In little more than a week, the mentees in Forecast 8 will unveil their productions at the two-day Forecast Festival, from March 15 to 16 at Radialsystem, Berlin. The platform dedicated to facilitating, mentoring and promoting trailblazing creative practices and audacious artistic practitioners is now finalizing the details of the next phase of its call in which the mentors will also offer insights into their own work and the topics that inspire and move them. It's time to speak with Freo Majer, Artistic Director of Forecast, to throw all our questions.
From the criteria of the selection processes in Forecast to its 9th edition that is already underway, we cover everything you need to know. In this conversation you can read below, we immerse ourselves in the nitty gritty and mission of this revolutionary platform, which will be launching its new website in April seeking ways to convey the commonalities among these complex projects. We will travel to Berlin to attend their event in mid-March and we will continue to report, hope to see you there! It’s a public event and tickets can be purchased here.
Welcome to METAL, Freo. How are you and where are you answering this interview from?
Thank you! It’s my pleasure doing this interview with you. I’m currently in Zurich, where our mentor alumna, the Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao, is being honoured with a major exhibition.
You are the Artistic Director of Forecast, an interdisciplinary network for knowledge that we talked about a few months ago in this article on METAL which will continue helping, supporting and developing some interesting and unique projects in 2024. Could you tell us more about your role at the platform?
As the Artistic Director, I’m basically responsible for the overall strategy of Forecast, our general approach and tone, so to speak. For each edition of the Forecast Mentorships, I curate the mentors’ cohort, and I’m working a lot on good match-making between each mentor and their respective mentees. Later in the process, together with the Forecast team, I communicate with the artists on all questions considering a fruitful mentorship, and generally the development of their intended project. 
Under the motto “Mentorships for Audacious Minds,” Forecast offers artists and creative thinkers from anywhere in the world the chance to work with accomplished mentors toward bringing their projects to fruition. For those who might not know much about the network, could you please explain the different phases of the process?
Absolutely. Essentially, each phase in the annual Forecast process is designed to bring together the right people so that they can work together productively and with the greatest possible freedom. A new edition kicks off with the launch of our Open Call in January when creative practitioners from around the world are invited to submit their proposals to work with one of the mentors of the respective edition. After reading their personal applications, the six mentors will invite 18 nominees to participate in the Forecast Forum in July, taking place at Radialsystem, Berlin. Visitors can experience boundary-pushing performances, installations, and other kinds of creative experimentation.
A few days after the Forum, each of the mentors selects one mentee to further accompany their respective project. Then the nine months of actual one-on-one mentoring begin, during which we send mentor and mentee on a work-stay for a few days. This means that the two artists travel to an interesting and inspiring location and are hosted by an institution that gives the two artists insights into their own work and access to their local networks and new forms of knowledge. After these months, the mentees will unveil their productions in the two-day Forecast Festival, and each of the mentors will also offer insights into their own practice, presenting a piece of work that is particularly dear to them. So, from a mentee's perspective, participating in Forecast takes around one year; from the first selection as a nominee to the concluding festival.
Forecast Forum 8, 14 July 2023. Radialsystem Berlin © Camille Blake.
In the 8th edition of Forecast, six mentors have joined the team. How do you choose these profiles and what is their mission on the platform?
There are some criteria that are equally important to us every year, and others that change with each edition. Of course, over the past eight Forecasts, we have also learned more and more about the types of practices that can become notably fruitful in our context, and what kind of person might be particularly suitable as a mentor. We are very much interested in working methods, genres, and techniques that are currently gaining momentum and importance in the art world, and these are continuously evolving, of course. And we need mentors that are able to identify with ideas, forms of expression, and styles that are not their own. Another question is the personality of somebody that we might consider a mentor. It goes without saying that Forecast mentors may not be self-centred, patronising, or dogmatic. On the contrary, each and every one of them must be curious, flexible, warmhearted, patient, and above all generous. We expect a lot from our mentors, after all: to offer advice, encouragement, insight into their experiences, learnings, as well as their struggles and failures, and to grant access to their own networks.
