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A short interview with Jana Unmüßig

Read about Unmüßig’s background and thoughts on choreography, as she starts her one-year lectureship in choreography.

Jana Unmüßig katsoo kameraan.
Jana Unmüßig

Jana Unmüßig is an artist with a background in contemporary, experimental choreography. 2008 – 2015 Jana has been actively choreographing in an international theater context and has presented her work among other places at HAU Berlin, Kampnagel Hamburg, Zodiak Helsinki, Springdance Utrecht, Impulstanz Vienna. Since 2016 she has been engaged in collaborative co-authoring work e.g. with the visual artist Tina Jonsbu, artist-researcher Christoph Solstreif-Pirker as well as with the performer and choreographer Miriam Jakob. Jana did theater studies at the Sorbonne, Paris and studied dance and choreography at SEAD, Salzburg and HZT Berlin. In autum 2018 she received a D.A. (dance) from the Theater Academy Helsinki. 2019/2020 she held a post-doc position at the Center for Artistic Research (Cfar) Uniarts Helsinki.

You received your D.A. in Dance in 2018 and in 2019/2020 you held a post-doc position in Cfar in Uniarts Helsinki. Now starting as the first lecturer in the masters programme in Choreography, what are the most intriguing aspects of choreography for you?

I am interested in choreography that emerges in a twilight zone where the light flickers and colours are not clearly identifiable. I have been interested in the relation between experience and choreography for some time now in a way that brings choreography closer to living while at the same time avoiding the dichotomy of art versus life. This concern of the status of experience (of space, time, body) in choreography emerging in and through some twighlight zone, reflects my interest in speaking about choreography in relation to artistic research. Research-based choreography complicates productively the matter of (re)presentation, visibility. 

I am interested in different forms and formats that are shared in the frame of choreography  (from conference-performance-dinner to a video). Or, gather with other artists and researchers around topics/apparatuses that are not only relevant to choreography (e.g. gender, care, race). 

In any case, I am intrigued in falling into choreography where I would not expect it, which ultimately also raises the question how, who, when, why one identifies a situation, a moment, a space as choreography.

Coming from international artist’s perspective, what draws you to Theatre Academy? What are the perks and lilies about Helsinki art scene and this institution?

Theater Academy has amazing facilities, even that I am aware that here also are problems about spaces, about having enough spaces. But after all there is much material resources, I think. Not to mention the intellectual ones. The particular and great thing about Helsinki is that in comparison to other European cities (I stick with Europe now), Helsinki is a rather small city. Ultimately, the art scene is quite compact. And at the same time, there is still quite a lot of money for the arts. So, people can meet more easily because the community is rather small and at the same time there are comparatively lots of funding opportunities. That s great.

How does it feel to start working in the programme? What kind of expectations do you have and what are you looking forward the most?

I am really exited to start working as a lecturer in the MA choreography. It is exiting because together with Kirsi we have to take it step by step and have a sort of learning-by-doing approach: Since there has never been a lecturer in the program, the position is created while doing it. Through my doctorate that I did in affiliation with the MA choreography and also through some engagement as mentor in the program last semester, I have a first understanding about its profile and I know the current cohort already. I look very much forward seeing how the current MA candidates develop their work and to support them on their paths. Last but not least, I find it also very interesting to gain an understanding of how the program is part of the larger structure, Uniarts.  

For the people who might not know you or your work already, how would you describe yourself as an artist?

I really care for details. Paying attention to a seemingly small thing, a detail, something that slips out of your attention if you look fast, that is really exiting to me. Details enchant me ,-). With that goes, unfortunately, also that I have a certain perfectionist tendency. Positively said: I work until the work is done, regardless what time it is. Having been recently more engaged in co-authoring work, I am now also letting got more of my perfectionism. ,-) I enjoy that letting go. And I enjoy roaming between different types of collaboration; not getting married to one working partner which would feel again too much like creating a brand, an object. 

Artistically, I have maybe more affinities with visuals arts or Performance Art than dance. 

Other than that: My desk is always full with papers and books, and my head is always full with quotes and ideas while attaching at the same time to details, within this kind of abundance. ,-)

In your doctoral dissertation you write about concept of seeing as contemplative mood and compositional practise. How does your choreographic practise / thoughts relate to our highly visual and short spanned era of social media? Does your art work as an antidote? What kind of insights it might give to us in the midst of  the culture of visuality? Or for the social distancing and communicating through visual online mediums during times like corona pandemic?

I am not sure if my doctoral research on vision can really contribute to the debates on online communication which foregrounds visuality because my research has examined the process of seeing not in a virtual space, but in a physical one.

However, I think that due to my artistic interest in visuality I have experienced the move to screen-based communication fairly smooth. 

Maybe this idea of bringing seeing back to the body which is what I explored during my doctorate is in that regards a value that could help people to renegotiate long hours of sitting behind the screen. Breath (which was the topic of my post-doc at Cfar) is a key aspect in that. One often changes breathing when sitting in front of the screen. Taking a seat, and letting the screen be, and reorient attention to one´s breath is indeed helpful in order to cultivate a sense of embodiment in a visually oriented culture.


Koreografian koulutusohjelman blogi on keskustelun ja jakamisen paikka. Täällä koulutusohjelman opiskelijat, henkilökunta ja vierailijat kirjoittavat koreografiasta, opiskelusta, meneillään olevista projekteista, (tanssi)taiteesta ja sen ympäriltä.

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