We’re in Berlin, during The Art Department 2022, on a hype of energy and inspiration. At one point we spot our Next Talent Tosca van der Weerden in the audience…later we see her exploring the expo, chatting with artists.. in other words: diving deep into what such an event has to offer. Suddenly we realize we want to know more about her experience. What does an artist involved in a talent development program take from attending a festival like The Art Department? How do they integrate that in their artistic journey? We talked with Tosca in search for some answers and, of course, also used the opportunity to see how she experienced her trajectory.
“I am here not only to get inspired by the people that give the talks but also to connect with them and maybe find some points in which we share a common interest or goal or discover something that we can help each other out with” she tells us right off the bat. “I think events like these are fundamental to create spaces where that can happen. Online, of course, you can also send someone a message. But to see somebody in real life and have a talk can generate unexpected connections.”
We ask Tosca to give us an example about how this works.
“Earlier this year” she says “I was at another festival presenting my Manly Myths project. There, I happened to meet Tomm Moore. He saw me do my make-up and saw me doing the make-up for other people and then he asked ‘Can you do it to me as well?’ So first we connected on a human level. I didn’t even know who he was at that time. Somebody else told me ‘that’s Tomm Moore’ I was like…wait…what? Later I showed him my project and, because we had had that first connection, he was really interested and he shared some background information he had.
He was so fascinated by the topic of masculinity he just started helping me out by thinking of things to do, or thinking of places I could go or people I could talk to. He invited me to his home-town Kilkenny, where there’s an animation festival, and he said ‘Yeah, maybe you can present your project there as well’. It’s really motivating and gives you a lot of confidence to see people whose work you were admiring, be interested in projects you are developing. I could have also reached out to that animation festival myself, online, but it would have felt like such a big stretch. On the other hand, now it seems more natural.”
An organic connection we get to witness for ourselves, first when Tosca helps Tomm prepare for his TADBerlin presentation by doing his make-up, and then again, when Tomm gives her a shout-out during his talk. The vibe is real and it’s there!
It’s not just with role models and guest artists Tosca shares nice bonding stories with, but also with fellow Next Talents. In Eindhoven we cheerfully spotted quite a lot of present and alumni Nexters hanging around together, but also in Berlin Tosca is joined by fellow friends and colleagues Juliana Erazo and Alina Milkina.
“Especially with Juliana… (Erazo, ed.)” Tosca says “I have become really good friends … right from the beginning of our Next trajectory. It all happened during the Covid pandemic and then Paulien (one of the program’s coordinators) told me ‘Juliana’s also doing work about womanhood, about feminism, so maybe that’s interesting for you. It’s also one of the reasons we chose you guys in the program, because we think you complement each other’s work.’ So we met and we really connected. We talked a lot about our projects, about our personal experiences. I feel like I have someone now in my life that not only understands me and my work but also who I am and what my goals are. Even though she’s from the other side of the world, it feels like we are sisters. And Next brought us together like that.
And it’s not just Juliana. There’s also Aswin (Baaijens, ed.) and he is also creating a story about masculinity. Because of our genders and thus our different perspectives on the topic, it’s really interesting to talk with each other about the projects. The themes overlap but he will use a different medium than mine. He is working on a film and I on a graphic novel. And also our target audiences are a bit different so we’re discussing with each other about how we make those choices. We used to talk every week. Now, as more events start to happen again, it’s a bit less.
I have to say the most amazing fact about the Next program is the connection with the other people. The masterclasses are also great but they are more skill based: you learn this or that. But the connection is something that really broadens over time”.
We take the opportunity to ask more about her experience with the program. “I feel in no way pressured to perform but I do feel a bit of ‘jealousy’ (the friendly type!) that some of the other talents have more concrete projects or are in a stage where they do have the end line in sight.
My Next project consisted mostly in doing research for a project that grew and grew and grew. It’s going to be a graphic novel and a podcast and a couple of other things. And sometimes I am jealous because I think ‘why can’t I write a short script or think of a small animation, and then simply work on it? Produce it, create it and then it’s finished.’ The project that I now work on is going to take a couple of years before it’s finished. On the other hand I really love that. I love that I can work on a bigger story and invest my time in it!
What I also learned during Next and during Covid is that the goal should not be to ‘make’ something good but to ‘learn’ something. Maybe you create a project and you fail because no one wants it. But then you can go back and you can reflect ‘why does nobody want this?’ and then you know and you’re not going to do the same thing again. Sometimes it’s better to fail because next time it will all be much much better. You have to make the terrible work to start making the better work which is the doom of being an artist!” She laughs.
As a final question we ask what Tosca would say to artists in similar positions as hers, regarding attending events like The Art Department.
“Of course you’re going to look in advance who will be joining the event, especially with people posting on Instagram things like ‘I’m gonna go at Playgrounds, who else will be there?’. And then you can think beforehand who you want to talk with and why. You don’t want to overwhelm people with loads of questions. So maybe just have one goal in mind. And it’s also ok if you don’t manage to talk about your work or to pitch a project, but end up bonding with somebody over watching The Simpsons. Making connections is very important.
As for a fun tip, I would go to a Playgrounds event and wear an outrageous outfit. One time I wore an ugly sweater with a bunny on it and I just watched the talks and then I was like ‘oh, I really wanted to ask this speaker more about this subject’. So after the event I reached out to them on Instagram and said ‘I really loved your talk and wanted to ask you more about this and by the way I am the girl with the ugly bunny sweater’ and they actually remembered me! So that really worked for me, then again I am quite often very colorfully dressed!”
Should we ever notice a sea of ugly sweaters at our events, we’ll now all know who started the trend!
Keep an eye on Tosca’s works by following her @mannenmythen (Manly Myths) on Instagram.
*some of the answers have been edited for coherency purposes.