© Katri Naukkarinen
W A U H A U S was founded four years ago, because we were interested in the idea of a shared name and the anonymity as makers that would follow. Behind our collaboration is the idea that our work does not need to attach to us as individuals, but can instead be credited as made by “us”. Performances can be our shared property, they can be named as something we made together. In many situations this kind of policy describes our work better than crediting something to only the director or choreographer would. We do not have a single artistic leader, but instead our work and artistic ownership is shared.
Having said that, we are not a unified group of likeminded people, glued together. W A U H A U S is the collective of seven artists, who have their own visions and interests, different strengths and blind spots. It is the joint venture of artists who feel it is important to ask over and over again how are “we” formed. We try to keep in mind that W A U H A U S is not a static unit, but a group of people constantly under change, trying to renegotiate their ways of co-operation. Our negotiation is based on a loud dialogue through which we attempt to recognise the structures we operate in, over and over again. We can work as hierarchically or as horizontally as we want to. Our work constantly strives to find collectivity in making art, while allowing each individual artist to work through their professional viewpoint and particular skillset.
We want to offer our members and visiting artists a working environment that fosters dialogue and conditions for creating ambitious art in a long-term perspective. We also share and develop our artistic thinking and methods through teaching, workshops, and publications. We actively collaborate with different production platforms and institutions both in Finland and abroad. We want to create networks with venues and agents of various sizes, including both established institutions as well as freelance ventures.
For our work, the aim is to create porous structures that bend and mould according to different needs. To enable this W A U H A U S attempts to act sustainably and create shared practices. As makers or professionals we are not ready, but in a perpetual state of change. We want to learn and develop together through shared experiences. In our artistic work we value not-knowing, wondering, questioning and playfulness. While creating our art we try to curiously approach the unknown and place ourselves in unfamiliar circumstances.
To us, our performances feel like attempts to learn something from the world. They are attempts to exist side-by-side with different beings and materials. Many of our works situate themselves in the terrain between that which is familiar and that which is strange. By stretching the boundaries of familiarity they help us understand things that may be difficult to explain with words. We often try to look at this moment through a material or mode of performance.
Many of our works are strongly audiovisual and multisensory experiences. Oftentimes different materials – like pastel-coloured liquids, an enormous black garbage bag filled with air, a soft light or buzzing noises – will act side-by-side with the human performers onstage. We strive towards a comprehensive audiovisual stage aesthetic. To us, the unique nature of different materials and the interplay between the design arts with the living and non-living actors onstage is fundamental. The materials of our performances beckon us to ask, what are they and how do they work? Or, what can we do with them and what kinds of rules do they follow? Our performances have often taken these exceptional settings – the extreme slipperiness that shapes all movements by performers, a darkness that inhibits the vision and calls the audience to sink into it– as a condition or starting point.
Our performers, and sometimes even our audience members, find themselves in collaboration with not only their bodies, but also the bodies of others and the materials at the core of the performance. Our stages are structured through a perspective that tries to dismantle their anthropocentric tradition. We hope that the bodies in our performances could be frail, limited, dependent on the relations around them, capable of blending into others. Hybrid and cyborg. Lingering around porous borders. Instead of individual psychologies we are interested in spaces where new things and perceptions have a chance to arise. Spaces, where the experience of the viewer can become the substance of the stage.
The ongoing climate crisis and sixth wave of mass extinction have led us to ask, how are these massive turning points visible in the renewing fields of art we come from – choreography, directing, dramaturgy, light, costume, space and sound design? For centuries the stage has been the place of humans. This has led to actors, dancers and other human performers taking centre stage. The stories told have focused on conflicts either within humans or between them. The soundscapes have been filled with the speech of humans and spotlights have gravitated towards the faces of actors, whose microexpressions have urged us to identify with them and their experiences.
The rise of the design arts and the crisis of the portrayal of humans is not happening at the same time by coincidence. They are acutely intertwined. What can we hear or see if the human at the centre of the stage takes a step aside, makes space for something else? If the performer’s voice is taken or their face covered? If they surrender their bodies to be moved by lubricant or their movements to echo only through the surface of a gigantic plastic bag? This does not mean that the performer has to leave the stage entirely, but instead they can share the spotlight with someone or something.
Our works are not uniform and they cannot be located within a single genre. They float between theatre, dance, live art, and social choreography. They experiment and reach out to various art forms and traditions. They test what our professions can bring to the stage: disgusting as beautiful, vast as intimate, and even spectacles within the mouths of performers. That being said, our performances are not experiments for the sake of experimenting. They try to help us see differently, to experience empathy for ourselves, as well as for others. To hear signals overrun by noise. We hope that our field of vision could fit within it a variety of things: structures, spaces, cohabitants, lights, sounds, and materials.