A Carte Blanche in Barcelona

The administrative staff exchange offered by EDN has been full of discoveries and encounters. In this period I had the chance to approach new professional practices, to compare the problematic that our institutions have to face and observe different ways to solve them. The staff of Mercat welcomed me with availability and care. I really appreciated that. Each one of them offered some of his/her time to exchange and explain his/her mission and how his/her job works. Back from this experience, I would like to share some comments on two main issues: on one hand, the public engagement, on the other hand, the relationship with both hosted companies and groups in residency.

About mediation and audience

From the elaboration of the programme, when the artistic proposals have been selected, the audience issue comes to the surface: how are we going to present this performance, or this artist? Who are we approaching, which is the targeted audience? Which are the core messages of this artistic proposal and how can we use them?

The communication of the artistic proposals from the different kind of audience is then implemented by PR and communication department. Through a synergetic work, they look for a balance between the advertisement necessities (for the proposals which are well-known or “easy”), and the mediation actions (for the less accessible proposals). Every department works hand by hand, using its own tools to reach the audience.

In a context where contemporary dance still needs to become more popular, it is all about allowing the spectator to live an experience which would make him/her come back, during which he/she meets the artistic proposal. Therefore they offer solutions with different characteristics: meetings and talks with the artists, writing workshops, post-show talks, virtual groups of discussion (whatsapp) etc. Either before or after the show they try to offer complementary viewpoints, give various streams of reflection or present a special experience so that the spectator feels to belong to the space (the theatre) or to the artist’s world. The question to which every form of mediation tries to answer is:” what would the audience need to understand, posses, meet the work?”.

Furthermore, few years ago Mercat created a very complete pedagogic suitcase available especially for schools. Based on different objects and images (photos, videos, illustrations, etc.), this suitcase raises questions about the dance movement, the history of dance etc. It also proposes games and activities that develop creativity and imagination. This suitcase offers learning itineraries which differ for level, class school programme and the available time, so that the teacher can make a practical use of the materials.

About artists’ residency

Mercat de les Flors works with another venue, Graner, where residencies take place. The kind of accompaniment for companies varies according to the way they “enter into residency”. It mainly consists in putting the artist at the centre of the dispositive and in giving him/her the maximum of what is needed, depending on the stage of his artistic reflections and of the development of the company. Therefore, the accompaniment can be; to help the artist in meeting people or network that may help him/her for the development of the work; an administrative or technical coaching; an artistic viewpoint and work exchanges; a help to disseminate the show, etc.

An important characteristic of these residencies is that they allow companies to be autonomous during the period of their stay. For example, the artist has the key of the working so that he/she don’t have any restriction of time. Another thing is that the studio is technically settled in a way that the company can work on the sound and light aspects of the show without the help of the technical service (except set-up and dismantling).

Moreover, this space of artistic residency is a place based on cohabitation and self-management. The kitchen and the toilets are shared and every company has the key of the structure. The interdependence of professional and personal life is not forgotten and the space allows hosting families with kids.

Finally, a recurrent answer now that the restrictions of budget are becoming a burden for artists and artistic venues: when they ask for an accompany paper for artistic companies, how it is possible to mediate between the support of the dissemination of the works and the concession of residency periods?

I think that this Carte Blanche experience is really interesting to understand a little bit better how other structures work, but also to meet colleagues and understand how they react to common problematic, which kind of solutions they adopted etc. I would like to thank Mercat and EDN for this experience which allowed me to put into question and hopefully to improve our professional practice.

Bénédicte Brocard
Production at CND Paris
14 September 2015