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Should we now only be working in our rehearsal rooms and workshops? No. That’s not how Vojko Huter and Tapiwa Svosve of the District Five Quartet and the multimedia artist Olaf Breuning imagined working in the year 2020. How does art cope with the coronavirus? This year’s recipients of the honorary ZHdK titles “Companion ZHdK” and “Honorary Companion ZHdK” tell us in an interview.

LEA DAHINDEN

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Lea Dahinden: What does making art mean to you both?
Tapiwa Svosve: For me, making music is the definition of freedom. If we play a concert, I feel as if I’m free-falling and completely open. I never have this feeling otherwise. It’s priceless.

Olaf Breuning: I try to engage with the world I am living in … my work is a way of going through this life with pleasure, with the freedom of no one telling me what do. I know this is really fortunate and a little selfish. But ultimately, I am producing something other people may enjoy too. And maybe they see something in it that enriches their life.

Can you find anything good in the coronavirus crisis?
Vojko Huter: The coronavirus has given us extra time. We had more opportunities to exchange ideas and to reflect. We were able to experiment and tinker about. A year ago, we began to record an album. It’s due to come out in 2021, and I’m very much looking forward to it.

Olaf Breuning: Personally, I am happy to stay put and not have to travel. In the last 20 years I’ve been travelling a lot. The current crisis has a lot of potential to make us reflect on how we live. It can only be challenged with international collaboration. I really hope we will learn a lesson from it, and will be able to prepare better for what the future will bring. I feel positive. I do believe that we are learning, slowly.

And what has the coronavirus hampered?
Vojko Huter: When we play together, we have the time of our lives. We want to share this joy in playing with our audience. To be unable to perform for people was difficult for us.

Olaf Breuning: We are social animals. Not seeing people like before is sometimes difficult. But the good thing is: it’s not for ever!

What experiences were you able to draw on from your time at ZHdK?
Tapiwa Svosve: At the Toni Campus, we could really live out being nerds. We had all the opportunities we wanted to try things out. There were people there who saw what we did, understood it, and then gave us valuable input.

Olaf Breuning: Of course, those five years at ZHdK influenced my work. Our teachers challenged us to come up with different ideas all the time. This is something that has stayed with me until today: my work never stays the same.

What does it mean to you to be given an honorary title at ZHdK?
Vojko Huter: The “Companion ZHdK” is a great honour. We are really proud to be appreciated at ZHdK.

Tapiwa Svosve: It’s a sign that people have taken note of our work and value it. We are delighted to accept this prize.

Olaf Breuning: I am honoured! It is such a nice thing when your past comes back and gives you a big hug!

The holder of the title “Honorary Companion ZHdK”: multimedia artist Olaf Breuning. See "SRF Glanz & Gloria" contribution about award winner Olaf Breuning.

The holder of the title “Honorary Companion ZHdK”: multimedia artist Olaf Breuning. See “SRF Glanz & Gloria” contribution about award winner Olaf Breuning.

Once a year, on its University Day, ZHdK awards the titles “ZHdK Honorary Companion” for many years of service and “ZHdK Companion” for outstanding achievements at a young age. The ZHdK honorary titles are not tied to any financial support. Members of ZHdK may propose people for the awards. The University Board decides on allocating these titles, assisted by an advisory committee.

The title of “ZHdK Honorary Companion” is awarded in 2020 to the multimedia artist Olaf Breuning. The title of “ZHdK Companion” is awarded to the jazz ensemble District Five Quartet, which comprises Tapiwa Svosve, Vojko Huter, Xaver Rüegg and Paul Amereller.

Given the rising cases of infection with Covid-19, the ZHdK University Day planned for 22 October 2020 had to be cancelled. The ceremonial presentation of the certificates and the badges of honour will now take place on the occasion of the 2021 ZHdK University Day, on 4 November 2021.

Lea Dahinden (lea.dahinden@zhdk.ch) is a project manager at ZHdK University Communications.
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