Greetings from the Artistic Director Johan Simons - Ruhrtriennale 2017

Dear audience,

I have chosen the opening three words from Schiller’s ‘Ode to Joy’ as the motto for this season: “Freude” (joy), “schöner” (beautiful), “Götterfunken” (sparks of the Gods). Can these ideas still offer us hope at the present time? 

So much has changed in the last three years at such a fast pace and such incredible, unforeseen ways. In 2016 the Ruhrtriennale investigated the terms “liberty”, “equality” and “fraternity”. Now there are times when I have the impression that humanity’s agreement on these values and ideals can no longer be assumed. Our European view of the world – I call it a humanistic, enlightened view – is not the only conceivable one. We are being confronted with aggressive alternatives. Were we wrong? Were we too sure of ourselves? Holes are appearing in our image of ourselves. How long can we go on living in such absurd luxury – in moral terms too? Is my “joy” someone else’s pain? Is “beautiful” a promise that can still be kept? Can we still feel “sparks of the Gods“? When I look to the future, it unsettles me. I feel it’s necessary to look at the people and world of tomorrow.

The Ruhrtriennale 2017 is meant to be a festival of shared experiences. A festival in which we can talk about, delight in or be upset by our lives and our living together.

This is our third programme, my third and therefore my last year as Artistic Director of the Ruhrtriennale. As a grand opening, the conductor Sylvain Cambreling and the director Krzysztof Warlikowski will stage ‘Pelléas et Mélisande’ by Claude Debussy, the first opera of the Modern Age, in the Jahrhunderthalle Bochum. This summer also marks the completion of a number of three-year projects. Luk Perceval’s Émile Zola trilogy and choreographer Richard Siegal’s Dante trilogy will each be concluded and both can also be seen as remarkable three-part works in the course of a single day. Artists such as Philippe Manoury, Nicolas Stemann, Trajal Harrell, Sue Buckmaster and Paul Plamper can be discovered at the Ruhrtriennale. Alongside them Ivo van Hove, Meg Stuart, Julian Rosefeldt, the Collegium Vocale Gent, Mit Ohne Alles and AnneTeresa De Keersmaeker continue to shape our programme in its third year. The art village ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ by Atelier Van Lieshout returns with some crazy new structures and will once again be our festival centre with an extremely varied  – and free! – programme in the Refektorium. And ‘Ritournelle’ also returns, our long, one-night festival of electronic music.

Six weeks of programming from artists who find themselves in the middle of this radically changing world, whose works are being created at the turn of an era and who are imagining the future in visionary ways through sounds, words and images. I’m hoping for some inspiring encounters. 

Johan Simons
Artistic Director

Johan Simons © Edi Szekely/Ruhrtriennale