Swinging through high halls on luminous and sounding swings, lying under a huge silo and calling in, witnessing mystical rituals worshipping a sacred substance called Caro - it was a special journey of discovery that awaited the audience.
Students of Animationsinstitut and the Academy of Performing Arts (ADK) embarked together on a search for the artistic potential of an old industrial site. As part of the transdisciplinary project NOMADIC RESEARCH, they developed performances and interactive installations that they presented at Neuland Festival (engl. Uncharted Territory) in September 2021. With the festival, the so-called Franck-Areal was opened to the public for the first time.
In the old Franck factory behind Ludwigsburg's train station, the coffee substitute was produced for over 150 years. The large complex dominated the cityscape and the smell of the instant drink, made from a mixture of chicory and grain, was always hanging over the city. For many locals, this made the factory and the product made there, known in Germany under the brand name "Caro" and called "Pero" in other countries, a piece of Ludwigsburg's identity.
However demand for Caro coffee fell. In 2018, the Nestlé Group, which by then owned the factory, relocated production to Portugal. As a result, the City of Ludwigsburg acquired the site in order to repurpose the factory and area in the coming years.
The city wanted to initiate the discussion process on what should happen to the site in the future by planning a festival together with the Wüstenrot Foundation. The festival was intended to give the public a first glimpse of the site, which had been closed for a long time. The so-called "Neuland Festival" was organized by both institutions together with cultural institutions, art schools and colleges based in Ludwigsburg.
"When the city approached us, it was immediately clear to us that this project was predestined for our NOMADIC RESEARCH," recalls Professor Ludger Engels, Head of the Directing department at ADK. NOMADIC RESEARCH is part of the schools's curriculum in the subjects of directing, dramaturgy and acting. The aim is to give students an insight into artistic fields outside their own discipline by cooperating with students from other universities.
In previous years, the projects were already created in cooperation with the Interactive Media department of Animationsinstitut. "The two areas complement each other ideally, especially in terms of artistic exploration when playing with spaces," explains the professor, who was also the project head of NOMADIC RESEARCH on the site.
Anna Brinkschulte, the senior lecturer of the Interactive Media study specilization at Animationsinstitut, was enthusiastic about the idea of jointly developing installative and performative works for the vacant spaces of the Franck-Areal as part of this format: "This was not only a unique opportunity to present the work of both academies to the public. In this special environment, the students' different ways of working also made it possible to create unique transmedia projects that show a prospective use of the area in the future."
According to the lecturer, the students were given a lot of freedom to develop the content of their works. Only the exact premises and certain safety requirements from the city were fixed parameters of this project. Within a workshop period from June to July, the students were to get to know each other, research together and finally put concrete ideas for the festival into action in mixed teams. "The students started from scratch," says Professor Ludger Engels. "they first learned about the history of the area and and in a next step, considered how they wanted to work with the spaces."
A key aspect of the concept thus became, among other things, the importance of Caro coffee for the city, but a critical examination of the last owner Nestlé also played a role. The basic idea was called "Church of Caro". An opening performance looked at the site from a post-apocalyptic future, with unsuspecting people stumbling upon the pristine site and making archaeological explorations. Apparently, it seems to them, this coffee substitute must have been socially significant. Did a religious cult have something to do with it in times past?
The actors and actresses therefore staged a kind of religious ceremony in a large hall on the site, based on advertising messages from the Caro brand. In the process, they also used the old facilities in a performative way. The huge roasting plant became a clay percussion instrument for instance.
The audience then moved on to the other parts of the building, where several subprojects of NOMADIC RESEARCH awaited them. Here, people encountered spatial installations and performances, which for the most part had a meditative-ritual character connected to the Church of Caro idea.
Among other things, people were pushed into a silo on a lounger, or had to face critical questions about Nestlé and their own consumer behavior in a booth. In another room, people wandered the "Path to Caro," a spiritual path with imagined rituals of the former workers. Another team sent groups of visitors across the site to related individual performances based on an exit game.
Images "Faces of Ludwigsburg" & "Schwebepunkte" (Photo 1&2 from the left): © HEXAGRAMcreative David Göz
Images "Exit Room: Inferno" (Photos 3&4 von links): © Steven M. Schultz
However there were also simpler, but no less brilliant moments of interaction between the industrial complex and the visitors. For example, visitors were googly eyes, with the request to stick them anywhere on the grounds that might look like a face. There were a number of industrial remnants in the rooms, such as machines or electricity boxes, which were perfectly suited for this purpose. This action playfully inspired an intensive examination of the architecture on site.
