I arrived in Stuttgart on the third day of lorgennale festival, curated by Jean-Lorin Sterian, a friend and a current fellow at Akademie Schloss Solitude. We met during my cultural journalism residency in 2016. I arrived on Friday evening, dropped my stuff off at Solitude, and ran to the city to catch the 7pm performance. Over three days, until the last day of the festival, I saw most of the performances, which were in German.
It was difficult for me to understand the content, but I deeply understood the main idea of the festival: art performances, talks, and exhibiting Stuttgart-based artists in private apartments with their hosts. As an audience member, this experience brought my relationship to art and culture to another level. Maybe it brought art closer to my heart, as homes are very intimate spaces in which to show art to people, compared to normal exhibition spaces. The experience also showed me that lots of art can happen indoors, and sometimes art only needs a creative curator to tell us its stories.
In this interview I speak with Jean-Lorin about the idea of the festival, the cities in which he practices this idea inside private flats, and the importance of »home-based« art practices.
Rasha Hilwi: Where did the idea of the festival come from?
Jean-Lorin Sterian: I’ve been imagining this kind of festival for four years, since I was in Bucharest. In the past year, I tried a pilot edition of the festival in Zagreb. It was smaller, with five performances and five shows in private flats. This year, in Stuttgart, it was a complete lorgennale festival, with more than ten performances in ten private flats for five days.
RH: Why did you name the festival lorgennale?
J-LS: The idea for the name came from here, from Akademie Schloss Solitude. I think Mr. Jean-Baptiste Joly was behind it somehow. My first working place in Bucharest was called lorgean theatre, I kept it open it for seven years, and then I decided to bring the name from the theater to the festival, changing it slightly. And because the festival is primarily about performance and visual art, it’s also close to the biennale idea.
RH: I didn’t understand most of the performances, because they were in German, but I felt so close to and touched by each performance, mainly because of so many performances and visual works were presented in private homes. For me it was the most beautiful part. Why did you choose private apartments as the only spaces for the festival?
J-LS: Although sometimes I’m perceived as one, I’m not a cultural manager. Although lorgennale takes the shape of a festival, it’s an art project. I build different social frames that take different forms, but the inhabitation is the material that I use to research and carve in/from it. Somehow I perceive lorgennale as my extended social body in an open interaction with the spirit of the cities where I travel. I’m interested in the concept of social sculptures; I’m creating the frame and filling it with contributions from hosts, local artists, and audience. So it’s like I’m drawing and then adding colors, and these colors belong to the people. I think what’s going on in a home is much more interesting than elsewhere, because your expectations as an audience are different. Even for the artists, performing inside private homes is unusual and they adapt their work to these spaces. The hosts, too, become very important, because they put the final touch on what’s going on in these social performances by bringing audiences to their homes. And that’s what I like the most: how hosts intervening in the whole process are unpredictable. I like unpredictable things. I don’t like to control what’s going on and I want to be surprised like anyone else.
RH: How did you work on the festival program? How did you find the hosts and homes, and also reach the audience?
J-LS: I had the help of Akademie Schloss Solitude, and mainly the help of Paula Kohlmann, an ex-coordination fellow at Solitude. During the festival the team grew to three people, including Elena Kaifel, who became the »object manager.« You have to work with a local partner; you can’t just comb the city’s streets and look for hosts, houses, and performers. Local partners are very important, it’s even better if they’re friends. A little budget is also important because people don’t buy tickets for this festival, they only contribute through the object that connects to the festival subject – their home. I collect these objects from different places and then exhibit them. So I can see how city residents are preserving their city from this cultural material.
RH: Do you have a special story from the festival?
J-LS: For me the best part of the festival is when I visited the houses and met with the hosts, and then matched the performances and homes … the whole idea is to bring people together. And it’s the most beautiful part to find the best combination. I also performed in the festival, and I am so attached to my performance and my host, because I had to develop a relationship to the place I performed in. This hopefully happened with all the artists involved.
RH: Since I’ve known you through my residency in Akademie Schloss Solitude in 2011, you’ve had many art social initiatives and activities indoors, inside your own or other fellows’ studios. Why this passion for indoor activities and projects?
J-LS: I am indoor person, despite the »coffee on the stairs« initiative. I like interior spaces, because the relationships that develop indoors are much stronger. I like to see how people are living inside their homes, and I’m always happy when someone invites me to his/her studio. When I’m traveling, I’m dying to enter the houses from inside, rather than to visit a museum for example.
RH: So far, your festival has taken place in three cities: Bucharest, Zagreb, and Stuttgart. What was the difference between the cities?
J-LS: They’re very different. Bucharest is my hometown, and I have a special relationship to the city, but when I visit a house there, I still discover different types of living and relationships. Zagreb was quite a challenge. It was hard to find homes in which to host the festival’s performances, although I was there for three months. But here in Stuttgart I felt it from the beginning that it would be easy and it was easy to find homes and hosts.
RH: Where else would you want to do lorgennale?
J-LS: I’d go everywhere; from Helsinki to Athens, just to name two cities. I’m so curious about every city in Europe and beyond.
RH: Do you think of taking the festival to places and cities that have many conflicts regarding homes and what home means?
J-LS: Yes! It’s challenging. If you do it in Paris, it will look like a bourgeois thing. But I was thinking about Berlin, though the city is well known for this kind of artwork. If I take the festival there maybe I’ll do it in houses of refugees and give it a theme. Home is the most important thing in people’s lives, and when you do performances in homes, you’re going to the core.