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Openlab «The Witness»

A community-based research project on deep listening with Julie Beauvais

Openlab @Museum Tinguely

A course for students of Basel Academy of Music 2023/24

The project connects to the transdisciplinary project «The Witness» which is a global network of artists, scientists, and activists in collaboration with their local communities, addressing the dire ecological situation of our planet. Their research, which incorporates audio, video, text, and other creative platforms, makes us witness what may disappear forever, as well as build, with great urgency, new networks of caregiving for the earth. The Basel-based spin-off of this project is part of a test phase that will lead to a newly created MA Music and Scene in Transformation (MuST).

The first week study period introduces different practices of deep listening to give participants a richer understanding of the role of embodiment in the development of sound- and music-based research projects, and of creative autonomy in movement-based performing arts, education and community arts. Using conscious movement and improvisation, open architecture and deep listening practices, introducing regular reflective practice in small groups, participants get to know in this first period of study the fundamental cornerstones of the Openlab "The Witness" program approach. Alongside classroom practice, students develop field research projects in conjunction with Basel researchers and communities. 

In the second phase, participants explore more deeply those creative forces in the body that call us to move out of the familiar into the unknown, from a rehearsal room into the field of research. The affirmation of a strong, stable practice of embodiment, deep listening and open architecture allows new collaborative works to emerge with embodied dramaturgy. 

The third step of the module offers a platform for the development of artistic/performative/creative projects, which understand the dialogue with the human body and the field research and the cooperation with other groups of artists and researchers around the world as integral parts of the creative process. The projects will be informed by the richness of the background and the depth of the personal process of each participant.

Worlding through socially engaged art practice in Basel

The two projects the students have chosen to develop in conjunction with Basel researchers and communities in autumn 2023 are: 

Witnessing biodiversity in the gardens of Basel 

In a world out of balance, facing climate change and advancing urbanization, Basel, a Swiss city at the borders of France and Germany, is showing a ray of hope: A recent field study revealed an unexpectedly large amount of biodiversity in the city’s private gardens. Inspired by this research, a group of artists from different fields and nationalities initiated a transdisciplinary project seeking to combine scientific research, artistic expression, and community engagement to explore the world of plants, animals, and other living inhabitants of the soil. Their goal is to amplify the significance of these beings and observe their entanglement with their own artistic practices, as well as define gestures of care needed to co-exist with them. By witnessing, listening to, and embodying these beings and our soil through ecosomatic practices, we learn to see, recognize, honor the world around and within us, sing, dance, play, grieve, compose, and decompose with it — a timely and meaningful endeavour to explore nature from within, rather than from above. It is a call to suspend ourselves in our world in trouble and transition, a call to take care “of the humus upon which the future will be able to grow” (Emma Bigé). 

Witnesses: Ed Williams, Cris Arcos Cano, Anouk Neyens, Chloé Saffores, Lathika Vithanage, Olga Marulanda, Isabelle Meraner

Seeking community beyond borders in the transnational area of Basel 

 This transdisciplinary project strives to foster a deeper understanding of shared identity and the borders that shape us, challenging conventional perspectives in our interconnected world. The research initiates at the Three Countries Bridge (Dreiländerbrücke; La passerelle des Trois Pays), which marks the borders between Weil am Rhein (Germany) and Huningue (France) — overviewed by the Dreiländereck, the Basel monument that stands at the intersection of the three neighbouring countries. This iconic bridge serves as a tangible metaphor for exploring the connections and divisions in the transnational area. Engaging with the interplay among change, movement, and the intricate balance between micro and macro human scales, the team examines how these fluid dynamics significantly impact our communities and identities and interact with solid, established structures. They are investigating the origins of different communities in the area, the essence of belonging, and the evolving nature of shared identities influenced by common threads and the impact of globalization and technology. 

Witnesses: Iulia-Andreea Smeu, Kaspar Deicher, Miriam Paschetta, Hannah Wirnsperger, Nina Maghsoodloo

Julie Beauvais, founder and director of The Witness

Julie Beauvais.jpg© Lisa Biedlingmaier

The Witness is anchored in the idea that the arts can bring us together — by connecting us to our origins, raising awareness about the emerging and ever-shifting challenges of our planet and humanity, informing more sustainable solutions, and cultivating a deeper spirituality. Each year brings together three to five groups from different parts of the world who are working with a local community or environment to research a particular issue. The groups then share fragments of their research, e.g. videos, photos, sound recordings, or interviews, through multimedia platform. They meet remotely for most of the year to share their progress, then come together to deepen their collaborations and share their work with the public.
The 2023 cohort gathered on 11 December  2023 at 18.00 at Museum Tinguely together with the presentation of the works of the students of Basel Academy of Music.

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