Trials and Explosions, Classics and Revolutions – even a Proper Constitution!

In 2024, the Wiener Festwochen will be reinvented: From 17 May, Elfriede Jelinek, Kornél Mundruczó, Peter Brook, Florentina Holzinger, Carolina Bianchi, nora chipaumire and others will encounter Kirill Serebrennikov, Tim Etchells and Oksana Lyniv in Vienna. Big business, media companies, politicians and do-gooders will be called before a tribunal of the arts, Arnold Schoenberg and Karl Kraus will be celebrated, the relationship between human and machine will be put to the test, a popular play will be sent across Vienna and Diesel engines will be ritually exploded. Under the artistic direction of Milo Rau, the festival is proclaiming the Free Republic of Vienna – a republic of the arts for everyone! In addition to the artistic productions, there will be plenty of opportunity to participate. 45,000 tickets will be available, sales start on 1 March.

This year, the Wiener Festwochen are taking place from 17 May to 23 June and will feature 46 productions and artistic projects from the fields of spoken word theatre, opera, music, dance, performance, visual arts and activism. Free-of-charge participatory formats and programmes form one core area. In 2024, the Wiener Festwochen are proclaiming the Free Republic of Vienna with its own hymn, flags, new revolutionary institutions (Academy Second Modernism, The Vienna Trials), a festival hub (the House of the Republic), a party centre (Club of the Republic) and the Council of the Republic, with a hundred national and international members. ‘If not we, who – if not now, when? Vienna is the capital of Modernism; we are now calling for a second Modernism, together with hundreds of intellectuals artists and citizens from Vienna, Austria and the entire world’, said artistic director of the Festwochen Milo Rau on the occasion of the presentation of the programme at Hotel Imperial. ‘Let’s reclaim the brilliance of life!’

Vienna’s executive city councillor for cultural affairs Veronica Kaup-Hasler added: ‘The Wiener Festwochen are making an ambitious start into the first edition of the festival under Milo Rau’s artistic directorship: as a festival that interferes using the means of the arts – inspiring, courageous and political. Featuring sensational international productions, the Wiener Festwochen are throwing open the windows to the world and are thereby continuing the tradition of this festival, which has in its best times always stimulated and excited. The transdisciplinary programme brings together impressively great names and it is a joy to see that many of them are female. Several items will trigger discussions and that is a good thing: art is allowed to polarise. It is important that society finds places to commune and to engage in dialogue within the arts. That is why I am glad that these participatory formats have such a strong presence in the programme presented today.’

Great Names of World Theatre Meet Radical Performers
The Free Republic of Vienna is a republic of the arts, which the artistic director of the Festwochen called ‘five-and-a-half weeks of multi-vocal, passionate, spirited, crazy world theatre!’ during the press conference. Vienna will thus turn into a global capital of theatre this spring: The Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó develops a family story on privilege and the burden of identity in PARALLAX, Caroline Guiela Nguyen from France tells the tragic, global story of the production of a royal wedding gown in LACRIMA, winner of the Golden Lion at the Biennale di Venezia Christiane Jatahy has Hamlet return as a woman. Performance star Florentina Holzinger will celebrate a mass together with the audience in her project SANCTA (working title) and Jossi Wieler will bring the award-winning Jelinek staging of Personal Details to Volkstheater. Carolina Bianchi will put her own body on the line in her globally debated performance The Bride and Goodnight Cinderella to question the limits of art, Agnieszka Polska will sound out the relationship between humans and machines in her first theatre staging The Talking Car and Leonie Böhm together with Kim de l’Horizon will transform Bloodbook into the theatrical narrative Bloodpiece.

The Free Republic Under the Banner of Resistance
Resistance and revolution are the central themes of the festival: in music, Russian dissident Kirill Serebrennikov will stage a panopticum of resistance from the Prague Spring until today with BAROCCO at Burgtheater at the very beginning of the festival, while Ukrainian conductor Oksana Lyniv will set a sign against war with Jevhen Stankovych’s Kaddish Requiem at and in cooperation with Wiener Konzerthaus. Milo Rau will take a closer look at the tokenistic morals of the do-gooding elite with his Mozart adaptation La Clemenza di Tito in Halle E. There is also revolutionary potential in the world premiere of nora chipaumire’s project Dambudzo at and in cooperation with mumok as well as the multimedia opera Woman at Point Zero by Bushra El-Turk. El-Turk is one of the first ten members of the global womxn composers platform Academy Second Modernism, which was already presented to the public in New York in February. Under the patronage of Nuria Schoenberg Nono and in cooperation with the Arnold Schönberg Center, ORF Radiokulturhaus and Ö1, it is set to radically globalise and feminise the heritage of Vienna’s hero of Modernism, Arnold Schoenberg.

