By Sarah Crompton
<b>The young Peruvian composer and musician Pauchi Sasaki knows how to make an entrance. Whispering and hissing, making sibilant swooshing sounds, she creeps into the famous Deutsches Theater in Berlin from the back of the stalls,
her face illuminated, making a slow, transfixing progress to the stage.</b>
She is wearing a dress that looks like the creation of a space-age André Courrèges, a shift of acoustic panels that sway as she moves. The music is just as other-worldly, strange and thrilling, an evocation of space, that shifts and evolves
as Sasaki and her talented musicians perform her composition <em>GAMA</em>, against a swirling black and white background.
Sasaki has been the protégée of composer Philip Glass, who introduced her and the performance – which also contained a propulsive companion piece <em>OMAGUA</em> – and delivered a stirring conclusion to the Rolex Mentor and
Protégé Arts Weekend
The event, which was held in Berlin from 3 - 4 February, celebrated the eighth cycle of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. This remarkable promotion of artistic creativity seeks to nurture the talent
of younger artists by pairing them with older, more experienced mentors in their field.
The initiative is, as Rebecca Irvin, Head of Philanthropy, reminded the audience before each event, a modern incarnation of an old tradition where knowledge and wisdom are handed from one generation to another. The weekend is a chance
for the protégés to display their ideas and their creations to the artistic community Rolex has built over more than 15 years. Members of this extraordinary group of former mentors, protégés advisers and supporters have gathered
together from all over the world to watch and applaud.
So when the dancer Londiwe Khoza took to the stage of the smaller studio theatre earlier in the day she did so in front of an audience that included choreographer Alexei Ratmansky and his former protégé Myles Thatcher, and fellow choreographers
Wayne McGregor, Mark Morris and Lucinda Childs. Also there, in a space so full that people were sitting on the stairs, were luminaries such as artists Sir Anish Kapoor and William Kentridge, theatre artist Robert Lepage, soprano Barbara
Hendricks and film director Mira Nair. They were joined by a handful of small and exceptionally well-behaved children, and members of the public who attended all the events.
Khoza, who is from South Africa, also made a dramatic entrance, emerging suddenly to the crashing sounds of a guitar. <em>Do You Want to Dance?</em> the song enquired, and Khoza did, flying around in the stage in a solo simultaneously
sharp and soft, that revealed both her ballet training and her work during the past year with her mentor Ohad Naharin's Batsheva Dance Company.
Introducing her, Naharin talked of her immense talent and the way he had tried to give her keys to unlock "the treasure of that talent". Khoza stood beaming by his side, stretching her feet as he described their work together. “Why do
you dance?” someone asked. "Like a writer writes, this is how we say what we want to say," said Khoza, simply.
The Arts Weekend, curated by Stefan Schmidtke, was deliberately designed to encompass the whole of Berlin, both those parts that were formerly East and those that were West, to bring together old and new. Just as this sprawling city is
held together by its common purpose and sense of excitement, so ongoing themes emerged in the events.
Khoza and Naharin talked about Naharin's movement practice Gaga which creates a sense of discovery. "We learn we are not in the centre of things," he explained.
That morning, a symposium chaired by Harvard Professor Homi K. Bhabha, and featuring a panel made up Kapoor, Kentridge, architect Tatiana Bilbao, festival director Fergus Linehan and writer Miroslav Penkov had discussed what it means to
be an artist in a complicated global world. The conversation covered many subjects, including the need to resist instrumentalism in arts education, the idea that every skill has to be narrowly marketable. Kentridge, who described himself
as "rescued by a series of failures", mentioned his “centre of the less good idea” – a scheme to encourage the development of all the interesting ideas that float away from the centre of your initial grand idea but which then "emerge
and surprise you… You think you are doing one thing and then you get a whole new idea,” he said.
This spiralling, moving sense of creativity was very much in evidence in the works on display. In the basement of the Kulturforum, the Vietnamese artist Thao-Nguyen Phan has mounted an exhibition called <em>Poetic Amnesia</em>,
a delicate yet profound meditation on her country's history and how it relates to the present. It consists of paintings, sculpture and video installations that in different ways challenge the viewer to reconsider the uses of stories
and language in building a view of the past.
