Tomorrow I open the curtain
Anna van Suchtelen and I were invited to teach a summer school workshop at University Medical Centre, Utrecht University. Our students would be late-masters and early-phd translational scientists. Since we had been talking for some time about art that was created for and by small groups of people, we organized a workshop-as-artwork that emphasized the relationship between art and other forms of social activity.
Our workshop was part or a larger course on Science in Transition. We were asked to engage students in activities that engendered resilience, problem solving, and communication. We thereby used the workshop format to create situations that encouraged collective agency in order to stimulate social encounters and produce aesthetic objects. The temporary community formed by workshop attendees was confronted with multi-modal challenges that paralleled the learning and engagement that comes at us in real life via many sensory modalities.
The focal point of the 2018 workshop was Tomorrow I open the curtain, a collaborative film which combined text written and performed by students with images made by photographer Thirza Luijten, and a soundtrack by saxophonist Gianfranco Grompone. The project took place at Oostbroek Estate, a lush park with flowery grasslands between an old deciduous forest, a marsh, and a convent garden.
The project was rule based: we formed students into groups of four based on a creativity self-assessment they took at the beginning of the course. Each group was led to a different part of the estate, and received instructions for their creative writing. The instructions asked students to write and perform a short story inspired by the location to which they had been led. The only catch we gave the groups was the story’s opening and closing lines. What the students didn’t know, was that each group was given the exact same lines.