Article for AA Magazine

Freakatoni Witchy Weekends 

A motivation to create an independent platform

 Freakatoni Witchy Weekends was spearheaded by Katie Duck. An experimental performance artist for over 40 years, she tours internationally for a living and experiments with a collective of multidisciplinary artists at the OT301 Cultural Centre in Amsterdam when she is home. 

The OT301 Cultural Centre is an old film academy squatted in 1999 by a group of artists. In 2006 it was established as a multi-media alternative cultural centre. The building is located in central Amsterdam rumbled between constant renovations and graffiti. It is set on the Vondelpark, one of the largest parks in the city.

Freakatoni Witchy Weekend is a 3 week, artist led, multidisciplinary laboratory that leads towards weekend performances. It has been held in the summer in Amsterdam since 2009. Tension had grown among artists in 2008 due to the economic squeeze on arts funding. This motivated Katie Duck and her colleagues to create work within the context of practitioner support systems in contrast to the competitive spirit that was now growing. They devised strategies promoting independent and transparent financial plans, with a broad criteria for artistic and political diversity. They reached out internationally to multidisciplinary artists, inviting them to come to Amsterdam in the summer to create, innovate and perform each weekend. The project has run for 10 years without asking for government funding.

In the past, when an artist initiated a project, they could look to the “funding organisations” whose job it was to maintain art. The funding bodies panels made the decisions and work did happen. However, cultures today are experiencing a caustic ultra-conservative, hyper-reality-economics. In that landscape, artists have experienced spaces struggling to survive because of rising real-estate costs and budget cuts that force funding bodies to narrow their choices. In these ultra-conservative times, there is a survival mechanism to support artists who are already established or finalised. Words like legacy, legendary and masterpiece wonder the halls of the institutions of art, translated to mean cost effective. Words like raw, rude, improvisation and spontaneous are lost in the dialogue, or translated into the conformity of what is becoming a new ‘corporate-aesthetic’ for art; “The institutionalisation of absolutely everything”. 

The institutionalisation of everything in art, with its guidelines that promote conventions and norms, is shifting the perception of art for artists and public alike; art as “product” or “museum worthy” or even more scary, art as a “brand”. Artists who declare loud and proud today that they are experimental and that they choose to engage in untested ideas or techniques take the risk of being called naive and are likely to be rejected by institutions and funding bodies.

Art cannot have a direct contribution to culture unless it is in a constant state of invention and flux. There is a value for artists to be in front of an audience with the chance to show spontaneous, raw innovations. There is a value for public to be informed of these events in order to take part in how art is expanding and transforming. A ‘Corporate-aesthetic,’ with high priced tickets and a lonesome illusion of what art is today, easily persuades us to not go to the theatre. Ultimately, it should be the collaboration between artist and public that defines what art is today. Prices need to be lowered, and the chance to interact and affect the event needs to feel possible. Whether that means an audience member chooses to “Boo”,  walk out, or to remain and applaud.

Artists find themselves engaged in a David and Goliath like competition with already established artists and the funding bodies, kicking the ball back and forth, waiting for the decision, who wins and then who loses? In the meantime, what they are actually looking for is a place where they can survive and show their work. This ‘corporate-aesthetic’ climate cannot facilitate a fuller picture of how artists can contribute to the future of art. Freakatoni Witchy Weekends was conceived to remedy this situation.

The artists who gather for the Freakatoni Witchy Weekends project are musicians, actors, poets, singers and dancers from all backgrounds, ages, orientations, countries and experiences. These artists have a compassion to create real time performance with a vision for what, where, and how they wish to engage with public, in a varied program comprising dance, music, physical theatre, poetry and standup comedy; the next generation of cutting edge artists are given a stage to showcase their work. 

Freakatoni Witchy Weekend 2019 performances take place August 2-3 & 9-10 & 16-17 on the bottom floor of the OT301 building. Each evening is in two parts with an event in the Studio 1 theatre, followed by a Music Theatre event in the BAR area finishing each night with a live band. Each event is accompanied by an MC Performance Artist, and illuminated by a distinguished real time light designer. 

Doors open at 19:30, events begin at 20:00 until 23:00. The entrance fee for public is €5 and the drinks at the bar are served at affordable prices. Come join the artists at the OT301 with their events, live band, smoking room and bar in an open atmosphere to engage in the celebration of experimental Performance Art and Music at its best. 

Writing and Editing – Katie Duck, Vincent Cacialano, Sharon Smith, Maria Mavridou, Manuela Tessi and Jonathan Nagel