Imagine yourself a career where you play in a rock band as a teenager before starting an apprenticeship in a bank. Being a qualified bank employee only causes you one problem: You don’t feel challenged enough. So why not mastering the entrance examination at the music conservatory in Karlsruhe to become a pianist and music teacher?
Well, this career exists and marks just the beginning of Sabine Schaefer’s journey that continues further today. Currently the artist works in the field of audio-visual installation art – a field that she developed together with Joachim Krebs as a duo named <SA/JO>. Now she works in Karlsruhe for more than 20 years as teacher for piano improvisation and creativity training. In the eighties, she worked as composer-performer in interdisciplinary projects, together with painters, dancers and musicians. Since the middle of nineties, she engages internationally as a composer and sound artist. Just as versatile as her projects were the topics that we discussed during our interview with Sabine Schäfer.
Part 1: The Artist
Curiosity: Better than talent
„Talent is a term that has something to do with identifying with your own specific skills that are self-evident and that you appreciate. If your environment allows you to discover your talents and enables you to develop them, then it’s a pleasure to design your life with them – professionally and privately. We all have different skills and we need the opportunity to discover them. Discovery and curiosity play an important role in any phase of my artmaking. […] It means personal enrichment when I keep in resonance with the world. Exchanging with people, observing and discussing of societal changes, my perception of media and more things give me with a certain independence from day-to-day business. It provides me with an inner value system, that shows me for what purpose I want to live.”
Reflection: Openness to the New
„I make my artwork since many years and I reflect mandatorily my aesthetic panel. Thus, I attain my very own yet variable conditions which provide me balance and commitment during my artistic work. Openness to the new artwork is essential. It doesn’t matter if it’s a commissioned piece or fundamental piece of a new work series. This is something I appreciate doing over and over again: I reflect present potentials and give myself freedom to change the perspective in order to find the right aesthetic shape for the artwork. If you finally set a certain condition, then stricter rules are going to emerge. It’s back and forth, a wavelike movement.”
Resilience: A continuous movement
Resilience is a continuous process for Sabine Schaefer and emerges „with any step and artwork and with any development. It’s a perseverative process of assertiveness that gave me serenity and calm perception over the years. When I was young, I was already brave. This is part of my personality. I developed ideas for art that were not within reach. But these ideas burned in my heart and were drilling like a permanent motor my will to create. If your energy and imagination are strong and precise enough, then you can manage the realization of art. This is a prosperous experience to me.
Time: Not line, but sphere
„For me the notion of the ‘spherical shape of time’ includes a non-linear understanding of time that produces contemporaneity for anything. We split past, future and presence. This can be repealed through observation of art. The observer gets lost in observation, listening and perceiving of the art which happens right here and now.”
This form of here and now has also implications for Schaefer’s life scheme as she explains: “Constantly I try to do as less estranging things as possible, especially nothing that could separate life and art. Over the years I developed a discipline that supports a conscious and harmonious life. I want to make art with full intensity and this needs time. In this manner, I build myself a panel from which I can work and live and that builds on the experiences of my artistic life. To be a master of your own time also means some kind of autonomy and less dependency on exterior events.”
Part 2: The Teacher
Individual: Space for flexibility
„As a music teacher for instruments you mostly teach individuals. This means you must deal constantly with different people. To be always in contact with other people that have different skills and experiences I consider a huge opportunity and an exciting experience. It’s very important to find a balanced method and approach that creates space for flexibility. […] At the beginning you don’t know which type of musical potential a person has. First you have to get to know the person.”
Improvisation: The phenomenon of failing constructively
“To play without notes can be a challenge and may test the limits of a student if he gets the impression that he fails while trying his skills. But if creativity comes into play the student will be able to translate the so-called accident into a musical idea. Therefore, the phenomenon of deconstructive failure actually doesn’t exist.”
Inspiration: intensity instead of quantity
„To me, it seems important not to think of linear performance, that tries to produce just a lot instead of developing intensity. Fixed and detailed objectives don’t lead necessarily to positive outcome. For me it’s an inspiring principle to get surprised again and again as a teacher as well as an artist. This means also to connect with working processes and materials that are beneficial to inspire my own fantasy and to create something which is authentic.
„Society has trained us to think in performance levels and to reach what is considered a certain proficiency level by other people. Here we need to shift in reference because the true reference is within ourselves. It is crucial to be independent from external authorities and not to accept what is supposed to be well done and what is not. Thus, it becomes possible to develop satisfaction for yourself.”
Infrastructure: factor for continuity
„I think it is also very important for companies that are distant from art to provide an infrastructure so that employees feel respected and valued. […] I believe a global development of a human and ecologicl business culture is a key factor for the survival of our world.”