threeASFOUR spring/summer 2014

On September 8, 2013, avant-garde fashion collective threeASFOUR debuted their spring/summer 2014 line at The Jewish Museum as part of threeASFOUR: MER KA BA – exhibition. The collective’s fashion and art is inspired by the geometric patterns found in synagogues, churches and mosques throughout the world. For the nine sculptural dresses featured in MER KA BA, they use laser-cut lace, origami pleats, and 3D-printed textiles to unite symbolic patterns from diverse religions.

(Video by Brian Gonzalez)

The collectives 3 designers were born in different cultures:
Gabriel Asfour is from Lebanon, Adi Gil from Israel, and Angela Donhauser from Tajikistan. Their approach to fashion is poetic and socially conscious. For threeASFOUR, couture is about more than just beautiful clothes; ‘it is both wearable art and a platform for their free-spirited philosophy.’ 
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threeASFOUR’s MER KA BA installation exhibition is on  view until February 2, 2014, at the Jewish Museum in New York. Check the exhibition site.

The Scandinavian American Theater Company’s evaporated themes

The Scandinavian American Theater Company (SATC) has through its 5 year of existence engaged itself to an array of controversial themes, which question, evaporate, give new perspective, challenge, and perhaps empower the very notion of the ‘Scandinavian’ theater tradition, as it might appear in the world marketplace.  The theater company was started by Danish actor Albert Bendix, who after landing in the New York theater scene in 2006, had a vision to establish a collective of theater artists who would represent talent from various Nordic countries. The idea was to bring a Scandinavian perspective to local scene; introducing a new generation of Scandinavian playwrights and theater artists with great ideas and work. In 2014, the company has already proven that the Scandinavian perspective offers both interdisciplinary ideas and multiple voices. The works and approaches create dialogues between current world trends and contemporary artists, and genre tradition and historical themes. The end products are narratives that are empowering. 

SATC Founding Members are: Henning Hegland (Norway), Albert Bendix (Denmark), Lisa Bearpark (Sweden/US), Sebastian Nyman Agdur (Sweden/UK), Vigdis Hentze Olsen (The Faroe Islands), and Jane Pejtersen (Denmark). Current company members are following: Artistic Directors: Henning Hegland (Norway), Albert Bendix (Denmark), Lisa Bearpark (Sweden/US) and Sebastian Nyman Agdur (Sweden/UK). Associate Members: Vanessa Johansson (US/Denmark), Drew O’Kane (US), and Kwasi Osei (Denmark)

The company does full productions and reading series, which introduce plays, respectively, from different Nordic countries including Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands. In May 2013, the play Gorilla handled a theme of corporate life, where main characters were entangled with struggle of gender, greed and power. Rhea Leman’s script was directed by Ari Edelson, and produced by the Scandinavian American Theater Company. Gorilla ran three weeks in The Lion Theatre at Theatre Row.

In 2012, the company’s Reading Series included an exiting world-premiere of BASTARDS OF STRINDBERG, which introduced four short plays inspired by August Strindberg’s “Miss Julie”.  The plays were written by American and Swedish playwrights. The premiere will get a full production in September 2014. Bastards of Strindberg will also open in The Lion Theatre at Theatre Row.

The most recent company’s endeavor started their 2014 season of production, on Monday January 27. The reading of a play The Tailor’s Tale (Skraedderens fortaelling) took place at the Scandinavia House in New York City. The play was written by Danish-British filmmaker and writer Alexander Bodin Saphir, and it was directed by Kim Bodnia, also from Denmark. The stage-reading performance was accomplished in English by 8 actors at the Victor Borge Hall of the Scandinavia House. The full house of audiences testified a plot, which was going back 70years in the European history. The play’s theme was based on a story of ‘Rescuing of Danish Jews’ during the WWII.

The Tailor’s Tale challenges a commonly told story of the Danish king, who himself was believed to wear a yellow star during the WWII to show the nations support and solidarity towards its Jewish population. This idea in the plot was partially formed around the question of, whether the king really wore the star, or whether it would have happened, if the Danish Jews had to put up a yellow star wearing it, like their other European brothers and sisters.

