Statement September 2020

In 2020, the Wiener Festwochen like so many other projects and institutions had to rethink the ways in which they produced and shared their programme with audiences.

Several weeks after the launch of our 2020 edition in February, we faced the impossibility not only of organising a large-scale international festival dedicated essentially to the creation of new works, but also of rehearsing and presenting performing arts productions involving many people from all over the world. But we didn’t give up: indeed, we remained faithful to our convictions and our commitments to artists and audiences.

During May and June, the original festival programme was turned into a series of digital gestures to be experienced online. This unexpected process led to interesting formats created specifically for digital platforms and able to inflect, transpose and extend the artists’ voices, intentions and ideas from the stage to the screen. These gestures gave rise to excellent and regular responses from our ‘switched-on’ spectators. The online programme ran for five weeks and contributed to the development of a ‘community’ around the festival projects and its missions.

At the end of August, we succeeded in presenting a somewhat reduced, but strong programme of (live) works, (re-)organising in Vienna the encounter between artists and spectators in real time and in real spaces. These encounters were as passionate as they were safe and relaxed in their setting. They prompted highly emotive reactions, (re-)activated commitments and convictions, and (re-)affirmed the value of the unique experience that a theatre stage is likely to provide. Sold-out performances and warm and sustained applause were clear evidence of a truly positive accomplishment. The Festwochen 2020 reframed was a celebration of the importance and necessity of the live arts, the collective experience they generate, and the transformative potential of imagination and creativity.

The context we now find ourselves living in is alarming. How is our society going to deal with growing uncertainty and precariousness? How will our structures, tools and actions keep adapting and evolving according to current necessities? Such questions will force us to engage even more, together with our artists and audiences, in a reflexion on flexibility, transformation and reframing processes. This special edition of our festival has been an encouraging and successful step in that direction.

Christophe Slagmuylder, September 2020

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