What’s brewing with… Alexander Gottfarb

Alexander Gottfarb is a dancer and choreographer with a socio-political sensibility. In previous works he has investigated the gestural repertoire of political ideologies (Political Movements) or religious practices (Moved by Faith). Currently, he is interested in the ‘work of dance’ and its materiality. He is also involved with the platform Wiener Perspektive advocating for better working conditions for freelance artists in Vienna.

What is your profession, Alex?Smart User Alexander Gottfar on stage - Portrait picture black & white with dark background

I am a freelance dancer and choreographer, I am from Sweden and have lived in Austria for a long time. My partner Anna Nowak and I run the association Archipelago. Since 2018 I have been working more locally, I want to tour less, work less project-based. I understand my work as work, not as a project. Like a carpenter: he doesn’t see a table as a project either. Instead, the handicraft should be front and center.

Production shot Filiale - old fashioned shop front saying "TQW Filiale" with a sign saying "come in, 1 more day"

Why are you critical of the term ‘project’?

A ‘project’ has to be planned from beginning to end and always has the same structure: finding ideas, selling them, carrying them out. A project is a more marketable form. Work, on the other hand, does not define its end point. By emphasizing the crafts, I can avoid the marketability and focus more on the materiality of dance.

Our production Encounters, for example, takes our work as dancers to other workplaces: to the factory, to the office, to the field. This creates confrontations between different forms and spaces of work, but also encounters between performers among themselves and with the audience. Der Betrieb (The Business) will be, similar to Negotiations at Filiale before, a continuous dance performance – for four to five hours a day, four to five days a week, for several months and in different districts of Vienna.

In While no one is watching you dance wearing heavy riot gear. Why?

This about communication and how difficult it is when you’re in full armor. But also about what police presence should look like in public space. Such a project at first scares the police as an institution; in the preparatory meetings we have to create mutual understanding and clarify the local context. But with our performance, they can also laugh about it. In 2022, we’ll bring it to Favoriten, where we want to erect a tower of police barriers on Columbusplatz.

Production shot While no one is watching - Two persons amored in riot gear dancing in front of a white wall and red bengal fire works

What does your everyday work as a dancer and choreographer look like?

During rehearsal time, there are intensive rehearsals of course. Outside of rehearsal time, there’s administration to take care of, preparations, appointments. I work from our workplace at Arbeitsplatz in Floridsdorf. On site research is also necessary, e.g. interviews with people in the TQW offices, about their perception of the office space and their body within that space.

Production shot Negotiations - Three dancers in sweeping poses, one on the floor, one squatting, one standing with arms wide open

Anna and me share the responsibilities for the association. When she rehearses, I pick up our son from kindergarten. By the way, without the help of her parents it would not be possible to do joint projects.

Why did you choose to work with Smart?

When we were awarded our first annual grant we needed support and Smart was founded about that time. Since then, we have been Admin users with Archipelago. Smart basically takes care of the association’s accounting, which saves us a lot of paperwork. I’m also interested in the cooperative, but I don’t have any practical experience with it yet.

Production shot Encounters 1 - Dancer standing in the middle of an industrial interior, one arm out to the left, looking to the rightThe pandemic has hit the performing arts especially hard. How did you fare?

We were lucky, with the help of the support measures we were able to continue our work in an adapted form. At the beginning it felt threatening, how much money is in the account, how can I let people rehearse at home, all the responsibilities of an employer. Later it was clear that the freelance artists are protected. Without all that, we would have had to reconsider if the two of us, Anna and I, with a child, could continue our artistic work in the long run. All my colleagues in Austria were able to stay in their profession – unlike in Sweden, for example, where the financial support was badly organized and difficult to get. I actively spread the information about the support measures in my network and encouraged colleagues to make use of them.

Interview & text: Xenia Kopf


Smart User Alexander Gottfarb at Café Weimar - Portrait picture in classic cafe interior

Alexander Gottfarb im Café Weimar


Arbeitsplatz Wien