Stefan Skowron

“aus der Dampfzeit” was never meant to be music-theatre, in either the classical or the modern sense of the word. But it wasn’t an image or a sculpture either – not even a social sculpture. The work connected rather to the long-established art world tradition of multi-media, synaesthetic works; but not of course as an egomaniacal Gesamtkunstwerk, from which in truth only a very few of the works so described are actually worthy of mention.

Instead as a musical theatre performance in 5 scenes, “aus der Dampfzeit” brought together the most disparate elements, artistic disciplines, images and individuals into a whole, and at the same time wasn’t afraid to be witty one moment and sad the next. Music and the visual arts, thrown together as sisters, gave their best. For the viewers it was both a physical and sensual experience, as it was both serious and funny, planned and improvised, ambiguous and narrative, static and moving. And it was a bold undertaking.

At the beginning of “aus der Dampfzeit” came the question: is there a recipe for life? In the same way as there is, for example, a recipe for bread.

Transferred onto life, that means: is there something that can guarantee that my plans will succeed? Is there absolute security? Ergo: do we have a right to a happy, successful and interesting life? Hiding behind these in no way rhetorical questions, which are all essentially asking the same thing, namely, can life be planned, are the autobiographical experiences from the life of the artist up to her residency in Mönchengladbach as guest of the Josef und Hilde Wilberz-Stiftung. Like in any attempt at producing authentic art, the source material for “aus der Dampfzeit” logically came out of an exhaustive examination of the self. “aus der Dampfzeit” is consequently a story which is not free of tragedy. The story is not allegorical and in no way educational, but is nevertheless very emotional, with dissonant, expressive and softly harmonising sounds. The music, written by the composer Rudiger Blömer from Aachen, is also a kind of collage – in the first act, for example, he cites Haydn.

With the benefit of hindsight, looking back today to the premiere on the 5th of June 2005 on the roof of the Museum Abteiberg in Mönchengladbach, a further completely different factor seems meaningful and essential for the work (or my understanding of it): the external circumstances of the performance in the open air of “aus der Dampfzeit” wanted to show up the moodiness of life, the abundance of available possibilities and approaches, maybe even that which can only imperfectly be described by the word fate. On the 5th of June 2005, strong winds, rain and other forms of inclemency presented the artist and all involved with huge problems. It was as if the underlying thematic of “aus der Dampfzeit” so to speak manifested itself in just these weatherdetermined problems, in order to be able to realise a performance which was appropriate to the score and the intentions of the artist. In this way was/is “aus der Dampfzeit” literally a living art work. Every further performance will and must be different. Because that’s how life is.

Because there’s no recipe for life.

from the catalog “aus der Dampfzeit” (From the Steam Age) 2006
Stefan Skowron