Her pale watercolours of scenes of contemporary Vietnamese life, are painted on the pages of a book written by the 17th-century Jesuit missionary Alexandre de Rhodes, who invented a romanized script that fundamentally altered the development
of Vietnam. An accompanying video – entered through heavy bamboo curtains and called <em>Tropical Siesta</em> – explores the same theme by imagining a school full of children who transform his stories into make-believe
Hauntingly beautiful, the video in particular reveals the influence of Thao-Nguyen's mentor, the New York-based artist Joan Jonas. "I am trained as a painter but I have tried to challenge myself to make work that is more performative and
interactive," she explained, sitting alongside Jonas and thanking her for "a lot of inspiration and a fruitful input".
Yet the impressive thing about the work that has emerged from their year together is the clarity and strength of Thao-Nugyen's own voice. The same was true in the work of theatre protégé Matías Umpierrez, from Argentina. Umpierrez works
in the borders of things, too, bringing installation art, film and literature to his chosen discipline. His series <em>The Museum of Fiction</em> investigates the use and relevance of stories and of history in the modern
Visitors to the Arts Weekend witnessed the premiere of <em>Empire</em>, a reimagining of Shakespeare's <em>Macbeth</em>. Walking into a room you are first confronted with a series of video portraits of actors warming
up for a performance. Among them is Robert Lepage, Umpierrez's mentor, who effectively plays the part of Lady Macbeth in this radical, contemporary production. The great Spanish actress Angela Molinas is the star, playing a mayoress
corrupted by ambition, in a thrilling version of the play that unfolds across four huge screens.
It is a truly dramatic idea. Shakespeare's words are mixed with a contemporary script. When Macbeth fires a gun, the bullet seems to fly over the head of the viewers, watching the action from the centre of the room.
Lepage's willingness to participate in Umpierrez's creation, as well as offering him an insight into his own world, seems to sum up the collaborative attitude between the Rolex pairings. Likewise, in a talk in the wood-panelled lecture
hall at the Staatsbibliothek, the great public library just opposite the Kulturforum, film mentor Alfonso Cuarón described his relationship with Chaitanya Tamhane as "horizontal not vertical".
He said that Tamhane, from India, who spent a month on the set of his new film, <em>Roma</em>, became "a compass on the set for me". The warmth of the relationship between the two men was revealed by a conversation full of
laughter, as well as serious analysis of film-making, and illustrated with excerpts from Cuarón’s work and from Tamhane's strikingly strong debut <em>Court</em>. Though one man is working with almost nothing and the other
with the infinite weight of a Hollywood studio behind him, they discovered much common ground. Not least when it comes to resources.
"You get more resources but you never get the resources you want," said Cuarón, laughing. "It's like a Newtonian law that the budget is always going to be 30 per cent short no matter how much money you have."
A similar sense of engagement and collaboration between the mentors and their protégés was visible in the other talks of the weekend. Sir David Chipperfield and his architecture protégé, Simon Kretz have produced a book as a result of
their collaboration. It discusses, as did their lecture, the use of architecture to promote civic good, taking London as an example of a city where a different attitude towards planning could help to preserve the city as a centre of
diverse culture and community cohesion.
The literature pairing of novelists Mia Couto and Julián Fuks – the first mentorship in the Portugese language since Couto is based in Mozambique and Fuks in Brazil – thrived in the differences between them. Fuks, who ambled onto the stage
like an Old Testament prophet, in a bright orange scarf and beard, who had written books based on his family's experiences as exiles from Argentina wanted to write a different kind of fiction. "I was beginning a new journey and I thought
I needed new principles," he explained.
Couto, sitting quietly beside him, told a story that he felt illustrated his principles of mentorship. He described meeting two men sitting on the steps of his home. He asked one what he was doing. "I'm doing absolutely nothing," he replied.
And what are you doing, he asked the other? "I'm helping this guy," he said.
That metaphorical sense of "working on nothingness", on exploring the spaces that open up when artists allow their creativity full flight took the audience back to Kentridge's notion of waiting for ideas that you have seen out of the corner
of your eye to blossom and grow. It fitted with the mood of an Arts Weekend, full of talent, promise and thought. "Sometimes," said Couto, "mistakes are the most beautiful things. Don't have fear."