DEAR SPIELART AUDIENCES
Our search began with the desire to look even further beyond the end of our noses than in previous years. With a mixture of curiosity and an attempt at a critical inquiry into our own perspectives, and with the help of local curatorial advice, we focused on two different regions with different parameters - south and east Asia, and South Africa. The one is an enormous continent with diverse histories, cultures, and religions, which cannot be reduced to any common denominator. The other is a region that was settled by Europeans stopping over on their way to Asia and which, in the apartheid era (1948 – 1994) stood for injustice incarnate. Nelson Mandela proclaimed his country a rainbow nation and relied on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to process the past. Yet more than 20 years later, it turns out that reconciliation cannot be mandated from above, nor can it be achieved without combating the grave social injustice that is the ongoing legacy of apartheid.
Whether “at home” or “in the world,” the theater scene seems still to be profoundly politicized - not surprising, given the latest global developments. In recent years, the key was taking up clear, “art activist” positions in the face of a political machine that seemed to do nothing; yet the signs have now changed. It’s no longer possible to outperform the simple – not to say simplistic – declarations of a new type of politician. So in reaction, theater is finding its way back to reflecting and complexity.
Along with that comes a need to tackle history and tradition. Not as a means of self-reassurance, but rather the opposite – as a desire to understand. How were the historical narratives that ultimately led to the current, unjust world order created? Hansol Yoon explores the Korean War, about which almost nothing is known in Germany, Ho Tzu Nyen analyzes the "founding" of Singapore, and Sethembile Msezane tackles the 1955 Freedom Charter, a document central to South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement.
Mark Teh from Kuala Lumpur takes as his subject matter the Malaysian government’s development plan for a highly industrialized, self-sufficient national state, first introduced in 1991.
By contrast, other artists – Hasan and Husain Esspo, Sankar Venkateswaran, or Sethembile Msezane in the second work she's showing at SPIELART, EXCERPTS FROM THE PAST - turn to pre-colonial and indigenous traditions, positioning them in opposition to western hegemony. At the same time, works such as Neo Muyanga’s TSOHLE – A REVOLTING MASS uses songs of European missionaries and the revolutionary songs of the ANC to demonstrate that it is often impossible to delineate a boundary between “them” and “us.”
In many places, the colonial era continues to leave its mark on politics and culture. In DE-APART-HATE, Mamela Nyamza criticizes the Christian church’s ambivalent role. Eisa Jocson and Jaha Koo tackle the cultural dominance of the USA in their home countries of the Philippines and South Korea. Rima Najdi (THINK MUCH. CRY MUCH), Suli Kurban, Alejandro Ahmed, José Fernando de Azevedo (WHISPERING BODIES), Silke Huysmans/Hannes Deheere (MINING STORIES), and Meghna Singh (RUSTING DIAMOND/ARRESTED MOTION) use a variety of formats – from participative choreography to audio walks and installation, to stage pieces – to address global entanglements, migration, and flight.
Today’s capitalist world order, with its winners and losers, would be unimaginable without centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The way the black body was debased into a commodity, and discrimination based on black “inferiority” are attitudes that persist into the present day. That is evidenced no less by American police violence against black citizens as by the white “human shields” in South Africa – white students who stand at the front of protest marches to protect the black marchers from assaults by security forces. This is explored in works by Nora Chipaumire (PORTRAIT OF MYSELF AS MY FATHER), Jaamil Olawale Kosoko (#NEGROPHOBIA), and Gabrielle Goliath (ELEGY). Both Oliver Zahn and Ogutu Muraya create a linking thread between sports and nation building processes. Buhlebezwe Siwani, Chuma Sopotela, and Mamela Nyamza deal with a feminist perspective on the body, while the sublime performer Silvia Calderoni of the Italian group Motus, a third time guest of Spielart, takes a queer perspective on it. Two pieces demonstrate the vast artistic bandwidth of what is called “inclusive theater” – Milo Rau, one of the German-speaking world’s most successful and most controversial directors, working with the actors of the Zurich Schauspielhaus and Theater Hora, takes issue with Pasolini and de Sade. Claire Cunningham, on the other hand, has chosen to use an intimate, discursive format to address issues of disability and perception.
On the second weekend of the festival, lectures, round tables, and performances presented under the title CROSSING OCEANS will explore how diversity can be organized in this day and age, what role identity politics plays in it, and whether there really is such a thing as "global values." And it all happens against the background of a world in which the erection of border walls – real, intellectual, and emotional - has reached alarming levels; a world in which it has become possible to be openly nationalistic. Polish director Marta Górnicka distills those aggressive voices in her choir piece HYMN TO LOVE.
Above and beyond the dramatic lines sketched here, there is much diversity in the Spielart program. For instance, AN ATYPICAL BRAIN DAMAGE by Tianzhuo Chen, which combines the visual arts with pop and club culture, or Louis Vanhaverbeke's MULTIVERSE, which celebrates the art of playing.
We look forward to you and your curiosity!
Sophie Becker and Tilmann Broszat