Q #1: Tom Silkeberg (Dramaturge)
First of all, can we discuss the relation between your performing arts collective (PotatoPotato) and your venues(s)?
PotatoPotato is a free group, and we create experimental performances, but we also do co-productions, arrange parties, workshops, and publications, and develop new methods to create theatre. PotatoPotato has had a venue in Malmö since 2014 and in the winter of 2022 the group opened a new venue in KONTRÄR at Södermalm, Stockholm. This is a unique avant-garde space for international guest performances and co-productions as well as a space for critical reflections within the field.
Q #2: Tom Silkeberg
PotatoPotato members have been working together for more than 15 years and seem to be like a family. The line between life and art is blurred. So how do you make it work, as friends, as colleagues, as artists?
Over the years, we invented structures for everything and discovered that preparation is central for collaborative devising processes. To have fun and feel safe, you need a structure. I must underline that is hard work to be in a collective as you must choose each other every day.
Q #3: Tom Silkeberg
During the last couple of decades, theatres have been struggling with decreasing audience numbers and a generally unfaithful and unpredictable audience due to, among other thing, the rise of the neoliberal paradigm with its cultivation of individualism and fragmentation of the common. The attention economy contributed to the audience being seen as a consumer in late capitalism. However, in resent time an interesting change of perspective has appeared in the performing arts field: to begin with the community, rather than start with the individual. Of course, this was first visible in the independent art field. It is a movement that fundamentally questions the producer/consumer dichotomy. Different forms of community, of coexistence, and social alternatives have arisen. So has the concept of curating, creating a collective experience not only within the performance itself, but rather turning a programme or venue into a larger field of communing. It seems to me that KONTRÄR contributes to this movement through your relationship with the audience and your way of communicating. What is your relationship with the audience, and how do you cultivate that?
We aim to create a sense of community and to inspire the audience by introducing them to experimental theatre and performance, independent groups, and the international field—you need oxygen from the rest of the world! We especially wish to inform, inspire, help, and guide a young audience, young theatre students, and young independent groups. Therefore, we give free tickets to students from the theatre school. In that sense we consider our venue to be a sort of classroom. KONTRÄR also had an open call for independent groups, received 22 ambitious applications, and chose the group GOOSEBUMPS. GOOSEBUMPS is under our wing for one year and receives advice and feedback and gets to perform a piece both in both the Stockholm and Malmö venues.
Q #4: Tom Silkeberg
Visiting KONTRÄR is truly a unique experience compared with other Stockholm cultural venues. It is like an oasis. A safe space. A hideout. A relationship. Tell me about your philosophy on communication. I know, for example, that you have a special way of launching your repertoire via newsletters.
Yes, we do. To buy a ticket, you must subscribe to our newsletter. It is out about one to three weeks before a new show opens. We do it this way because it is a way to build a sense of community and since a young audience decides quite late what they want to do. It is vital to KONTRÄR to make theatre sexy, vibrant, and interesting for a young audience, so we reach out to them in alternative ways.
Q #5: Tom Silkeberg
What are your activities, apart from producing/showing performing artworks?
In both our venues we host international guest performances and co-productions. With both venues and PotatoPotato, we prioritize sharing knowledge through documentation, artist talks, workshops, parties, residencies, and by teaching drag techniques and techniques for devising and concept development.