Grußwort Barbara Frey

Barbara Frey, artistic director of the Ruhrtriennale 2021-2023, in the Jahrhunderthalle Bochum
Barbara Frey, artistic director of the Ruhrtriennale 2021-2023, in the Jahrhunderthalle Bochum | © Daniel Sadrowski

Dear Audience,

Very few people from outside the Ruhr area would describe it as »beautiful«. They might say that the Schwäbische Alb, the Allgäu and the Lüneburger Heide are beautiful. Yet there seems to be some agreement that people in the Ruhr region are generally friendlier and more open than elsewhere in Germany; this may have something to do with – as many people who come from the Ruhr region themselves say – the »miner mentality«, which goes back to the coal and steel industry. In other respects, however, the extensive green areas, the broad sky and the meadows along the rivers are striking in the Ruhr region ... So, is it beautiful after all? Where would the authority actually be that had the monopoly on the concept of beauty – and, with that, perhaps even on the truth and good? Hardly anyone is able to judge a region without bringing legends and clichés to the fore, and we know the pitfalls of doing so. We know that our perspective can narrow considerably if we unquestioningly take everything we believe to know about a region as the starting point of our vision. So how do we awaken the longing to strip away the attributions, to see this region differently, anew and, as it were, without presuppositions?
The arts may be as subject to the changing times as any other discipline. They may err, they may become threadbare, they must laboriously make friends with constantly changing conditions and judgements. One thing, however, they must always do, if they are to develop their power: They must make a claim.
Bohemia lies by the sea is the title of one of Ingeborg Bachmann’s most important poems. She took the geographically incorrect assertion from Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale to explore poetically the possibilities of how a society of opposites can come together, how different forms of the arts can converge, and how a perspective on a different state of the world becomes possible. This has nothing to do with a utopian idyll; rather, the shift of Bohemia on the map is based on a painful experience. All who are to come to Bohemia must know:

»... And err a hundred times,
as I was mistaken and never passed tests,
but I have passed them, one after another.

How Bohemia passed them and one fine day
was pardoned to the sea and now lies by the water ...«

The idea that we can come together in the arts in a place we invent together is challenging and comforting.
But it has nothing to do with simple idealisation. It requires us to make an assertion with one another, to change our perspective, to set aside our biases. Completely against our habits and our practiced view.
The Ruhr region, where the Ruhrtriennale was founded 20 years ago, knows about the necessity of constantly changing perspectives. That is why it is so inspiring. And so incomparable.

The Ruhr region lies by the sea!

We look forward to welcoming you.

Sincerely yours,
Barbara Frey
and the Ruhrtriennale team