With the gracious support of Fonds Podiumkunsten, Ensemble Modelo62 and Petra Strahovnik will work together over two years to create a number of works that enhance Petra’s abilities to combine different art forms with music. The entire trajectory revolves around the theme ‘mental health conditions’ (such as ADHD, autism, borderline personality disorder), to which Petra has a deep personal connection. The choice for this theme is double-sided: On one hand it allows Petra to explore the combination of performance art, video, and music in order to vividly bring out what lies inside of the people that have these mental conditions. On the other hand, it allows something that is vital to her: to act as a social activist by raising social awareness about these conditions.

 

‘…as a society, we need to break through the fear and misconceptions about mental health conditions. Personally, I think that the topic is still a taboo and consequently the way that we deal with these conditions in general excludes the people suffering from one. I struggled with depression for 10 years and this has inspired me to compose about it.’   Petra

 

This collaboration is divided into two stages that produces different artistic outcomes. In the first year she will write works that embody different mental disorders. The second year will be focused on producing and presenting an opera, entitled ‘BalerinaBalerina’, with a libretto based upon a book that shares the same title, written by the Slovenian Marco Sosič.

 

‘The idea about this project goes back to 2009, when I wrote a piece for ensemble and voice based on the novel ‘BalerinaBalerina’ that depicts the life of an autistic girl. Even though I had no contact with autism, I imagined how I would feel and live if I would be autistic myself. My intuition led me to certain sounds that I managed to bring out through specific musical techniques both from the instruments and the singer, such as singing and speaking while inhaling. The conductor Aleksandar Spasić was deeply touched and impressed by how I used these musical tools to portray the daily struggles of an autistic person, and the emotional impact that the piece managed to project to the audience. He is the father of an autistic adult son, and as such he is well aware of the challenges that this condition brings. It was at that moment that the idea of writing an opera about an autistic person and increasing the awareness on mental issues on society was born.’

 

First stage – peeking into the workshop with J. Fritz

The project kicks off with an intensive performance art workshop by Jürgen Fritz http://www.fritz-performance.de, where the 10 members of the ensemble and Petra will look for their performative state, break through their own limits, and engage with the topic of the project. And with this comes the first presentation date for the entire project: September 1st in The Hague (exact time and place TBC), where the ensemble opens its doors to the workshop room to present a five-hour performance based on the workshop experience. It is not a piece by Petra, but rather a chance to peek into the working mode and the potential of the collaboration between her and the group.

 

My belief is that performance art allows a musician to both experience and communicate a given message in a direct and real way. I chose to combine this with my music for the topic of mental conditions because I need the performers to feel and deliver the message truly and from deep within themselves. Only then will the audience will be able to experience it fully.

 

 

Second stage – durational pieces with daily performances over the span of a week

In Spring 2019 we will present Petra’s first set of new works: Five solo pieces through which we engage with durational art. In each piece, individual musicians deal with different mental conditions: Trumpet – Autism, Guitar – Depression, Clarinet –Bipolar disorder, Flute – Personal borderline disorder, Violin – Obsessive compulsive disorder. Each piece lasts approximately two hours, and the idea is to have them performed simultaneously in five galleries across The Hague, repeating these performances each day over a period of five days. The pieces move to a new gallery every day, so that they eventually visit all 5 of the galleries in a rotating fashion through the week.

 

‘My idea is that after the musicians have undergone the intensive workshop, they will be able to access the mental states and inner struggles which result from the condition they are dealing with. By using not only sounds but also all of the movements that these conditions need to feel authentic, the audience will hopefully feel the struggle themselves and will eventually feel compassion for the performer and the condition at hand. Musically, the pieces will consist of sounds that relate to how I imagine each specific mental health condition. Usually, when composing, I present the sound material myself, but in this case I will need the musicians to be involved at the core. My intention is therefore to find the sounds by working along with the musicians so that the sound gestures also come from within themselves.’

 

 

Third stage – soloist + ensemble

The third production will include three works for soloist plus ensemble. In these pieces, the ensemble represents the society while the soloist is the individual affected by a mental condition. Whereas in the previous production, the performer dealt with the inner struggle as a result of dealing with the condition themself, this one focuses on the clash between the individual and society, i.e. how expectations are set without any consideration for an individual’s situation. These works will be presented at Gaudeamus Muziekweek 2019 and in Korzo Theater later in 2019.

 

Third stage – Opera ‘Balerina, balerina’

The final 2-year collaboration with Petra Strahovnik will culminate with the production of the opera based on the above-mentioned novel about an autistic girl, Balerina. The story is told from the perspective of the autistic girl Balerina and the timelines are rather confusing because three main threads of thought are interwoven. These threads are: “actual time”, “dreams and daydreams” and “memories and forecasts”. They will be presented simultaneously on three different spots on the stage and on each spot there will be a different group of characters representing each thread. The complex mental condition of the main character will be expressed using three art disciplines: two soprano voices represent her emotions, a dancer reveals her physical sensations, and a projected text on the singers’ bodies displays her inner thoughts. The musicians will not only play their instruments, but will also play the roles of supporting characters.

The opera will be premiered at Cankarjev Dom in Slovenia.

 

‘I am interested in how each individual perceives their own life and the world we live in. Especially the individuals who may have a quite different view based on how their neural processing diverges from the neurotypicals of society, which is what the so-called mental health conditions are all about. Furthermore, my personal story makes me want to break the taboo of mental conditions to prevent suffering and spread awareness in society. I sincerely hope that this project will help to do this.’