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Thirty years of the United Cowboys, twenty-five years at Klein Berg

Thirty years of the United Cowboys, twenty-five years at Klein Berg

United Cowboys, the Eindhoven Live Art collective led by Pauline Rowlands and Maarten van der Putt, has been around for thirty years. A new play at the Parktheatre, ‘Resilience’, is cause for celebration, but a book full of photographs from previous productions.

By Camiel Hammons

Only a dead pen pusher can survive three decades with the same employer. To others it seems like a hellish punishment. Not for Pauline Rowlands and Maarten van der Putt, who have been together since their high school days, combining dance, music, visual arts, video and performance to create shows under each other’s direction for over thirty years. He also ran an art house in Klein Berg, Eindhoven, for twenty-five years.

Image > Maarten van der Putt

“Actually, my graduation was early,” says Pauline Rollands, who first served a guest lunch in the meeting room of the United Cowboyhuis in the center of Eindhoven. “Morden and I moved from Eindhoven to Amsterdam in the early eighties, him for visual art and me for dance. When I graduated from the Dance Academy of the Theater School of SDNO in 1985, you had to create a production, for which you had to research. I came up with the question: what happens when you combine different art forms together. How do you put them together, how do you keep them in harmony and what kind of end product does this create? It was new because dance is usually about music and I wanted to combine those things.

Untitled (Cowboys) 1992. Photo > Job Leonards

Video was completely new to the scene at the time

“I involved Morton, who specialized in film and video at the Royal Academy in The Hague, in my research and performance, but Morton’s brother Haar, the visual artist-painter, and my brother Ruud, the composer, were also involved. My supervisor, or great mentor, was the dancer-choreographer Don Ludgerink. , he was associated with the Independent Theater in Rotterdam for a year. That gave me a great team. With that graduation production in a portfolio folder, I met with the programmers and theater directors of the graduation ceremonies. They saw something in it. Video on stage, which was completely new at the time. Why don’t you come back? We were asked from Brabant.

Burn • Festival Boulevard 2014. Photo > Hans Spiegelar

Premiere Burn 2014 at Parktheater Eindhoven 2014

“It was definitely better,” says Maarten van der Putt. “When young artists are asked to establish themselves immediately. We were immediately embraced by the municipality of Eindhoven and given a rehearsal space. The province gave us a budget for production costs. Until ten years ago, we could count on the support of the province. Political changes in the provincial government and the consequent reduction of the budget for the arts And then, the grant from that corner didn’t come in. We now have several years of support from Braband C, but that’s because of the many projects abroad.

Video on stage was completely new at the time.

Then we got the question from Braband.
Why don’t you come back?”

“In 1992 we co-produced with Zuidelijk Toneel,” Van der Putt continues. “We got in touch with Ivo van Hove, so we could use their rehearsal space and this building in Klein Berg. When Het Zuidelijk Toneel bought new spaces, we were able to become the main residents here. We do spaces for residencies – temporary work accommodation for a few months for invited artists. – and there are regular yoga and ballet classes.

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Contest • Festival Boulevard 2016. Photo > Tuur Uyttenhove
GLOW • Eindhoven 2014. Photo > Maarten van der Put

We are a group of individuals

“One of our first collaborations with many dancers and actors – before that we mainly performed solos to Paul’s music – was ‘Untitled (Cowboys)’, a nod to Richard Prince’s famous photograph showing the image of a mythical Lone Ranger. On horseback. Freedom, strength, rebellion, pioneer. The epitome of mindset and a broader vision on the horizon. It’s a production about similar basic, fundamental sentiments. From then on everyone called us cowboys. Then we added United to that list. Because we stand for freedom, but we also want to work together. We’re a group of individuals. The next act. , in 1993, we published it under that new name, which we have kept until now.

We stand for freedom, but we want to work together.

“How many productions we put out per season varies, but usually one or two. All together, I think there were about fifty,” Rowlands says. “We are now publishing a thick book of photos from those performances together with Lecturis publishers for our anniversary. In the first years we performed everywhere except Eindhoven and North Brabant. However, in recent years, apart from Eindhoven and Bossche Boulevard, we are mainly found abroad: Gothenburg, Sofia, Katowice, Paris, Olomouc, Cologne and more.

BURN • Katowice 2018. Photo > Maarten van der Put
BURN • Katowice 2018. Photo > Maarten van der Put

“Perhaps we should try to show ourselves around the country in the future. But that requires something. It takes a few days to set up, and we want to be in one place for at least a week. We move a large work from city to city and adapt it to the new environment, to the history and local conditions of that city. Change. Maybe a better word. We create a temporary world, a biotope. That’s why we call those products. We work at the same job.

BURN • Olomouc 2017. Photo > Hans Spiegelaar
Bern • Cologne 2016. Photo > Hans Spiegelar

“We prefer not to call it theatre, because our work is not purely narrative, not plot-driven. We tell a story between the lines. We present situations and events where the audience can edit the world from their own perspective, at their own pace. In the Gothenburg Biotope’s video, ‘(re A physical reference to )volution’, one viewer says he feels like he’s in a dream, another calls it a ‘life painting’, and a third sighs that they are.

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No program will be announced in advance

The activities of Rowlands and van der Put were not limited to these foreign adventures. They open their house in Klein Berg four times a year at the change of season, and then surprise the public with new works themselves titled ‘Seasoning’ by guests who have been able to experiment with art. Home for a while. , and from invited colleagues. No program will be announced in advance. So the audience never knew what was coming, and ‘Seasonings’ has been a complete sell-out for five years now. Hope seems too great.

Perform Europe • Sofia 2022. Photo > Teodora Sanova
Perform Europe • Gothenburg 2022. Photo > Eliano Nasr

Video Perform Europe • Biotope Gothenburg 2022.

Despite these open-air evenings, the studio in Klein Berg is not a theater but a stage. Rowlands and van der Putt invite artists as guests for a short period of time, who create their own works as artists in their space. Preferably a few at a time. These artists may be from Eindhoven, Brabant, Dutch, but could just as easily come from Chile or New Zealand. As long as they are open to conversation, to dialogue. “We cook together,” Rowlands enthuses, “eat together, rehearse with each other. You get to know each other in a completely different way, and it often happens that people who have worked here later participate in our productions. We have a kind of nesting activity, which allows talent to grow. Visual I see us as a family of artistes with all the disciplines of art, directing, acting, music coming together.

We have a kind of nesting function that allows us to build talent.

Van der Putt says, “In our early days, we worked together on a production with KulturFaktorij Monti in Antwerp. I thought it was a great example. Such a personal approach, such generosity. If we ever had the chance, we would use what I saw and experienced there as an example. I thought. The production houses were closed ten years ago. Fortunately, there is now a Brabant Talent Development Program from which we can fund eleven incubators. Together with Parktheater we are creating such a breeding ground. A free space for conversation, that’s Art House United Cowboys.

‘United Cowboys Resilience’, Parktheatre Eindhoven, December 6 and 7, 2023, starting at 8:30 p.m.

Design the back cover, spine and front cover of the United Cowboys book.

Pauline Rowlands and Maarten van der Putt. United Cowboys. Eindhoven: Lecturis 2023, 296 pp., ISBN 9789462264908, hb., € 45.00. (to be published)