Lars, a character depicting a doubting academic historian, enforces through his own questioning that the story is completely made-up. Contrastively, Isak, a character whose Jewish family survived the war, emphasizes the miracle-side of the story of saving the Jews of Denmark, saying that the miracle is really the only thing that matters. In reality, unlike in most European countries that were occupied by Nazi Germany, the great majority of Jews from Denmark were saved, and brought to Sweden by boats (leaving from many cities), since Sweden remained ‘neutral’ during the War, and was able to take in War refugees.

In the play’s narrative, the life-stories of the two, now already aged men go back into the fall of 1943, when the German razzia went into effect in the occupied Copenhagen, Denmark. Isak’s father worked as a Jewish tailor during the war, and the plot goes back to the young boy’s experiences while he was hearing and experiencing the Nazi terror starting to take place in Copenhagen. The plot covers also preparations to escape, as Isak’s father gives him orders to quickly pack, get ready, and alarm other member of the community. Lars, on the other hand, is in the present moment very occupied with existential reasoning. He keeps asking, what really happened in the past, namely 70 years ago. He suffers of inner doubts that concern his own father, who was one of the fisherman with a boat rescuing the Jews. After his own father died in the war, Lars has been seeking the truth about, what were his motives while he helped to save his Jewish neighbors. In today’s meeting, the two old men face unexplained stories, different experiences, doubts, fears and anger of the past. In the plot, Isak and Lars meet at Isak’s house, which he shares with his wife Sara. Lars comes to visit the couple with a new girlfriend Eva, and wants to dig into Isak’s side of the story with her help. He wishes to interview Isak for his book, which handles a theme of the Danes and Danish Jews during the WWII.

The playwright Alexander Bodin Saphir told on the January 27th performance in New York City, how the play is very personal to him, as it is based on his grandfather’s Jewish story.  Kim Bodnia, play’s director and a cousin to the playwright, described also his personal attachment to his great uncle’s story.  Bodnia said that the work-in-progress play benefited greatly from the New York reading and rehearsal experience.

The evening was a collaboration of the Scandinavian American Theater Company, Breaking Productions and The American-Scandinavian Foundation.

tailor's tale


Artist Suhair Sibai was born in Syria in 1956. She was educated as an artist in Los Angeles, California. Her work explores identity and the self through beautiful and colorful female portraits. Suhair Sibai is based in Los Angeles, where she exhibits her art and works as an artist. Her work has also received international acclaim in Europe and the Middle East.

View more her art on Saatchi online

Training artists for innovation: Competencies for New Contexts

photo: Wilma Hurskainen: “He Doesn’t Like Water”, 2012

The book Training artist for innovation: Competencies for new Contexts was published in 2013, (the Theatre Academy of the University of the Arts in Helsinki in Finland). It discusses the topic of artists who are trained for creating innovation in various contexts outside their own artistic practice. The book is  based on a  project, which  gathers together different agents in European countries, who are leading artistic innovation. Kai Lehikoinen and Joost Heinsius are the editors of the book.

The book-project brought together artists, companies, organizations, universities and cities, which have experienced artists working with them.  The idea for the publication came from the challenge that both society and businesses need new solutions and interventions, as they face changes.  Professional artists with artistic interventions can respond to challenges of today, bringing in new questions and ways of thinking. Artists “offer contradiction, as well as confrontation and friction, and they provoke new ideas.”  

Training Artists for Innovation: Competencies for New Contexts argues that artists who take the challenge for artistic interventions need specific training to establish their artistic know-how for new contexts. Artistic competencies can be trained, so to speak. Innovation can occur where artists, with their own practice and methods, contribute to the arts sectors and organizations, to the business world and sectors, where societal policies are made. The book responses to a framework of European context, but the idea can be shifted to other parts of the world.

A very basic question; are artists not innovative by nature, opens up a dialogue between artists and new contexts.  According to editors Heinsius and Lehikoinen, “A gap has risen between the arts and society that needs to be bridged and closed” .

