For five weeks, unfolding inside the city of Vienna, the Wiener Festwochen open up a space for new artistic works. At the festival, inspiring creations come together; several disciplines meet to engage with time. They recall the past, address the now, explore ways of realising the future.

Do we live in what Bertolt Brecht calls the ‘dark times’? Against resignation: While the 2020 edition expresses the awareness of an ending, it is also driven by the necessity of making a future possible. This Time is the Last Time. Next Time is not This Time. The artistic projects we want to share with you are prospective; they open dialogues and invent potential strategies to negotiate a relationship with the – somehow unbearable – reality.

Nowadays, forms of hegemony and normalisation are generally accepted. In response, Milo Rau opens the festival by inviting Kay Sara, indigenous activist and female actor from the Amazon, to deliver a fiery speech of resistance against ‘integration’ into the capitalist system. In her turn, Tania Bruguera, another major artist/activist of our times, will transform a Vienna art gallery into a temporary School for Integration that reflects on the concept as a reciprocal process of learning and sharing. In addition, she will create her new performance Galileo in Vienna. In this work she asks how to lead the fight for truth against those who have an interest in falsifying it.

Destructions, erasures or extinctions appear today as common facts. When looking at the titles of the works presented this year, many of them refer to disappearances and death. Yet renewal and sustainability are key issues. Commissioned by the festival, Philippe Quesne will create Das Lied von der Erde, a unique piece of musical theatre that is dedicated entirely to the landscape. Here, the artist takes Mahler’s deeply beautiful song cycle as a partner to envision the possibility of a sustainable planet. And what if the farewell song of Mahler’s last movement announced a post-Anthropocene future? In addition to Quesne’s first largescale musical staging, the festival presents a remarkable work by Romeo Castellucci based on Mozart’s spiritual chants. Requiem is haunted by extinction, although the outstanding performativity of the singers and the constant (re)invention appearing on stage call for life, solidarity and care to be born again.

Multidisciplinary works are at the core of the festival. Not to be missed is Danse Macabre by renowned visual artist Markus Schinwald, a composition of sounds, bodies and architecture that engages a large group of musicians and performers in a final, inescapable dance. Heiner Goebbels will present his latest grand piece where, through a succession of artificial landscapes and ruins, he questions the concepts of historical cycles and human destructions. History also lies at the centre of Eszter Salamon’s HETEROCHRONIE, a living archive of Italian songs from different centuries. This year sees a significant number of creations where live music plays a central role, sealing collaborations between Boris Nikitin and Kukuruz Quartet, Encyclopédie de la parole and Ictus or Tim Etchells and Aisha Orazbayeva. Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker will also premiere her new work in Vienna! In her Goldberg Variations, the choreographer challenges her exceptional artistry against Bach’s infinite combinations.

New York-based The Wooster Group, whose work was last seen in Vienna more than 20 years ago, will stage a ‘Lehrstück’ by Bertolt Brecht long perceived as communist propaganda! Among text-based forms of theatre, other major world premieres include Tiago Rodrigues’ Catarina and a new collaboration between Alice Birch and Katie Mitchells entitled … Das Ende.

The Wiener Festwochen extend their relationship with the city through several workshops, participatory projects and a series of artistic interventions presented in the 12th municipal district Meidling. Finally, the demand for a communal place where to meet around the festival’s activities will take the form of a night bar that will host several artistic projects: Come and join us at the Pavillon!

Next Time is not This Time – let’s realise a visionary festival together. Thank you to all partners who have made this project possible, and a warm welcome to all of you!

Christophe Slagmuylder
and the Wiener Festwochen team

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The Wiener Festwochen would like to thank their main sponsors