Trust the Process: Sophiensæle Opens its 2023/24 Season

by Lorna McDowell // Nov. 10, 2023

Sophiensæle, one of Berlin’s most important centers for independent performing arts, will reopen in December after a short break, under the new artistic direction of Jens Hillje and Andrea Niederbuchner. Commencing its 2023/24 season with the theme ‘Trust the Process,’ Sophiensæle takes this concept as a guiding principle for the entire first season, presenting both new and familiar artists who each offer a distinctive perspective on the evolving realities of a world in flux.

For Sophiensæle, the concept of trusting the process means “to give yourself over to the act of creating art, to submit to its mysteries and its many twists and turns.” It draws on the meaning of the word “process” as a verb—describing the act of working through, digesting and transforming. Process is transformation and learning, and an inherent focus of art as a discipline. Art thrives on change and uncertainty and, rather than striving to produce objective truths or overcome these unstable qualities, it embraces them. To “trust” is to actively engage with the present moment, continually repositioning oneself within the artistic process and having faith that this attentive approach will keep us attuned to new developments—also a crucial element of art-making.

Stef Van Looveren: ‘Radical Hope–Eye to Eye,’ 2023 // Courtesy of Sophiensæle, © Nathan Ishar

Opening the program in December, Isabel Lewis and Dirk Bell will draw from their respective artistic backgrounds in dance, literature, philosophy, contemporary art and scenography, to create a site-specific installation for Sophiensæle Kantine that will invite guests to linger, listen, eat, rest, dance and converse while accompanied by ambient and atmospheric sound. This installation explores the historical significance of the Kantine, once serving the Berlin Handwerker Verein (Berlin Craftsmen’s Association) and the House of Arts and Crafts in the early 20th century, and is complemented by workshops, informal performances, readings and structured improvisations.

Belgian visual artist Stef Van Looveren, known for challenging gender/body politics through sculptures and video works, will introduce their first-ever performance based on their video work ‘Radical Hope’ (2018). The live experience unfolds in expansive sculptural installations at Sophiensæle’s Festsaal foyer that saturate the audience in various emotional states, creating an immersive environment with mud, earth, water and plants. And Cuban-American artist Coco Fusco, a prominent voice in racial representation, postcolonial theory, feminism and institutional critique since the 1990s, will present her stage work ‘Antigone Is Not Available Right Now.’ Fusco explores conditions for change during political crises, portraying Antigone’s allegorical resistance against fascism, communism, apartheid, military dictatorships and police violence.

Enad Marouf: ‘In My Hand a Word,’ 2023 // Courtesy of Sophiensæle, © Joseph Kadow

Adam Linder’s ‘Mothering The Tongue’ is a lecture-performance that will explore the practice of “free dance.” Linder combines theoretical, cultural and personal elements in a real-time writing process, responding physically to music ranging from Bach to Sinéad O’Connor and inviting the audience into a mindset that sparks spontaneous embodiment. Also centring the body, Enad Marouf, a Syrian-German performance and video artist, incorporates body and text in his works. ‘In My Hand a Word’ is a performance based on Marouf’s text that reflects on cultural symbolism, self-embodiment and the duality of loss and restoration from a queer perspective. The audience enters a space where movement, speech and music fragments overlap, representing Marouf’s fragmented memories of Damascus.

Leyla Yenirce, also known as Rosaceae, will present ‘Code,’ a collaborative performance where objects, frequencies and figures converge in space, creating an immersive bodily experience expressing what spoken language cannot—incorporating references from pop culture, politics and military dominance structures.

Exploring questions of city ownership, commemoration and utopias, Simone Dede Ayivi and Kompliz*innen’s video trilogy ‘Rebellkarussell’ will also feature in the opening program. Visitors will have the chance to watch the final episode on Afrofuturism, which merges pre-colonial culture and mythology with futuristic worlds and offers a visually rich commentary on rebellious time travel.

Leyla Yenirce: ‘Code. Noise-Performance mit Stimme,’ 2023 // Courtesy of Sophiensæle, © Sophie Wolter/Elbphilharmonie

The final day of the opening program will present Hendrik Quast, who focuses on social mobility and class change. Quast re-enacts his various experiences of foreignness and strategies of adaptation, portraying his transition from non-academic circumstances to the art world. With the format of a staged meal, Quast will reflect on conformity fantasies, embodiment envy, unmediated histories of origin and illness, all against the backdrop of class (non)belonging.

The works featured in Sophiensæle’s opening program revel in transcending genre boundaries, telling individual and collective stories of defiance and processes of self-empowerment. They can also be viewed as processes in their own right—unfinished, dynamic and mutable—bringing the audience immersively into the present moment.

Event Info


‘Trust the Process’
Festival: Dec. 7–17, 2023
Sophienstraße 18, 10178 Berlin, click here for map

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