Art can intervene not only on the walls of office spaces, but it can come to peoples’ working life as well.  This statement is inspired by models learned from community art, and by the experience coming from social and health sectors, where art has always been respected as part of human life.  The new innovation comes in the intersection, where businesses and organizations want to raise their creativity,  and understand their creator capacity in conjunction to human-based factors. As the book shows, the arts can add value, for example, by  bringing in emotional and aesthetic dimensions. Artistic interventions can boost creativity and raise energy, bring in new ways of listening, managing, and interacting with others. The book emphasizes that the term artistic intervention is understood as “interdisciplinary professional practice that takes places in business settings and involve professional art-making and creative arts practices”.

What are, then, the issues that interventions can tackle? Topics and issues of course vary, and depend on each context. Artistic interventions can be connected to strategy and concept development, to work processes, to team-building and social interactions, and to public relations, for instance. In the level of cultural policy, the arts have a key role, together with other creative sectors, to add into the diversity of society. In a larger societal (European) policy level, the following seems very relevant and welcomed, when thinking of the creative economy:

“At the national level, the starting points differ from country to country.  In some countries, it is the perceived gap between the arts sector and the rest of society that needs to be acknowledged – that is, the need for the arts to appear as relevant to other sectors in society. In other countries, innovation development welcomes the arts as the perception of shifting from technological innovations to social innovations and creativity.”

Training Artists for Innovation: Competencies for New Contexts  is a book that asks a relevant question of,  how to do it with the arts. It gives several examples of the relevant competencies that artists can embody for their interventions. Gerda Hempel and Lisbeth Rysgaard,  from Danish Artlab, write in their chapter Competencies – in real life, about their own model of working with artists and businesses.  What they suggest is that artists need to manage a variety of specific tasks that relate to understanding the culture of the organization: such as developing and describing the concept, knowing how to sell and negotiate, and,“how to engage and conduct the process, how to extract learning and evaluate, and how to support the implementation within the organization.”

Their chapter reveals that when artists share a common denominator, the artistic base, methods and tools vary in different art forms. For example, a violinist in the opera house has a different approach than an avant-garde performer who works in an experimental performance space.

Artlab founders and consultants Gerda Hempel and Lisbeth Rysgaard bring in the artist perspective of working with businesses. They open their Artlab Entrepreneurial Model (that is based on their 12-year experience in the field) and reflect this in relation to real artists, who they interviewed. This shows how artistic interventions function from the artists point of view. The model itself is like a metaphoric artistic house, which includes 4 interactive work spaces and a storage. Its aim has been to help professional artist who want to go entrepreneurial and find new job opportunities, or look for new management skills for their career. The house allegory with 4 spaces  includes: The Shop/Back office, The Workshop/Development, The Scene/Artistic intervention, The Shop/Front office, and Storage/place for new ideas. Artlab’s  model functions as a visual guideline to see  parallel tracks. It offers artists a tool to plan and prioritize their work.

Training Artists for Innovation: Competencies for New Contexts has a message for everybody working in creative industries. It offers chapters with real examples, and discusses  how real artists have solved their tasks, approached different organizations and worked with businesses. The book is a guideline to discussing competencies that artists need in order to work with various sectors.  It clearly opens a discussion, which goes to two directions. 1. Artists need more than ‘just’ their own artistic skills and competencies to go outside their craft. 2. Yet, artist have special skills and innovative qualities that (only) come from their artistic work and expertise.  To bring these two to meet; some common ways can be created.

In summary, artists need special qualities to work with organizations and companies; this includes knowledge of those cultures. They should have pedagogic competencies to set up methods and approaches for intervention. Artists also benefit from research competencies to find information, and to critically view the information and other collected material. What artists also should learn about, are skills in project management and marketing. 

(The book Training Artists for Innovation: Competencies for New Contexts is licensed under Creative Commons as BY/NC/ND, and it can be downloaded from the page/click the book’s link)