Art Lab I

12.09. – 22.09.2016 – Art Lab I, Agdz


  • Centre for Contemporary Dance / University for Music and Dance Cologne (HfMT)
  • Institute for Technology and Resources Management in the Tropics and Subtropics (ITT) of the Technical University Cologne
  • Faculty of Science and Technology in Errachidia of the University Moulay Ismail (UMI)
  • Polydisciplinary Faculty of Ouarzazate of the University IBN Zohr
  • Practioners from Ahwash Traditional Music & Dance
  • Guests

Elsa Artmann, Abdessamad Balahcen, Mohamed Balahcen, Norbert Dennig, Prof. Dr. Abdellah El Alaoui, Silvia Enis Duarte, Maximiliano Estudios, Karina Klein, Silke Lichtenberg, Michael Maurissens, Holger Mertin, Linda Madio Ngankeng Epse Kemeni, Boubker Marrouk, Dr. Udo Nehren, Anne-Lene Nöldner, Kenechukwu Albert Okoye, Dr. Claudia Raedig, Nezha Rhondali, Prof. Vera Sander, Svenja Speen, Thea Soti, Dimitrios Thanos, Prof. Dr. Hsaine Zgou, Belaid Zouhair, musicians/practioner Morocco

We used this lab as a starting point to think about the idea of how we can work together assuming that we would face many challenges in working together as people who have different backgrounds and thoughts.

We were participants from different cultural backgrounds and disciplines that spent over a week together working on various tasks. As location we picked Agdz a town located in the South Moroccan region of Souss-Massa-Draâ.

What was so fascinating about this location? 

The location we picked informs the whole project. Agdz was a main historical crossroad for the caravan routes from Marrakesh to Timbuktu and an important meeting point of different cultures. This is documented by the impressive loam (adobe) architecture and the 3,000 year old Ahwash ritual of the Berber tribes. The chosen place offered space for a laboratory, where Moroccan and German scientists, artists and students work together on questions related to sustainable rural development and cultural identity. Based on the concept of inquiry-based learning our research focuses on the following topics: Arts and Communication, Natural Resources and Development, Tangible Cultural Heritage and Society and Intercultural Dialogue.

Even though Agdz / Assalim obviously does no longer function as a trading spot for the ancient caravan routes, there are still certain traces embedded in this place. I see this place as a kind of metaphor for building possibilities in which we can rethink how to work together.

How did we choose the participants for this „utopian“ group? 

The idea was to try to find people with different nationalities and cultural backgrounds.

I think an important aspect of this first artlab was that there was no fixed goal for the participants. Usually when you participate in a workshop there is a goal. You think: “I will spend one week doing this workshop and I will learn to achieve this or that,” while in this case it was open.

What was the structure of the event?

It was a one-week workshop. Each day there were different activities. For instance, the first day we came together for an instant performance in the Casbah Ait el Caid. Six dancers and musicians made a choreographic proposal on how to improvise together. After this happening we were able to exchange on our associations, observations and feelings about the event. This was one of many different activities. Each of them touched on something different: exchanging on learning techniques, artistic practices, Ahwash, discussions, excursions, interdisciplinary work, socio-cultural aspects.

Some of the participants held interviews with local experts as part of their research on sociological, ecological aspects of the project.
For our exchange we used techniques from dance, music and performance as tools to create an environment of openess, curiousity, sensitivity and awareness.

What was our role?

Holger and my role has been very similar to the role of facilitators inviting people to create a group. As facilitators we tried to reflect on the place as well as the needs of the group to allow the participants to develop their own ideas, making contributions to collective action, taking up, continuing, furthering, and thereby slightly bending and turning something conceived and initiated by someone else.

In this workshop week we were constantly switching role from being observer to participant. I think that was an important move to invite the aspect of dynamic and change (change of role, change of perspective etc.) into the group.

We also added techniques related to feedback processes to the workshop.

From the perspective of designing an interaction rather then a judgemental situation we encouraged opportunities to exchange and share rather then to state and judge a situation. Giving and receiving feedback in the body-based field of dance practice performs the idea of a self-actualising process, a mutual, interpersonal concept, a participatory principle of learning and exchanging. Especially in a cultural dialogue it seems crucial to scrutinize the complex entanglement of perceiving – conceiving and understanding and to engage.

In this sense engaging feedback processes helped to never go against the partner’s movement but use its momentum for accomplishing one´s own goal. Working with the proposals of our partners we got into a kind of flow. Over the course of the week obstacles would interrupt this flow less and less often, and the overall tendency was to become more and more cooperative and concentrate on modifying and engaging into objections.

We were all very optimistic after the workshop. Of course there were irritations because the participants had different opinions, backgrounds and needs. But because we stayed together for a week and had these moderated workshops together, we developed a level of trust between us. We became a kind of temporal community.

(Vera Sander)