Hotel Pro Forma is a production company for theatre, exhibition and architectural projects, among other things.
And Hotel Pro Forma is an artistic research laboratory for the same major questions which scientific research deals with – what is time, what is space, what is form, how is the relation between the observer and observation, and the observer and the thing that is observed?
Hotel Pro Forma works on researching into what is the basis of pre-conceived ideas. We are NOT trying to create another narrative based on psychological storytelling, but we are investigating the conditions, the materials, the elements of an art work, what is contained in an art work.
The two major revolutions of the 20th Century are Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Bohr’s Quantum Mechanics. Their combined statement was that absolute space does not exist. that absolute time does not exist and that the absolute distinction between the observer and the world cannot be maintained. The consequence is that space and time are not the basis of all pre-conceived ideas, but are themselves relative categories. The observation influences the thing being observed; or put it another way, the observation is part of that which is being observed. Fundamental categories which have previously been taken as a given, are now subjects for investigation themselves.
We are in Odessa, an historic harbour city. Odessa is itself subject of political changes, time changes, changes influenced by the world and economics.
What is really at stake is this break down of categories. It is intriguing to be at an Arts and Science Encounter, because having realised that these categories no longer apply, one realises that there is no distinction between artists and scientists. One could say that the artist is supposed to be sensitive, almost nostalgic, subjective. But if you are a scientist you are objective, cynical, progressive and not subjective at all. Of course this applies to none of us.
So we wanted to go around this city of Odessa which is reeking beauty, of an old golden age, and try not to be nostalgic. So we tried to capture what we saw, not to yearn for the past, our longing for gilded rooms like this one here at the Londonskaya Hotel, just to go for what is here at this time. And the interesting thing is that although it might seem very different being an artist or a scientist, actually he found it was much the same thing.
It is always very difficult to be the last one to speak at a meeting because you want to change everything you were going to say, but actually Jacek Dominiczak was right – we all start with 'truth' and 'freedom': and he’s an architect and so am I (Ralf)! The Roman architect Marcus Vitruvius said that a thing should be “useful, solid and beautiful”: firmitas (strength), utilitas (functionality), and venustas (beauty). Both artists and scientists strive to achieve this. When a mathematician solved Fermat Last Theorem, a very famous mathematical problem, many other mathematicians tried to make the proof 'more elegant'. So here scientists were striving for beauty. And the artist often wants to put something into the world which shows an objective striving for beauty.
This is how Hotel Pro Forma works, trying to detach itself from nostalgia and trying to look deeper into a subject.
We call our performances investigations of the world. And in this way we have made many performances presented in many different venues, both site specific and not site specific. The space has always been a co-player.
One performance took place in a town hall using the balconies up to the fifth floor. There was a narrow shaft going through all the storeys of the building and the audience stood on the balconies and looked down to the bottom of the shaft where the performance was made. The show focused on gravity and perspective. The audience, by looking down, experienced gravity and perspective.
Another performance called Fact Arte Fact took place in an exhibition hall. The performers were 6 and a half couples of twins, two musicians, and two angels. The subject was genetic engineering. At that time is was not common to hear of genetic engineering or the creation of twins and triplets in the laboratory. The performance consisted of twins mirroring each other. The performance area was also divided in two with a wall, and the audience sat on both sides, so that they could hear the whole performance, but only see half of it. As a result you were conscious of the doubling, and the subject was the origin of life with an alchemistic touch.
Another production I will mention is Monkey Business Class. It is a musical and the show dissects what is a musical, what does a musical consist of? We called it a “memorial musical” because we were sure that after this musical there would be no more musicals. The topic was money, which is really a huge subject, so we started to look into “how do you get money”? This project was 11 years ago, and what is now known as biometric access control systems were not common. Biometrics involve a machine asking if are you who you say you are and verifying identity from scanning the eye, the fingerprint or the voice, and this was a musical about biometric controls.
We try to go into our subjects with a scientific approach. Again this is a meaningless phrase of course. If you are a painter you think of an architect as a scientist because he sometimes uses a ruler. If you are engineer you think an architect is an artist because he decorates what he designs. If you work in psychology it’s a kind of soft-science and if you work in nuclear physics it’s hard science. These kind of categories really don’t matter. What we need to realise is that both science and art are a means and not an end. They are instruments that we apply to in order to obtain a higher information level and understanding and truth and freedom.
We don’t need a Renaissance, or eighteen-century style high art, a bourgeois night out at the opera: we just need to go out there and make stuff that we really think will work and will increase human happiness.
„Investigations of the World: Arts and Science“
'If you are a painter you think of an architect as a scientist because he sometimes uses a ruler. If you are engineer you think an architect is an artist because he decorates what designs...'
„Investigations of the World“
Author: Kirsten Dehlholm and Ralf Richardt Strøbech
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