Taking the “Golem” exhibition in the Jewish Museum Berlin as a basis, this project broadens the spectrum of scope of the museum and its visitors. The Golem is a mythical creature from the Jewish Talmud that has fascinated Western cultures for centuries: human life created by man and capable of existing and manifesting itself in society.
The challenge was to recount this phenomenon by theatrical means without using the classical theatre form. Pupils were encouraged to construct a golem together based on their ideas and desires. Formally, they could use elements of theatrical language: the scene, the choir, the choreography, the stage design. The result was a specially developed theatre form, which itself was a golem, created from a shared imagination – a mixture of golem show and expert congress, interactive and improvised.
This project was the second cooperation between the Refik Veseli School and the museum as a community space. The basic idea of ComingTogether was the notion and praxis of a conflict. The thematic approach was based on the film documentary „Nahostkonflikt“ (Middle East Conflict), produced by students of the history workshop in cooperation with the Jewish Museum Berlin. Berliners from Palestinian and Israeli families were asked to contribute their theoretical and personal experiences regarding the Middle East conflict.
From these portrayals, a theatre production was developed together with a 9th class. The stage space became a large table where people with different political positions could take a seat. In a staged discussion, the topic of “conflicts” was negotiated and possible solutions were sought.
As part of the five-year program “Cultural Agents for Creative Schools” established at the Refik Veseli School in Kreuzberg, Berlin, this project looked at the interface between the students, their own form of theatre and the museum as both a field of work and storage location for memory and identity. The starting point for this staging of space and action were two three-hour workshops in the Jewish Museum Berlin, attended by the class. The students then developed a theatrical, interactive tour of the school’s stage space, which was developed as part of the theatre project and opened to visitors at the end. The basis was the graphic novel “The Arrival” by Shaun Tan (published in German as “Ein neues Land”). A specially developed form of theatre was created in the classrooms, in which themes such as immigration, exile and foreignness were enacted collaboratively.
Museum AND school? The Laboratory for intermediate spaces is an artistic experimental arrangement between the Jewish Museum Berlin and the Refik Veseli School in Berlin-Kreuzberg, designed and implemented by sideviews:
In five productions, the pupils examined the interface between them and the museum as a field of work and a storage location for memory and identity. The young people devised theatrically interactive tours and their own theatrical forms on themes such as flight and exile. For example, the stage became a large table at which people with different political positions could sit, and ideas and practical experience of a conflict based on the Middle East conflict were negotiated. The five productions were made apparent in different forms of presentation, e.g. an exhibition, a performative-choral tour, a walk-through theatre space, a museum in the school, etc. The Schattenmuseum came into being as a consequence of this research.
What do you do if a school no longer works? When classes can hardly be taught anymore, teachers are frustrated, parents are dissatisfied and the atmosphere is tense? When students complain that they hardly learn anything, that they don’t feel they have a voice and that attacks are the order of the day? And if a great deal of the lessons are canceled due to illness?
sideviews was invited to set up an interdisciplinary project in order to intercept the substitution classes and to react flexibly in organizational terms to the constant changes. A large temporary workshop was opened over two months, accommodating different classes daily. The elementary school children examined their school culture by means of a variety of artistic methods. Seven artists from sideviews accompanied them, offering workshops as part of an open laboratory: theatrical improvisation, film, documentation, boxing, songwriting, rap, stage and costume design, model building, participatory spatial development, performance, fine arts, photography and dance choreography.
Themes were elaborated and further developed according to the needs of the children, beginning with the establishment of rules and a culture of discussion, through the exploration of sensitive points in everyday school life, to the development of a culture of communication and welcome. Eventually, common project goals were developed by means of discussions, interviews, performances, invitations and performative elements.
Participation, self-efficacy training and daily practice of empathy and a culture of debate promoted a democratic understanding in order to initiate changes step by step. The themes distilled pervaded all workshops in that they could then be processed on an artistic level and made tangible. Processes were continuously documented and made visible to the school public. The students were supported in small groups and were able to create a vision of their school based on their interests and needs. They dealt playfully and artistically with their culture of welcome. With possible uses and reinterpretations of classrooms. With rules, techniques and concentration through boxing. With their different languages. With self-presentation, improvisation, songwriting and poetry. With theatre scenes about everyday school life, as well as their presentation and evaluation. With dance and movement work as an artistic intervention and with rap.
The result was a pop-up café that also served as an “open house for artistic presentations”. Even pupils not involved in the project were able to show on stage what they could do. The café was set up in such a way that it could continue to be self-organized.
LivingTOgether was commissioned by the German Consulate General in Toronto.
The starting point was the fall of the Berlin Wall as an unfinished historical event. sideviews initiated a communication process between two groups of students in the cities of Toronto and Berlin. Separated by geography, language, and cultural experience, they shared issues of interaction and isolation. An internet platform was developed in advance on which the children from both cities could play a virtual game together. At the same time, they worked in theatre workshops on dealing with real and imaginary borders. The students developed strategies with regard to conflicts, obstacles and different levels of meaning that arise from the realities of living together. The Berlin Wall was treated simultaneously as fact, metaphor and current reality. The students were able to look at their own social situation and examine their certainties and prejudices through the contexts of others.
The working process culminated in an exhibition of personal objects in Toronto, which the students had chosen according to their emotional significance and to which they could tell a personal story. The narratives performed live formed the conclusion of the project.
The theatre profile of the Refik-Veseli-School came into being between 2013 and 2019 as part of the cultural agents program for creative schools. Three theatre productions were developed each year over the three year period in cooperation with sideviews: with a 7th grade class over four weeks and with 8th and 9th grade classes over two weeks respectively. The students composed both the content and also their own form of theatre. Profiling started in 2013 with the pilot, “Why is it so hard to talk about love?”. Each topic was formulated in exchange with the teachers and worked out and developed together with the students, e.g. dealing with the name of the school.
The Labor für ZwischenRäume (laboratory for intermediate spaces) was created in 2016: sideviews, the Refik Veseli School theatre profile and the Jewish Museum Berlin (JMB) investigated the cooperation between school and museum. In different approaches, themes of the JMB, e.g. Golem, The Arrival and the Liebeskind architecture were explored through theatre, performance, choir, and installation and these processes were presented in an exhibition, a performance & choral tour, a walk-through stage space, a museum in the school, etc. A total of 17 productions were created as part of the theatre profile. The process is an example of the opportunity for cultural development within a school environment.
Who obeys totally uncool school rules that nobody understands? 75 students rewrite their school rules to convey the basic rules of living and learning together in a language and aesthetics that the students can understand.
Together with sideviews, students in grades 7-9. developed the film project “RESPECT!”, including the soundtrack. The result was six episodes on the topics of punctuality, conflicts, responsibility, behavior, school climate and discrimination, in the formats of feature films, commercials and reports. These were presented at a premiere in the Eiszeit Cinema in Kreuzberg, Berlin.
The film was the springboard for the theatre profile of the Refik Veseli School, which started in February 2013 with the pilot “Why is it so hard to talk about love?”.