One of the nominees, Carlos Gutiérrez, travelled with Greg Fox to Tokyo in September 2023 for their work-stay Forecast 8, while nominated fashion designer Aidan Jason Peters (Klein Muis) travelled with mentor Irakli Rusadze to Mexico City for theirs, among others. What do these work-stays consist of?
Each work-stay takes place in a different place and comes about in close cooperation with a local partner institution. The work-stay is meant to facilitate more focused work on the mentee's project and to inspire both the mentee and mentor. Generally, they might want to develop a fruitful working mode together in the first place, and more specifically, to do research together, record or gather all kinds of material, conduct interviews, rehearse, and discuss possible formats for the Forecast Festival. What the mentor and mentee actually do on this trip depends much on the requirements of the project they are working on, but also on what the mentor wants to achieve or convey during this very intensive time together. We always encourage each mentoring tandem to consider the offers and suggestions of their host and to really get to know the environment and cultural context. Usually, our mentors and mentees squeeze lots of activities into their work-stay, which we see as a good thing because it makes the whole trip more sustainable.
Could you tell us more about the 6 mentees in this edition and the projects they presented?
Fashion designer Aidan Peters from Johannesburg is developing a whole new collection and also gathering fascinating documentary material from the cultural contexts that drive him. His project Deadstock—Life of a Garment is not just about an appealing and unique fashion design—which it effectively brings about—, but also about the cultural connotations. Peters and his team underscore the environmental impact of the fashion industry as well as the informal economies that pop up around it, and the ingenuity of those who have found new ways to process and reinvent discarded products. Artist Mari Kalabegashvili has an enormous talent for entering new, even unforeseeable situations unbiased and fearless, thus gaining surprising alliances and sometimes friendships. Her observation of situations in urban spaces develops into reliable relationships that give her unique insights into the subcultures of her hometown Tbilisi. She describes the urban environments her project If You Catch My Drift examines as extreme playgrounds.
Multimedia artist Victor Artiga Rodriguez’s performative project Thoughts on Fluid Assemblages examines how bodies are subject to experience climate changes on a micropolitical scale, based on his fascinating research into liquids, their cycles, and more specifically the effects fluids have on human and non-human bodies. Acting out different scenarios, participants will engage in somatic and sound exercises relating to the impact of contaminated water sources. The work seeks to enact an inquiry into the empathy needed to respond to the climate crisis.
Marcela Huerta’s White Horses Always Run Home proposes an intimate, poetic portrait of the author’s mother, Yolanda Huerta, a refugee of the 1973 Chilean coup. The two revisit the geographies of Yolanda’s refugee story: Maipú, the neighbourhood where she lived before being abducted; Mendoza, the city where she spent her solitary time in hiding; and Winnipeg, the place where she painstakingly built a new life. These trips inform the subsequent manuscript, portraying not a past trauma but an enduring one that lives in the ways she relates to the world. In unearthing intergenerational trauma and documenting it through a multifaceted process, the work aims to create an emotionally cathartic access point for reflecting on how past atrocities shape the struggles of the present, while also creating an empathetic and collaborative poetic experience between a mother and daughter.
Composer and performer Carlos Gutiérrez from La Paz is working on a sound installation that will be activated by the festival visitors. This site-aware work is called Infinite Warp and Weft, and it functions as a network of several interdependent rhythmic levels. Carlos’ material is influenced by the indigenous music of the Bolivian Highlands. At the Forecast Forum last summer, Carlos managed to get a whole hall full of visitors to make music together, and the result was truly exciting and even overwhelming, that moment when we all realised that we were actually creating these sounds in one big joint effort. Cologne-based choreographer and director Gustavo Gomes proposes a docufiction called Manhandle, which focuses on sexual violence against men. The script interlaces mythology and interviews with survivors and social workers in Germany. Using filmed elements of dance performance, the project explores the boundaries of the traumatised body, and the brain’s ability to recreate reality in order to survive. I was there when Gustavo and his mentor Roee Rosen worked on some parts of the material during their work-stay in São Paulo, and so I’ve seen how Gustavo manages to translate the survivors’ experiences and profound traumas into powerful and sharply focused scenes.