In addition, there were large, impressive installations. Dramaturgy student Sarah Charlotte Becker, for example, developed the immersive audio and video installation "Kaffeeklang". For this, she laid out a former chicory silo with carpets. As soon as they entered the dark room, visitors were enveloped by the smell of coffee that had remained in the silo. They also heard sounds, noises and a voice. The meditative scene was accompanied by a video work by interactive media student Kenneth Erhabor, which was projected into the silo.
"I based this primarily on the space, which already conveys a lot of sensory impressions on its own," Sarah explains. "I thought of the experience that people could have within it as a kind of meditation, to be fully with oneself, a kind of Church of Caro redemption ritual."
On permanent display throughout the festival was the work "Schwebepunkte." The three Interactive Media students Malte Hartleb, Clara Deitmar and Jannik Jochim had seven interactive swings hanging from the ceiling in the factory's former raw materials warehouse. By swinging them, a play of light and sound was created. The large reverberant space was thus impressively staged.
"When we first walked the grounds, the space was still behind a heavy steel door," Clara recalls. "When we opened it, we immediately noticed the motion detectors on the wall." Those, she says, were the starting point for the installation. "Each swing has a power bar and a cell phone built into it, that's the trick," the student explains. An app specifically programmed for this project coordinates the interaction of the swings and their movement in the space with the projected lighting elements and the sound that is played, she says. In the Church of Caro liturgy, the swings represent rebirth. Clara is happy that despite the short preparation time, everything worked out so well and the work was so well received. "The city has asked us if they could possibly have the installation again, maybe even for the same location."
Images "Church of Caro" and "Die Kabine // So-Ganz-Im-All-Ein-Sein": © Steven M. Schultz
"I'm damn proud of the students," Anna Brinkschulte emphasizes. "Everyone has developed something really impressive here in a short time and presented a bold concept." Professor Ludger Engels also draws a very positive résumé: "All performances were sold out and the response exceeded all our expectations." For him, the performances and installations of NOMADIC RESEARCH conveyed a playful departure. The audience was invited to enter into a new form of relationship with the site and its buildings.
Ludger Engels could imagine that, if the factory were to be used in the future, the laboratory character of the festival could be preserved. "It would be nice if the area became a place for the initiatives of the city's population," he reflects. Of course, the two academies would also have ideas for the area, but to what extent they might be involved would have to be decided by the political discussions in the near future.
Anna Brinkschulte also says that she would be very happy about new exhibition spaces for student work, since there is a lack of space at Filmakademie. Above all, however, she would like to see the area being given back to the public, be it with cafés or interdisciplinary meeting places between cultural and academic institutions and the local population.
It will be exciting to see what will emerge from the old Caro factory in the future.
Project Head: Professor Ludger Engels (ADK)
Project Lecturer: Carolin Hochleichter (ADK)
Lecturer Filmakademie: Anna Brinkschulte
Lecturer Space: Thomas Goerge
Dramaturgy & Organisation of the overall process: Sarah Charlotte Becker mit Jonas Arndt, Linda Bockmeyer und Tabea Mewis
Production Management: Moni Schumm
Constructions: Django Herbert
Lighting: Ingo Jooß & Andreas Michel
Video & Sound: Luis Schöffend
Special thanks to:
Claudia Baumgartner, Alexander Mahr, Yannick Petzold, Philipp Obländer & Harald Stojanovic
CHURCH OF CARO
By and with: Jonas Arndt, Linda Bockmeyer, Annbritt Faubel, Tabea Mewis, Marius Petrenz, Rahel Stork, Fabienne ten Thije, Justin Leontine Woschni
PATH TO CARO
By: Luzie Kehle
With support of: Paul Auls & Sarah Charlotte Becker
DIE KABINE // SO-GANZ-IM-ALL-EIN-SEIN
By: Paul Auls
With support of: Sarah Charlotte Becker & Luzie Kehle
Space & Audio: Sarah Charlotte Becker, Video: Kenneth Erharbor
With support of: Paul Auls & Luzie Kehle
Von: Malte Hartleb, Clara Deitmar & Jannik Jochim
EXIT ROOM: INFERNO
Concept: Linda Bockmeyer, Julius Dorsel, Marius Petrenz, Fariborz Rahnama
Riddle Designn: Julius Dorsel
Production Design: Fariborz Rahnama
Text: Franz Kafka und Marius Petrenz
FACES OF LUDWIGSBURG
By: Erica Esserman, Jannik Jochim, Marvin Neidhardt & Danilo Cedeño Vaughan