Editorial 2012

Heiner Goebbels

I like to speak of art as experience because I'm not interested in theatre as an instrument for conveying messages. All too often it's reduced to just that, not least since its roots lie in language. Gertrude stein even said, »Everything which is not a story could be a play.« Theatre can be so much more than that: a kaleidoscope of impressions generated by movements, sounds, words, spaces, bodies, light and colour. And this more‹ can perhaps reach areas of experience for which we (still) lack words. so ›art as experience‹ involves a readiness to accept that it may not always be essential to understand what is happening on stage, a willingness to listen to a strange language or unfamiliar music and to look at images that subvert existing categories.

Industrial spaces mercilessly unmask artistic make-believe. Even people in the last row will immediately pick up on any element of play-acting if there is no proscenium arch as a magical gateway or if they are not inside a black box. My concern is with theatre as an independent reality that doesn’t seek convey the illusion of a world outside itself. This approach gives members of the audience greater scope for comparing theatrical events with the reality of their own experience. Judging the closeness or distance between theatre and outside reality is not a matter of the director’s interpretation, but 9 something that the audience can undertake themselves. The Artists cannot do this on the spectator’s behalf and don’t want to. We certainly consider the public to be much cleverer than the small group of people who have concocted a performance up front.

In our media-regulated daily lives everything is served up to us in a quasi-totalitarian way. TV presenters stare at us, entertainers shout at us. Most films are expertly made entertainment machines that grip us, but don’t set us free. The potential for individual discovery has shrunk and the scope for our imagination has diminished. In this situation art in a theatrical context can acquire the function of a refuge, becoming a kind of museum of perception in which it is possible to reclaim these areas.

The Ruhrtriennale is best understood as a series of three-year independent aesthetic statements. Activities over the next three years, for example, will not be governed by a specific theme. In my view, themes represent an unnecessary restriction on the work of the artistic director and, most crucially, on that of the artists. Not least, they limit the public’s perceptions. Good works of art, whether in the performing arts or the visual arts, have many stories to tell and don’t always reveal all their secrets immediately.

Dance is probably the least institutionalised of all art forms. Therefore it can hardly be accidental that over the past twenty years choreographers have expanded the scope of the performing arts more than anyone else and given us the most food for thought. They have made us think not only about movement, but also about the relationship between music and dance, sound and image, hearing and seeing. And they have encouraged us to think about our own bodies and about those of people who are different from us. So we’ve invited such exciting choreographers as Boris Charmatz, Tino Sehgal, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Jérôme Bel, Lemi Ponifasio, Mathilde Monnier and Laurent Chétouane to participate, not least because they’ve long been engaging with a wide range of artistic means, not just dance.

Venues can be almost as important as the works they host. In the Jahrhunderthalle in Bochum, before sunrise, we present a magical combination of early, but very modern-sounding, choral music with movements performed by the ROSAS dancers, barely visible in the gloom. You’ll rarely have seen anything like this, I can assure you. There will also be opportunities to listen to classical music performed by world-famous soloists not in a concert hall, but in the informal, almost private surroundings of the machine room in the Zeche Carl mine. You’ll get as close to the musicians’ virtuosity here as you will to the people in the live art show 12 Rooms at the Museum Folkwang.

No Education – children are the expert judges on our festival jury. Boris Charmatz’s enfant focuses on them and they star in When the mountain changed its clothing. Children can show us the way by reacquainting us with abilities we forgot we had, so they also take the lead in our No Education projects, as imaginative building clients, living sculptures and performers. On our festival campus around the Jahrhunderthalle students and teachers from all over Europe exchange views with artists featured in the Ruhrtriennale. In a kind of vibrant festival 10 workshop, they discuss what they’ve seen and heard with each other, with us and, if you wish, with you.

We didn’t invent the subtitle International Festival of the Arts for the Ruhrtriennale, but we do seek to emphasise this aspect, welcoming visitors from abroad and inviting first-time participants whose work has had an international impact. We transform former industrial sites into ›factories‹ for contemporary theatre, dance, music and performance art ›made in the Ruhr‹ and exported world-wide.

Regional / international: for us, these terms are not mutually exclusive. Many of the artists invited to take part enlist the help of the local population. Experts, young professionals and laymen from the Ruhr district feature as ›assistants‹ in John Cage’s Europeras1 &2, as performers in Lemi Ponifasio’s production of Prometheus, as Folk. in Romeo Castellucci’s work, as dancers in the Nature Theater of Oklahoma’s off-off musical, as performers in 12 Rooms, and as drummers with the Boredoms.

One festival, two operas. The contrast between John Cage and Carl Orff could hardly be greater. Our mounting of operas by these two composers represents a plea for openness and variety. For all their differences, Europeras 1&2 and Prometheus have something in common beyond their absence from the world’s opera houses: they both broke radically with tradition and opened up new perspectives for music theatre. Cage’s piece extended the scope of opera by means of a completely non-hierarchical, ›decentralised‹ structure, Orff ’s by a shift in focus from singing to the musical qualities of the spoken word. We present other music at various points in the aesthetic field staked out by Cage and Orff. Pieces by Charles Ives are joined by examples of the art of improvisation and by work produced by artists operating on the fringes of pop, including the the ritual force of the Boredoms and the distinctive sounds of alva noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Current stands for energy, flow and flux. For six weeks you can see currents every day on the blackened walls of the Zollverein coking plant. You’ll feel like you're inside an upsidedown pyramid as you watch people flooding past in the work with which Israeli artist Michal Rovner invests the inhuman architecture with pulsating life. Is Rovner's work a video installation or is it a work of art in motion or a piece of theatre projected onto a surface? Such distinctions between the performing arts and contemporary visual art have become increasingly difficult to maintain. Nowhere in the Ruhrtriennale is this more apparent than in the exhibition 12 Rooms, in which visual artists are indistinguishable from choreographers and directors. These living human images inevitably influence our notions of the stage.

Heiner Goebbels
Artistic Director Ruhrtriennale 2012–2014