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07 juni 2024 | Nieuws

Amos Ben-Tal: ‘Art is part of the infrastructure of society’

Choreographer, musician, and poet Amos Ben-Tal joined the Piket Art Prizes jury in 2022. At the end of last year, he decided it would be better to say goodbye. Although he very much enjoyed his two years as a jury member, he found it increasingly difficult to juggle his manifold commitments.

Not fair

“I joined the jury just before the birth of my son,” he explains, “and already knew things were going to be busy. There was always the proviso that I would be able to opt out if it all became too much.” Amos is at the centre of interdisciplinary performance collective OFFprojects and as he had expected it proved difficult to combine his work and family with seeing performances in the evenings. “Going to as many performances as possible is simply a condition for a member of the Dance category jury. It’s not fair to have a jury that doesn’t go and see, doesn’t take everything into account.”

Look beyond the status quo

Naturally, Amos is quite used to seeing others dance, but does he watch differently when scouting for nominees? “I think that, as a professional, you’re always critical,” he says, “but it can be difficult to differentiate between the performer and the work and vice versa. For example, even if the choreography is not to your taste, you have to focus on the qualities of the dancers and keep in mind that they are doing what the work demands, what the specific style demands, what the choreographer wants. It’s also important to go beyond the status quo, to not only see what someone offers at a certain stage in their career, but also their potential – the promise of what they may become.” Amos gained a lot of new insights from the views and considerations of the Painting and Dramatic Arts juries. “And to have these people in my network also proved advantageous for other reasons. Thanks to advice from Joncquil de Vries [Painting jury, 2020-2023], OFFprojects was able to present the programme SO FAR at The Grey Space in December of last year. And for our performance Songs and Silences, I worked with an actrice recommended by Ellen Goemans [Dramatic Arts jury, 2022-present].”

New projects

OFFprojects has just celebrated its 10th anniversary, for which it revived its highly successful production PART. And they definitely do not intend to put their feet up. “We’re researching a new project for next year,” Amos reveals. “It’s titled The bone algorithm. We’re not rehearsing yet, just exploring at this stage. And we’ll be taking Songs and Silences to Rome this summer. There’s also a project with NDT in Zeeland province, where we’re collaborating with a local dance school and inhabitants of a centre for asylum seekers. And we’re working with Korzo and the Haagse Hogeschool on a project for stimulating young audiences.”

‘Art is part of the infrastructure of society’

Does Amos have advice for young artists? He smiles. “Don’t take prizes too seriously. If you don’t win it’s not a statement that you’re not good enough, and if you do, it doesn’t mean you’ve arrived. Don’t let such things become your barometer.” Thoughtfully he adds, “Don’t wait for your audience to come and find you. Learn how to communicate about your art, make it communicative. Win your own place. Take your time, and do it sustainably.” Reflecting on the possible impact on art and culture of political developments in the Netherlands: “There’s more to it than the money aspect. We should not let the gatekeepers decide for us what is important or relevant. Art is not the same as entertainment. Art has its own role. It’s part of the infrastructure of society and you don’t mess with infrastructure – in the end everyone will suffer. If you care about what you do, don’t be afraid to be political. Be locally active and involved. Go and vote, even if you make art that’s not in any way political.”

Text: Anna Beerens
Photo: Ben-Tal on the right with jurymember Erik Kaiel. Photo Erik Kaiel