Stepping into Foreign Apartments: An Outsider’s Point of View

Do you know that feeling looking out your window, secretly peeking into the lives of strangers? You don’t do that? Then give it a try. It’s exciting to consider the stories that might lay behind the curtains. I’m sitting on my windowsill right now, wondering if the man and woman – window on the third floor right in front of my couch window – are professional TV critics or just love watching TV? No, not now. Today, I am not the third daydreamer, third detective, third voyeur at the window. Today, I am actually going on a mission.

Tension is in the air. As usual I’m late, so I have to hurry. Peeking on my mobile phone, I try to find the email telling me the secret address. The address where I will meet up with the other participants. Although I don’t know if we will actually be involved. Oh gosh, maybe all participants have to do something, do I have to perform at last? What will be the role of the audience? Will we be actively influencing the performance or passively affecting it? How much does the crowd affect the artist in the end?

»Entering someone’s house is a social performance. The host and the guests are audience and performers at the same time, fluidly shifting their roles. As a site-specific performer you have not only to adapt to the space, but to melt in it, to make it yours. Performing in someone’s house is a negotiation between the artist, the host, the house, and the audience that brings the unpredictability.« Jean-Lorin Sterian

My heart beats faster as I turn into the street of my destination. I wonder whether the group standing outside will be the kind of people I imagine taking part in an performance festival. The minutes seem to creep on this sunny, cloudless day. Suddenly the crowd starts to move in the direction of a wooden door. The cool breeze inside welcomes its visitors. Step by step we slowly climb the wooden stairway, which could be out of a children’s book. I am thinking that it would be a strange feeling stepping into someone’s home who doesn’t show you around, who is probably not even there. Instead, you will be welcomed into a foreigner’s place. The unfamiliar apartment may also affect the performing artists themselves. How does it feel for an artist to perform in a stranger’s private space?

»Performing in somebody else’s place was very challenging for me because of the character of my one-to-one performance. The essential part and direction of it was depending on the public and I could never predict this. So I had to feel familiar with the new space to know what kind of possibilities I could offer to the public, and be able to react in the natural way. The big influence was also the presence of my host in the apartment. Even if he wasn’t there during my performance, we could feel him through the smell, different objects, and the way he left them. It was an important aspect of this.« Tyśka Samborska

How much does the surrounding influence a performance?

»For me it’s one of the most important factors while working on the performance. It happens very often that you arrive to the space and realize that the idea that you brought there doesn’t fit. Then you have to be flexible and modify your project. I have the impression that very often it’s the space that decides the performance’s tempo and atmosphere.« Tyśka Samborska

The audience has arrived at the top of the stairway. I feel excited, thirsty. And†the†door†opens ….

I am glancing into a beautiful apartment. Wandering through the rooms in my hand a glass of water, I feel like an intruder. At the same time I feel strangely familiar. Being here, part of a performance that will take place in this apartment under these special circumstances on this sunny day in the middle of May feels special. If only I knew when the performance will start.
And the door opens ….

The artificiality of art as it sometimes appears in exhibitions, is not present in the apartment. In this foreign flat, the art is much more natural, as if it were living in its natural surroundings – awakening the home, a completely authentic space. Allowing me this experience, required people who lent their homes to an artist for this special occasion. I am impressed by the openness of the owners who offered their most private space, their home to people they probably don’t even know. I think it takes courage to respond to a newspaper ad that asks for your private space to set up a performance. How does the owner of the apartment feel when he or she is not even present while the performance is taking place? Is he or she proud to offer a space for performance art?

»It feels like I am giving away my apartment as a sightseeing attraction, hoping my unknown visitors will be so caught up in some recited anecdote, they are too distracted to pay attention to the details. All the while I keep wondering what the hell is going on exactly in my absence.« Claus Staudt

And the door opens …
Jean-Lorin Sterian seems to be in a hurry when I coincidentally meet him. The performance festival Lorgennale is his concept. The first complete edition is now happening in Stuttgart – understandable that he looks a little stressed. Nevertheless, I wonder what he likes about Stuttgart as a location for the festival.
Has he already started planning the next round in another city?

»It was great for me to meet different kinds of people and to see the interiors of the city, which became more human to me. I’m planning to manage the next Lorgennale in Vienna or Budapest, but I’m open to any other city where I would get the chance to do it. What’s important is to have friends and partners in that city.« Jean-Lorin Sterian

And the door closes ….

I understand why old women love to lay their arms on the windowsill, just observing what is happening, which stories are taking place around them. I am sure, they would love to go to the Lorgennale.

The performative art festival Lorgennale took place between May 24 and 28 in Stuttgart. It was initiated and designed by Jean-Lorin Sterian, with the support of Akademie Schloss Solitude. The pilot edition was held one year earlier in Zagreb. But this isn’t the end of the Lorgennale story. The festival is going to happen all across Europe in different cities.

The flats and houses did not belong to the artists, but previously cast and assigned to the different performances. Lorgennale wants to bring hosts, artists, and the audience closer together and make it possible to experience art in a more intimate atmosphere. Instead of an entrance fee, every participant was asked to bring an object they associate with their home in Stuttgart. The collected items and their stories are going to be exhibited later in an art space or museum.