At the press conference, Bushra El-Turk declared: ‘The performing arts are a lot about reflecting the realities of our lives onto the stage – to render invisible issues visible. To be part of a vibrant collective at Academy Second Modernism, of a group of artists doing just that, will make sure that what is discussed in the room is sure to be turned into action even beyond the stage in a surge of change, especially at this crucial time when our voices are being censored.’

Multimedia and Poor Theatre
Next to large events in music and spoken word theatre, fans of multimedia theatre spectacles will also get their money’s worth: ROHTKO by Łukasz Twarkowski has a cast of twelve illuminate the greatest art scandal in the world, look at the relationship between original and copy and ask after the value of art, while Yves Degryse blurs the boundary between fiction and documentary in The Making of Berlin. Humour is the hallmark of Tim Etchell’s two character play L’Addition, which will travel through the districts of Vienna from Tschauner Bühne in Ottakring to 48er-Tandler and a football club in Floridsdorf, in cooperation with the Volkstheater in den Bezirken. Biting humour in combination with delicate poetry is promised by Tempest Project – the final work by Peter Brook, the magician of the theatre who died in 2022 –, and also by My Time Will Not Come, our multi-part homage to another protagonist of Viennese Modernism: Karl Kraus. Comedian Florian Scheuba and actors Cornelius Obonya and Robert Stadlober as well as, among others, writers Barbara Zeman and Clemens J. Setz as well as the grindcore band Onkel Gusta will present a radical update of the works of the powerfully eloquent satirist and critic in five Lectures in cooperation with Wienbibliothek im Rathaus. The age of the combustion engine will be declared over by Flemish theatre maker Kris Verdonck: In his performance EXHAUST / ajax, a procession lasting several hours will be followed by the ritual sacrifice of a tractor engine with a violent explosion.

House of the Republic and Vienna Trials
The core of the festival is formed by the House of the Republic at Volkskundemuseum. All people in Vienna are invited in cooperation with Klima Biennale Wien and Volkskundemuseum to visit the open headquarters of the Free Republic of Vienna during these five-and-a-half weeks. This is where staff of the Wiener Festwochen work side by side with local and international initiatives in their open offices. Every week, the hearings of the Council of the Republic will take place here, and work will progress on the future constitution of the Free Republic. The Scenography Class at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna will hold an open studio at the House of the Republic. Seminars, workshops and discussion rounds with activists of the Landless Workers’ Movement MST, inhabitants of ZAD de Notre-Dame-des-Landes as well as representatives of the Republic Rojava and and numerous further partner organisations of the Free Republic of Vienna foster an exchange with the city’s society. The revolution will also continue during the festival at Odeon with the Vienna Trials: All of Austria – big business, politics, media and not least art itself – are called before the tribunal of the newly established republic, including judgements. To conclude the five-and-a-half weeks of festival, the results of discussions, trials, hearings, etc., will be set down in the Vienna Declaration. This will be a binding set of rules for the next four years to form a basis for the future Festwochen programmes. Wiener Festwochen | Free Republic of Vienna will thus be the first festival in history to write its own constitution together with the audience!

Herwig Zamernik alias Fuzzmann invokes the hymn, singing: ‘Rise up, rise up, daughters and sons, rise up for all human happiness!’

Collaboration and Cooperation
Festwochen executive director Artemis Vakianis stated in conclusion: ‘This year, the Festwochen have many new things to offer and will surely trigger many discussions. I am very glad that in the course of this, we have been able to not only intensify the cooperation with local venues like Wiener Konzerthaus, Volkstheater and Volksoper, but also are working together with Klima Biennale Wien and Volkskundemuseum. Moreover, we will offer even more events free of charge, in the public space and with elements like the House of the Republic and the Academy Second Modernism this year, offering visitors many more opportunities to actively participate in the course of the festival.’

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