Lilith Performance Studio: Interview with Elin Lundgren

The unique performance art place in Malmö is very unfortunately shutting their doors after three successful years. Founder and artistic leader Elin Lundgren calls for action from the politicians

In Transit Berlin Lilith Performance Studio at Haus der Kulturten der Welt, Berlin Performance by Yingmei Duan.
Photo: Lilith Performance Studio

The scene Lilith Performance Studio in Malmö is one of a kind. There is no other place in the world, which is focused entirely on visual performance art. It all began back in January 2007, after Elin Lundgren, and other artistic leader, Petter Petterson, had worked together for several years as a theatre group.

With Petter Petterson being a visual artist, and Elin Lundgren an actor, they complemented each other very well. After having curated several festivals, they realized the need for a space, which entirely focused on visual performance art. They felt stuck in the theatre world, and were at the same time very connected to the visual art scene.

“We wanted the visual artists to have the same space and conditions as theatre people. We wanted to create a place, where performers could make their dream performance and work just like choreographers or actors, not just make a performance at a gallery opening. And also since so few galleries take in performance artists, our vision about Lilith Performance Studio was to explore what you can do in performance and art in general”, explains Elin Lundgren.

Willing to take risks

Elin Lundgren and Petter Petterson collaborated very closely with the invited artists, who work at the studio from 2-6 weeks. This is very rare within the visual art scene. They have often already been in close contact with the artists on skype, or e-mail, making sketches of the idea before the artist arrive at the studio. In this manner, they can be in contact with the artist for up until a year sometimes.

Genevieve Belleveau (US)
The Church of gorgeous Taps and the Reality Show
Photo: Lilith Performance Studio

“We don’t have a preferable aesthetic profile, for the artist we invite. We do a huge research to get, what we want. Usually we contact the artists, but sometimes they write me. Since we want to explore, it is important the artists are willing to take risks. We want art, which is energetic, either in a minimalistic or bombastic way, and the artists have to have something to say, but not necessarily political at all”, states Elin Lundgren.

The Lillith Performance studio is not just about Swedish performance art. Elin Lundgren and Petter Petterson are very aware of the fact, that in order to give new and explore new expressions, they have to present artist from all over the world.

“We also invite people, who normally don’t work with performance art, e.g. photographers or video artists, in order to bring in new expressions”, says Elin Lundgren.

Tamy Ben-tor (US) Performance.
Photo: Lilith Performance Studio

The work process

Elin Lundgren usually works with the artist about the physical, or the voice of the artist, she instructs them, which many visual artists are unfamiliar with.

“We explain that at Lilith Performance Studio, they can do everything practically. If they want ten tons of rubbish or rebuild the scene it’s ok. If they want to work with musicians or actors, we make auditions. The artist usually come with an idea that we explore together. We try to ask the right questions, not that we always know the answer, but it’s like: maybe we should have the audience come in small groups, it might work better. So we take away, or add, and go back and forth. The special thing is, that we have the time to see what works”, says Elin Lundgren.

And it has never been a problem to work so close together with the artists, according to Elin Lundgren. Since the artists totally get to work with their own project.

“Every artist needs feed back. Shall I have 1 or 100 cakes in my performance? Shall I write on the wall at the end, or is that too much”, laughs Elin Lundgren.

Ulla von Brandenburg — Singspiel (Songplay), 2009. B&W 16 mm film, 14 min 34 sec
edition of 5 + 2 ap courtesy Art: Concept Paris

No prestige and money

To answer the question, why the performance arts are not being taken as seriously as e.g. theatre or visual arts, even though now-a-days there is practically no gallery opening, festival or cultural event without a performance. Elin Lundgren thinks, it’s because of the fact that there is not much money to be made from performance art.

“Coming from the visual art from the 1920’s in order to explore and experiment, and from the 1960’s body art, mainly done by women, performance art has no school, which is good, but the fact that there is no piece to sell, and the galleries thus can’t make any money from performance art, is the reason of why, this art practice isn’t being taken seriously. Often people, who work with performance art, do not even understand it needs a budget. They think, it’s just the body of the performer, and that’s it”, states Elin Lundgren.

Lundgren continues:
“If we go with the Danish performance artists, Lilibeth Cuenca, at a festival somewhere, she never gets what she wants, as she does, when she works at Lilith Performance studio. And this really needs to change, because everybody wants performance art”.

Ulla von Brandenburg‚ Singplay‚ Performance during the World as a Stage‚ Tate Modern, London.
Photo: Alice Grist‚ Tate Modern courtesy art: Concept, Paris

The end of Lilith Performance studio

Lilith Performance studio has existed for three years on public funding, but since the studio is no longer a new project, but now a real organization, this particular funding will stop. And the politicians in Malmö will not support the place by another funding.

“There has been some writing in the newspapers, about how important it is for the community, and for the cultural life of Malmö to have this unique place, so there is a very small possibility that they will change their minds – if they really like us. Maybe it’s just political. Now they just want to support something else, the teen-agers e.g., which is also important, but the studio is also very essential, and the project needs more time,” says Elin Lundgren.

She and Petter Petterson might start something else in another city, even though Elin Lundgren is not sure, if she has the necessary energy.

“It’s very sad, we have to close Lilith Performance Studio now, when every body thinks and says it’s so great, but we are of course very grateful, for the time we have had” Elin Lundgren ends.