Of course, during a current edition of Forecast, I am always completely enthusiastic about the artists involved, because we get to know them very well. It is therefore possible that in a year I will be similarly euphoric about the then-active mentees. But it really seems to me that our artists of the eighth edition are remarkably open and curious, constantly checking and readjusting their respective processes, and I'm sure they'll do something great at the Forecast Festival.
Forecast Forum 8, 15 July 2023. Radialsystem Berlin © Camille Blake.
What caught your attention the most about the projects you received in this edition? Is there any artistic trend you have noticed?
Generally, we receive a vast diversity of genres, topics, and personal styles, so we will not try to compare apples and oranges here. Yet when looking at the many hundreds of concepts from the last eight years, two tendencies seem to stand out that might indeed have a certain relevance: on the one hand, I see from some applications that their authors want to serve a social mission; they apparently see the relevance of their work as almost synonymous with usefulness. I think there is a certain risk here that artists might make themselves dispensable in the long term, which would mean that exactly the opposite of what one might hope for would occur. I’m afraid that if the claimed benefits ultimately don't materialise, or at least can't be easily proven, then why would anyone want art? I am actually convinced, and this is also a general driving force for Forecast, that the autonomy and freedom of art should not be subjected to any kind of utilitarianism, not even for important social or political purposes.
The second, exactly opposite tendency I see is a kind of individualistic rebellion that I read in more and more submissions. There seems to be a growing defiant and extremely vital ability in the generation that is now gaining ground to actually build exactly the way of working that these folks really want and that they want to realise with their very specific type of creativity. This means an enormous variety of handwritings, tones, and also ways of seeing oneself as an autonomous creative force. These two completely contradictory developments seem to be connected, and it will be exciting to follow them further.
In a few days, all 6 projects will be shown at Radialsystem in Berlin along with talks with mentors, workshops, performances, etc. What can we expect from this great event?
First of all, the festival obviously is about giving our six mentees the stage, and we can expect six world premieres of those works. In addition to that, the mentors of Forecast 9 will also present themselves with their own work that they find meaningful for their personal practice, in a format we call Meet the Mentors
Is it an event open to the public? How can we get tickets?
Yes, it’s a public event. Tickets can be purchased via the ticketing link on our website. A weekend pass for the festival is 18€ and a day pass is 10€.
Forecast Forum 8, 15 July 2023. Radialsystem Berlin © Camille Blake.
You’ll be launching a new website for Forecast in the next few weeks, won’t you? What changes have you made?
As our network of alumni keeps growing with every edition, as well as the projects that Forecast has initiated - such as Driving The Human and Housing The Human, with more to come - we seek ways to convey the commonalities among these complex projects, which our current website doesn’t have the capacities for. As different as these initiatives are, thematically, or in duration and scope, the methods that Forecast employs always highlight collaboration, exchange of knowledge and expertise, and network-building.
Is there anything you can tell us about edition 9?
Yes, absolutely. For Forecast 9, we aimed to pursue our interest in practices that pursue radically free experimentation and play as a working principle, and we wanted to take this even further. I can say today that were actually able to attract personalities who have made a name for themselves through their astonishing autonomy, creative independence, and inventiveness, and who are also very generous and approachable personalities.
The first months of a year are always particularly exciting for us as a team, as the ongoing edition is coming to its climax with the Forecast Festival then, while the upcoming edition is already starting with our Open Call and the process of the mentors reviewing the submissions. These days, we have closed the Open Call, and I can say that it’s been overwhelmingly successful. We received more than 1,100 applications from 113 countries, which is again a new record for us, and it also means that the mentors will have an enormous number of interesting concepts to choose from. In April, they will have selected the next round of nominees, and I can’t wait to welcome them to our Forecast Forum end of July.
Gustavo Gomes, Manhandle STUDIO PRAMUDIYA.
Gustavo Gomes, Manhandle STUDIO PRAMUDIYA.
Aidan Jayson Peters, DEADSTOCK, Photo: Jack Markovitz.
Mari Kalabegshvili, If You Catch My Drift.