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works with

Janet Grau

As an artist, I like working with people and with topics that move people. I almost never work alone, but prefer to collaborate with other creatives, or use exchange and participation as part of the creative process.

My work has developed from a focus on objects (life-sized sculptures until 1994), to solo performances (until 2003), to experimental, interdisciplinary performance-based projects (since 2003), which primarily deal with cultural phenomena and narratives.

I’m especially interested in finding – or inventing – unexpected connections. I like investigating narrative structures and making complex issues accessible through performative and visual means. I take idiosyncratic stories, societal processes or subjects of scholarly research and playfully transform them into tangible allegories and visual experiences.

In addition to performance, I often use photography, video and installation. Occasionally I’ll incorporate drawings, texts and handmade objects into the installations.

The mattering instinct

Performance, Installations, 2022

The Mattering Instinct is a lecture performance and installation in which philosophical ideas are conveyed not only through language, but also through objects and staging, movement and gesture. Instead of a PowerPoint presentation (typical for academia), the possibilities of artistic performance are explored.

The work is based on the well-known U.S.-American philosopher Rebecca Newberger Goldstein‘s “mattering theory”. I compiled the script for the lecture-performance from her essays, speeches and interviews. An installation is occupied by the figure of a philosopher and two dancers. They embody these philosophical thoughts using various objects and dramatic scenes, putting them into action and commenting upon them. Abstract facts are thus made visible and accessible to a wider audience.

Furthermore, the performance unfolds additional dimensions: It transforms the philosophical ideas light-heartedly and with humor, without losing sight of the conceptual core. The first performances will take place on May 6 and 7, 2022 in the Heiliggeistkirche Heidelberg. Afterwards, a video installation of the performance will run there until October 2022, with a booklet for visitors (English original script and German translation).

As soon as we know we are, we want what we are to mean something, to matter. This “mattering” is essential for human beings:

“We can’t pursue our lives without thinking that our lives matter…Clinical depression is when you are convinced that you don’t and will never matter. That’s a pathological attitude, and it highlights, by its pathology, the way in which the ‘mattering instinct’ normally functions. To be a fully functioning, non-depressed person is to live and to act, to take it for granted that you can act on your own behalf, pursue your goals and projects. And that we have a right to be treated in accord with our own commitment to our lives mattering.” (Excerpt from the interview, The Mattering Instinct: A Conversation with Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, the Edge Foundation, 2016).

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