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Flora Valentina Besenbäck

In conversation with Barbara Pflanzner, Studio at Creative Cluster, June 27, 2023

You completed your stage design studies with Anna Viebrock at the Academy in 2021. Because this final phase coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, you built a temporary studio in the forest. How did that go?

It was an idea that I’d had in my head since a seminar on utopian architecture and temporary guerrilla architecture, although building a studio in the woods during a pandemic has a rather dystopian character. During my studies, we also worked with the practice of “As Found,” but always in an urban context. Since I stayed at my parents’ farm during the lockdowns, I took up this idea and wondered what kind of temporary architecture exists in rural areas. That’s how I came up with the hunting stand. Since I didn’t want to spend any money, I looked for materials in the barn, only bought the fittings, and then built this hunting stand with a chainsaw and hammer. It can be folded out on one side, thus doubling its floor space without violating the hunting law. Beforehand, I looked at the construction of all the hunting stands in the area, measured them, drew them, and photographed the views. In this way, a kind of map of all the hunting stands in the village was created. This routine, which consisted of the well-trodden paths, resulted in my diploma project. The hunting stand is still standing, and this summer I plan to take time to continue working on it.

Did you also use it as a studio, or was the project more about the process of implementation?

Actually, the hunting stand was a retreat for me, where I would sit for hours and think or write. Unfortunately, I haven’t been there much because I’ve been constantly busy with new projects elsewhere. But whenever I visit my parents, I always stop by the hunting stand – usually, I first remove all the insect nests that have formed in the meantime. Currently, there’s a table, a chair, two cups, a few pens, toilet paper, a shovel, and a carpet inside.

Seeing you mentioned your diploma thesis, what was your focus?

In recent years, there have been more and more exhibitions with the theme of “Human vs. Nature.” Also, at that time, three exhibitions on this topic took place at the Academy, and I simply felt the need to engage with cultivated cultural landscapes and performative aspects, not just by visiting exhibitions in galleries. Based on that, the project developed in a way that it oriented itself towards the themes and circumstances found on-site, such as the landscape and agriculture.

Has your practice changed since having a fixed studio space like the one in the Creative Cluster? Or is a permanent location not so relevant for your artistic practice?

My practice has changed a lot in the sense that it has become more static and has shifted more towards the city. For example, I designed and implemented stage and costume together with my Studio program colleague Isabela Voicu for a play here in the studio. The project melken steigern ausnehmen – Eine Rindsrevue, which recently took place in Zwettl, was also conceptualized and prepared here, mainly with the participation of people based in Vienna.

What’s important to you in the selection and implementation of your pieces?

Well, for example, the principle or attempt to work resource-efficiently and use existing material (over and over again) – this leads to a certain aesthetic. There have also been synergies created in the Studio community: My Studio colleagues store ropes and carabiners here – materials from a previous project that were then used in my performances. Because these ropes were there and available, something developed from them. I find it great to create temporary structures and spaces that can be used and worn out, but I’ve always had a problem with the often-casual use of resources in theaters since the beginning of my studies. In my own projects, I found a way to deal with it. During a residency in Innviertel, my entire project was created using materials from a local second-hand shop, which I simply gave back after the project was completed.

What projects have you been working on as part of the program year?

melken steigern ausnehmen – Eine Rindsrevue, which I submitted together with actress Marlene Hauser at the same time as my application for the Studio program, was definitely the most intensive project in this program year. In Zwettl, there’s an old cattle auction hall that, together with its surrounding area, forms an exciting place where I wanted to implement something before the entire complex is expected to be demolished in 2026. Eventually, an artistic team formed that consisted of filmmaker Johannes Gierlinger, musicians Katharina Maria Trenk and Georg Haider, dancer Juli Müllner, and two members of the Academy of Fine Brass, Cosima Baum and Isabela Voicu,. Marlene and I found it logical to focus on the theme of “cattle” there. Eventually, it truly became a revue – a glimpse into the relationship history between humans and cattle.

Another project I recently worked on also took place in Zwettl. With my literature association, we had a collaboration with the Institute of Creative Writing at the University of Applied Arts. Short texts were written and recorded as part of a seminar and can now be listened to in a telephone booth that will be available until August. I transformed it into an interior space, inspired by the architecture and design of the time it originated from. I was interested in how public space, in the context of the development of the “telephone booth” space, is treated and how our society tends to increasingly restrict these spaces. Another very intense project was the collectively developed performance Dollhouses The Swimmingpool in Cologne with a large group of artists. In January, part of the collective traveled to Vienna, and we started the joint working phase with a workshop weekend here in the Creative Cluster.

What do you have planned in the near future, beyond the program?

In the past few weeks, I’ve completed one project after another; it’s been a very busy time. Now, the focus is on processing, reflecting, and documenting. The intensive collaboration with Marlene Hauser last year was incredibly enriching. We’d both like to continue working together and already have some ideas. In August, I’ll be working with the Spitzwegerich Object Theater Collective, which focuses on the visual, on one stage of their year-long project GEHÄUSE at Herrensee in Litschau, and then in Vienna in the fall.