Statement Festwochen reframed

I'm still very attached to the idea of collectively looking at a world emerging from a theatre stage and to the conviction that some things can happen there and nowhere else. I am always very attached to making myself 100% available for what sound, light, voice, movement and music can tell me from the stage where they emanate. I wish to share this experience widely with fellow spectators, and I believe in its future.

It starts on 26 August and we are particularly happy that it will now take place: the presentation in Vienna of around ten new international stage productions.

We put a lot of effort into making it possible. This reframed version of the Festwochen 2020 doesn’t fully take the shape of a ‘festival’ and is to be considered differently. It consists of a rather reduced, but strong programme of works presented consecutively and individually rather than a large and busy space where artistic works, people and thoughts intensively meet and mingle. But we do believe, more than ever, that this is what we need to do now.

Following a slow pace, we will be able to listen to highly singular musical pieces and watch penetrating pieces conceived for the stage. It may not be a festival but it is a declaration of love and an act of resistance at the same time. It is a question of respecting our commitments towards the artists we wanted to present in Vienna this spring. The works they wished to create, with the festival’s support, have to be created and shared with audiences, even under fragile and extremely peculiar circumstances. It is a question of restoring all the value to the theatre stage, to the unique experience it is likely to provide.

And so it starts on 26 August with the world premiere of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s Goldberg Variationen and this is a (very) good way to start over again and be together in front of a stage once again.

Christophe Slagmuylder and the Wiener Festwochen team, August 2020

In March 2020, the physical space – where we work, meet and engage collectively with one another – was taken away from us. A few weeks after publishing the programme of the 2020 edition of the Wiener Festwochen, we painfully had to accept that the festival we had planned would not be taking place, at least not in the form initially conceived. The ‘live’, collective experience of our programme had been made impossible.

We started to experiment with ways of translating it through different mediums. We published a printed supplement with Der Standard exploring the Festival’s content, echoing the voices of some of the artists we had intended to invite to Vienna. Digital tools provided another platform. From 15 May, we showcased online a collection of ‘small gestures’ that related to each of the artistic projects in our programme. Traces or promises, they were taken from existing material or gave insights into a creation still to be realised: moving images, musical fragments, short texts. They took the form of conversations, workshops, or video clips. Together, they formed a kind of fascinating digital archive for a festival that didn’t happen …

Today, we are happy to announce that a live and condensed version of our initial programme will take place at the end of the summer!

While the majority of the creations for the 2020 festival have been postponed until next year, we are delighted to be able to share already some of the festival’s co-productions and guest performances with you later this year. Musical, choreographic and theatrical forms will alternate on the stages. Major established names of the international scene will feature alongside up-and-coming figures. Carefully composed, this small yet impressive selection of works will receive a special resonance within the transformative context we are currently experiencing. They will in turn echo some of the questions and uncertainties raised by the global crisis we are going through.

After months of restrictions, this programme should be a celebration of the importance of the live arts, their ability to strengthen social interaction, their inherent potential to broaden our physical and mental spaces … and to envision possible futures.

Christophe Slagmuylder, June 2020

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