Residency period June – September 2020
Interview by Friso Wijnen
In 2011, after completing her studies in Cologne and Manchester, Austrian cellist Katharina Gross moved to Amsterdam with a scholarship from her country’s Ministry of Culture. The city agreed with her, and Katharina decided to stay there. Now until the end of September, she is the artist-in-residence at the Van Doesburg House in Meudon-Val-Fleury, France. The studio house is described as ‘a place where you can feel history’.
What prompted you to choose the Netherlands as your home base?I’ve lived in various countries. The thing that specifically attracted me to the Netherlands is the interest that people in the cultural sector have in looking beyond their own disciplines. As a cellist, I’m classically trained, but I soon realised that my ambitions went further than that. I wanted to work with artists from other disciplines. And making that “click” was surprisingly easy in the Netherlands.’
Theo van Doesburg was also a multidisciplinary artist. Do you feel a kinship with him?‘Yes, I also feel that drive to discover new worlds. One of the first multidisciplinary projects I worked on in the Netherlands was
Cello Box, with the composer Arnold Marinissen and the light artist Marion Tränkle. I was sitting in a mini-theatre, basically a big box, and the light reacted in real time to what I was playing. It was new and exciting, and I knew that I wanted to continue down the path of experimentation.’
How did you find out about the Van Doesburg House?‘Two years ago I commissioned a piece from the Dutch composer Jan van de Putte. The commission was subsidised by the Performing Arts Fund, and this is how the piece
Vorsicht, Katharina! came about. Jan told me that he had lived in the Van Doesburg House 22 years ago, and he spoke about the place with affection and reverence. That piqued my curiosity. I applied for a stay, and to my great joy, they chose me for a residency.’
What was your first thought on crossing the threshold?‘Wow, I’m living in a historic building now.” That’s the first thing that went through my head. So much has happened here; so many things were thought up and made, including by Nelly van Doesburg, and now I have a chance to make my contribution to that history. It felt like both a challenge and an honour. I was also struck by the spaciousness and the light in the house, and I soon felt at home.’
What has your time here been like?
‘I worked with the composer Aurélio Edler-Copes on a concept for a new composition. In the piece Transformation I operate the kinds of pedals that are normally used for an electric guitar. That takes practice. We will play the piece at the next Gaudeamus Music Week in Utrecht, with a light installation that was specially designed for the occasion by Theun Mosk. During my time in the Van Doesburg House, I also worked on my own production Sehnsucht, a solo performance that blends music and theatre. Sehnsucht touches on longing and pain – that feeling of searching for something but being unable to find it. It’s scheduled to premiere at the next Cello Biennial Amsterdam in October.’
How do you look back on your time in the Van Doesburg House?‘In the house I’ve been able to work in a focused and fun way. I’ll miss living here and going for walks in the nearby woods. Jan van de Putte was right: this is a wonderful place. I’m glad that for a time I too have been able to call the Van Doesburg House my home.’
For further information about Katharina Gross
https://www.katharinagross.at/. Katharina’s residency was made possible by the Performing Arts Fund NL. Click here to watch a video with Katharina where she shares more of her experiences during her stay at Van Doesburg house.