WHAT IF... We already started?

by Pankaj Tiwari and Tom Oliver Jacobson with Agat Sharma, Ainhoa Hernández Escudero and Luis Guenel

Invited guest Petra Ardai, Bettina Vismann and Isabelle Vuong

This November lab is part of an ongoing speculative institute that deals with the relationship between imagination and uncertainty for fostering artistic responses. It is created to rehearse the futures that we often imagine in our impassioned discourses but never find the energy to act out. It is therefore an epicenter of experimental energy, built from the dialogue between critical theory and concrete artistic responses. It is honestly very overwhelming to face an uncertain future as time collapses on us. While the Covid storm hit us we were already neck deep in the climate crisis and in denial of the incumbent social inequalities that should have been addressed generations ago. Now we face all of this all at once. The emergencies that keep piling up on the shoulders of a younger generation all require a specific, close-range attention, making it increasingly difficult to dwell in fabulous, non-chronological imaginaries. As theatre makers as well as activists, we are fuelled by an impulse to create better alternatives, but our vision has somehow gotten blurred. We are creating this institute because we are willing to work hard on new ideas with others. We will fail in our actions, often, hard, too soon and too late, but we are committed to keep translating the ideas to artistic responses. As artists what can we do except tell new stories and create glimpses of the future?

Our proposal is to frame these two weeks loosely within an idea of a speculative institute that will continue its life long after the two weeks, and where the participants will be invited to participate in any capacity they feel attracted to.


During the first week we are installing ourself in a self-organized residency at Het Domijn, a small residency in Weesp outside of Amsterdam (https://www.transartists.org/air/het-domijn). There we will set up a space, fill the walls with notes and put up our hammocks, and go on walks in the surroundings woods.

During the first days, we are having a series of workshops with Isabelle Vuong, who is a futurologist and cultural manager. She's guiding us through the basic principles of future studies and how it is relevant for theatre makers. The purpose of the residency is basically to have time and space to both connect to the group, but also to dive deeper into the theoretical aspects of the proposal in a calm, non-distracting setting surrounded by nature. From Weesp we are renting a car for a small trip to a house that we will be renting. We have two options at hand and we'll need to finalize them tonight. We are planning on visiting the national park de Veluwe, some cultural associatios that have taken over churches, and perhaps an old radio tower that is now a cultural venue. We are generally expanding our horizons from the narrow streets of Amsterdam. A key question that we are working on is how to formulate principles for a speculative institute that is made to foster artistic responses. And then to act it out as a group. During the second week we are initiating with a whole day session with Petra Ardai, who will share a workshop about “rehearsing the revolution”, a kind of playful workshop in story-building and how to put revolutionary imaginations into action. Then the second week will be spent trying out artistic responses which will be carried out across Amsterdam on the last weekend - and how to let this speculative institute continue its life afterwards.

The lab is also firmly rooted in a mindset of action. Therefore, we have designed a frame for two public interventions that the participants will be asked to partake in. One format we call “100 dinners”, and it is an ongoing format in which we are aiming at facilitating one hundred dinners before Christmas. The proposal is to turn dinners into a curatorial principle where we don't actually cook or host anyone, but set frames, instructions and connect hosts and guests. The rules are simply: One person is a host, and two people come as guests. No one talks about their profession and the guests help wash the dishes. But the dinner party will also be given a set of instructions for how to interact (or not) with each other. The role of the participants will be to create these sets of instructions, which will be sent to the host by post. The second format is a public intervention at Dam Square, where the participants will design a durational performance.