Five Questions with Annika Vestel

Annika Vestel is a physical stage artist from Norway, who has worked out of Sweden since 2011. Her solo show, TUTRLEYOU, is a part of In The Water Theatre Company’s TURTLE PLAYS, at the Brick through November 18. She has been with In the Water Theatre Company since 2014.

What is one of your artistic obsessions?

I like images that can be interpreted in many different ways. The combination of visual material, visual text (the movement), and aural text. I like to create an associative world where audiences might not understand everything, but get a sense of mood, something that can work on them. I like to provoke an internal movement in the audience, something where their inner life or fantasy is activated.

What are your inspirations?

People often say to me that my work reminds them of Butoh, which I am fascinated by but not intentionally incorporating into my work. I’m interested in working with slow movement and inner mental states, so it makes sense.

As an international artist, what is the most unusual or interesting thing you’ve discovered from working in so many different countries?

I’m not used to operating with stage managers! Usually I would handle all communication with the theater, figuring out all the tech, my call time, things like that.

Something I’ve noticed is that in Scandinavia the lines between theatre and performance art are more blurred than in the United States, so maybe this has something to do with that. The way I work might seem to fit more into the “performance art” category here, but I’m working in venues that are more used to working in the “theatre” category.

Your solo show is called TURTLEYOU. What’s one fun fact about turtles?

The thing that I found so curious and strange—that inspired me to make this piece—is that I found this recipe book, with four different recipes for “turtle soup.” But only one of the recipes actually called for turtle meat in it.

I wanted to use this idea to explore the way we as humans relate to all animals – are humans that different from other animals? I actually became a vegetarian while making this show.

Oh, I should also specify that eating turtle meat is not a common thing in Norway, or anything like that—eating turtle would be just as odd there as it seems to be here.

What’s next?

Many things! Something I’m very excited about, that I’ve just submitted a big application with my collaborator in Sweden. We’re calling it The Institute of Ineffective Learning, and it will be a series of events that celebrate process and research. We are thinking of it as a critique of the society of efficiency we all live in, of things that are product- and measurement-oriented.

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