Editorial 2013

Heiner Goebbels

Ruhrtriennale – International Festval of the Arts – as an ›aesthetic for three years‹ also means continuity with international artists whose work we would like you to get to know. We want to follow their artistic enquiries and enable you to be part of these developments. So alongside many new names this year, you will once again find artists such as Boris Charmatz, Romeo Castellucci, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Robert Wilson or Tarek Atoui inviting us to new productions from within their broad artistic practices.

Even if the official festival jury of the Children’s Choice Awards did give my favourite band the ›Pain in the Ears‹ award in the first year of our Triennale, the jury will be back. Our No Education programme is testimony to the unconditional faith we possess that not only our adult audiences but also the children and young people we have invited are capable of experiencing art in their own, unbiased way. We believe in experiencing that the world could be very different. The jury members from the first year have probably seen more art than most adults and we are now planning new artistic projects with them for 2013.

Once again we are presenting two operas, each of which in its own way challenges the genre and, despite exceptional qualities, has rarely been performed since its initial creation. The festival opens with Delusion of the Fury, the masterpiece of unconventional American composer Harry Partch. To realise his own system of microtonality, Partch invented a series of new instruments, which we have reconstructed together with the Ensemble musikFabrik. This production may therefore open the way to his music full of poetic lightness and humour becoming better known in Europe through further performances in years to come. As our second major opera we will produce Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern (The Little Match Girl) by Helmut Lachenmann, the master of a ›musique concrete instrumentale‹, who transposed Andersen’s fairy tale into a remarkable sound experience. The director and light artist Robert Wilson will create a special concept of sound and space to stage the piece.

The term music theatre may also be extended to include the new, highly visual work being developed by the British writer and theatremaker Tim Etchells together with Forced Entertainment and the Lebanese sonic artist Tarek Atoui; and it applies equally well to the musical choreography of Boris Charmatz and to the world premiere by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker to music by the French spectralist Gérard Grisey. The performative installation Stifters Dinge is also, in the literal sense of the words, music theatre. The aesthetic range of contemporary music expressed by our two opera productions is similarly evident in our concert programme with compositions from Witold Lutosławski to Arvo Pärt, from Gavin Bryars to Jonathan Harvey and György Kurtág.

A recurrent topic of our 2013 programme is the relationship between sound and the moving image: the BBC political documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis joins Massive Attack to look for images revealing the invisibility of political power. ACTUAL REMIX provides ritz Lang’s classic silent movie Metropolis with a contemporary soundtrack of sounds from Iannis Xenakis and Ritchie Hawtin. These are highly diverse approaches, each reflecting on the relation between sound and image, between hearing and seeing in a different way: at times illustrative, at times contrasting, at times independent. Sometimes the image will follow the sound and thereby radically reverse the usual hierarchy where the image has priority – for example in the work of the animators the Quay Brothers, who place their own mysterious visual world alongside the music of Stockhausen and Lutosławski. All these Ciné-Concerts are based on the co-existence of two media: music and film.

As in other installative and performative productions, the relationship between sound and image is at times of uncanny synchronicity as displayed by Ryoji Ikeda’s work in the Kraftzentrale, while sound and image may also permeate each other as demonstrated in Douglas Gordon’s new piece, Silence, Exile, Deceit, specially created for the Ruhrtriennale and filmed and presented in the Mischanlage. Sometimes even the audience assume the role of protagonists as in Rimini Protokoll’s Situation Rooms or turn into performers themselves as in the moving image of William Forsythe’s City of Abstracts. Video and film footage shown in our program does not remain two-dimensional, but establishes itself as a vivid partner of perception – as can be whitnessed in FC Bergman’s show in the Salzlager and in the fault lines by PACT Zollverein.

This year we shall also continue our productions on the edges of pop: with Massive Attack V Adam Curtis, who are preparing a new experimental concert format, with the DJ material for Metropolis and Ryoji Ikeda’s extremes of digital sound. And perhaps the rhythmical aesthetic of the 60s in the masterpiece Delusion of the Fury lies in the margins of pop just like Gavin Bryars, whose album The Sinking of the Titanic was produced by Brian Eno: a meditative listening experience with a different perception of time.

Perception and experience are very personal things, they are different for each and every one of us and, even in the theatre, at the moments when we are most powerfully moved, we are alone. Possibly for this reason we have placed more emphasis in our programme on self-selected encounters, where one may decide for oneself when one enters a space, how long one wishes to spend there, how quickly one leaves and whether one will return. The walk-through Installations which facilitate this take place in Kraftzentrale (test pattern, Stifters Dinge), at PACT Zollverein (Laughing Hole), in the Folkwang Museum (Nowhere and Everywhere) and, like last year, in the Mischanlage (Douglas Gordon).

We were asked last year about the fact that the performances rarely had intervals. This is related to the intensity with which contemporary artists immerse us in complex fields of perception, where classical act divisions no longer apply and where it’s not so easy to reconnect with after a break. Aesthetic experience (according to the philosopher Dieter Henrich) is not »passive absorption«, but »active attention, where the immediacy with which we make the world our own is interrupted«. This interruption of the everyday is the real interval. Let’s talk to each other again after the performances – wherever you wish: on Mischa Kuball’s Agora/Arena, in front of Dan Perjovschi’s drawings, in table conversations of freitagsküche and at the Sunday tumbletalks with festival artists.

I’m sceptical about Politics on stage. I’m interested in a theatre which doesn’t lecture or intimidate us, that doesn’t try to ›sell‹ us anything, but offers an experience for all of our senses. Perhaps then, when language takes a step back, theatre might even be able to confront us with those forces which evade recognition, accessibility and manipulation; forces which are beyond our reach and above all resist personification. This applies equally to power structures and the ecological challenges of the future or economic processes which cannot be predicted. Our 2013 programme has something to do with that too.

Heiner Goebbels
Artistic Director Ruhrtriennale 2012 – 2014