Actress and theatre maker Mareike Wenzel has been a member of the Danish-Austrian performance collective SIGNA since 2007. In addition, she develops her own performance formats and artistic interventions in cultural education. Her works of art focus strongly on public and private spaces as well as different realities of life. For the last ten years, Wenzel has been working in Georgia again and again, where she teaches Performance and Immersives Theater at the Center of Contemporary Art Tbilisi and deals with participatory, artistic formats for the womens’ rights organisation WISG. In 2016, Wenzel founded the Georgian non-governmental organisation Aitsona Daitsona for children’s theatre and cultural education projects.
Which topic turns up again and again in your artistic activities?
My works of art are very strongly based on locations and spaces which I research and take a new look at together with various groups. Redefining familiar narratives and redesigning spaces are at the centre of my work. One focus here is experiences made by women and dealing with public and private spaces. I am interested in putting different narratives on top of each other and linking up with locations to enable the creation of new spaces for thought and encounters as well as in developing a common language of art.
What do you seek to achieve with your cultural education activities?
To me, cultural education work means creating and opening up common spaces to enable new narratives to develop, question existing structures and enable participation. Art as a shared experience and communicating in a common language which evolves through and in constant exchange. It can develop new new narratives on existing places or positions, challenging both the audience and participants to question their own perceptions and behavioural partterns, thus creating scope for novelties and a new understanding of culture.
What, in your view, is the essence of an artistic intervention in cultural education?
It creates places of exchange, encounter and the discussion of different positions and opens up new scope for knowledge and discourse. Awareness of different realities of life can be created with artistic means. For me, such activities are always an exchange and transfer of knowledge, a common quest and common negotiating of topics, always staying open-minded and at eye-level. They question conventional cultural practice, create new art venues and enable participation from the perspective of the participant and the observer.
PLAY was a creation for the Tbilisi Triennial 2015. For several months, I worked for the inhabitants of the Georgian village of Machkhaani in order to perform at the disused theatre there and reintegrate it in village life. The project set out from memories of the inhabitants. Together, we gathered stories about the village, the theatre and the inhabitants and translated them into installations. The theatre was redesigned with the villagers according to their ideas and then reopened. In addition, together with school pupils, I developed an immersive stage play about their lives in Machkhaani, freely adapted from “Romeo and Julia”, which led spectators around the whole village and ended in the theatre.
What have you taken home from this project for your artistic activities?
The project forms the beginning of my further work in the field of artistic interventions in cultural education. The long period of activities at local level showed me the importance of time-intensive working to enable something to develop together and allow work at eye-level. I have learnt to harmonise my own position as an artist with the needs of the participants, reassess them again and again and adopt an open-minded approach in working. I see myself as a mediator looking for aspects to take up, bringing along different material and providing an aesthetic framework.