as part of the band Franz & Frau Schneider und dieser Andere, and talks through various current projects. Let’s dig in:

Franz Rothe

I believe that the urge to write a song results from the need to capture and express a certain feeling…You chase this feeling, this impulse, because it is haunting, like something you have once known but forgotten. And you try to figure out what it is, what it wants to be, how it wants to sound.

– Franz Rothe

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

FR: I am from a beautiful city called Dresden in Germany. But I have been living here and there in the recent past. Right now I live in New York, which is wonderful but won’t last very long either.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

FR: I think that, in a way, Reflection and Response describes the very essence of music or really any kind of art. I believe that whatever we create can only be seen as a response to what we have seen, heard or experienced before. At least I would say about myself, that I’ve never come up with any kind of idea that was not a response to something somebody else did before me. We reflect upon our experiences, our impressions, and we respond to them – knowingly or not – and sculpt them into something new.

Pessimistically, that view could lead to questioning the mere idea of originality, as everything is just a combination of what was there before. But on the other hand, I enjoy the thought of being a part in an endless chain of Reflection and Response.

(For example, I am not ashamed to say that my biggest form of admiration for any kind of art is the thought ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ followed by the thought ‘How can I take that and turn it into something new?’…)

How does your album ‘Away’ fit in with that definition?

FR: I think the album ‘Away’ is on many levels the product of Reflection and Response – it is what we made of music we heard, songs we love, songs we hate, books that touched us, people that surrounded us and places we have been. But it is also what we made of each other and ourselves.

I believe that the urge to write a song results from the need to capture and express a certain feeling. It’s never about which chords might go well together and which words might rhyme. You chase this feeling, this impulse, because it is haunting, like something you have once known but forgotten. And you try to figure out what it is, what it wants to be, how it wants to sound.

I think, in the best case an artist should be like the needle of a record player, materializing an invisible something.

As we were three musicians working together on this album, the most important part was responding to our surroundings in a similar way. Sharing an understanding of the feelings that we wanted to transport in the music we made. And with every musician we brought into the studio, we hoped they would be telling a similar story as we did, adding to what the three of us shared.

Then again, that sounds way more complex than it actually was. In the end we just made music together, simply loving each other for that.

Franz Rothe & Vivi

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

FR: I’m trying my hand at a couple of different things right now. There are so many languages in which you can express yourself, so I tried to look for other languages like film or writing. Kind of to find an outlet for things that haunted me, but couldn’t find their way out of my head through chords and melodies.

I made a documentary about forced evictions in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, with my dear friend Michael last year. It’s called ‘The Final Days’ and I’m happy about anyone watching it on vimeo.

Right now I actually started writing a book, which has been on my mind for ages. But first novels usually suck, so there’s really not too much to expect there…

Who or what inspires you?

FR: Places. People. My friends. Vivi and Lukas, who are the other two-thirds of the band. Their talent and their ability to always just naturally come up with exactly the right thing – that never ceased to amaze and inspire me!

Generally speaking though, in the best case, absolutely anything could be inspiration. But unfortunately I often have a hard time keeping the open eyes it takes to be aware of what’s actually around me.

So what I do is I travel a lot and try to see and live in as many countries and cultures as possible, to absorb as much as I can.

Is there anything else you would like the Collective to know?
FR: Check out the photographer Ben Zank! I just had the pleasure of meeting him and he is as nice a guy as he is a brilliant artist.
Shout out to…?

FR: Huge shout out to Vivi and Lukas, with whom I made the album ‘Away’ and whom I miss terribly when we are too far away from each other to make music!

Franz, Vivi, Lukas

Reflection and Response.

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