Statements by Christoph Marthaler, Stefanie Carp and artists of the festival

Artistic director Stefanie Carp, Artiste associé Christoph Marthaler and artists of the festival with statements on the current developments around the corona virus.

Stefanie Carp on the current situation of the Ruhrtriennale

Christoph Marthaler, Artiste associé

More statements

Stefanie Carp on the current situation of the Ruhrtriennale

As a thematic heading for the three Ruhrtriennale festivals under my artistic directorship I chose the idea of “in between time”. This was intended to suggest an interval, a pause for breath created by the arts, in order to have new ideas, and to make it possible for us to imagine recalibrating the basis of our way of life and to be curious about change.

Now an in between time, a pause, has become macabrely and frighteningly real. As entire societies have been forced to cease operations, amid all the fears, different news reports and scenarios, we are aware of one thing: that it is our way of life that has caused this crisis and that when it is eventually over we will not be able to carry on as before. We will be living in a different society with different experiences.

Questions about what people have in common are suddenly clear and urgent: how will the people get through this pandemic who live in very different circumstances to ourselves? All those who have been excluded or locked up by the wealthy, who are living inside refugee camps, townships, favelas and other barriers? Shockingly little is being said about them in public discourse. Will we succeed in creating more solidary societies and a more solidary planet? Or will economic and political agencies exploit the crisis to forge closer links between money and power and to disable democratic institutions?

In his opening speech for the Ruhrtriennale 2020, Reflections on Planetary Living, the historian and philosopher Achille Mbembe will talk about repairing and sharing our planet. The point of his talk on “planetary living” will never seem more topical than it is now.

In recent weeks I have been in frequent contact with Ruhrtriennale artists. It is incredibly inspiring to see the enormous creativity and sensibility with which each one of them is incorporating the experiences we are currently going through into their own work.  It is also inspiring how all the artists are already looking for potential alternative methods of production and coming up with these.

In the topics and questions they raise, many of the works that are being created for the Ruhrtriennale 2020 are shockingly close to the experiences we are currently going through.

Meg Stuart calls her new choreographic creation Cascade and is examining the end of humanity. In the first few days she rehearsed actions such as falling, tumbling, plummeting. Now, during this enforced break, Meg Stuart is starting to discuss what social distancing means for dance with other choreographers and dancers.

In ARCHIPEL – a work in between concert-installation and choreography – Brigitta Muntendorf and Stephanie Thiersch are reflecting new forms of togetherness, communication, ways of living and dealing with each other, and are thinking about  other possible variations for its presentation. Christoph Marthaler’s music theatre creation Die Verschollenen (Für großes Orchester) looks at disappearance, loss and the new things that can emerge from this.

Serge Aimé Coulibalys new work Wakatt is concerned with fear and what fear triggers: both in individuals and in societies as a whole.

Candice Breitz is starting work on a new video installation about an extinct future social species. And the question William Kentridge raises about fate also seems uncannily topical – even though Waiting for the Sibyl already premiered last summer in Rome.

At present, all rehearsals have been put on hold or the start of rehearsals and set construction has been put back. However, everyone is prepared to take a productive approach in all eventualities.

Many of the Ruhrtriennale staff are working on preparations for the Triennale using home office and video conferencing as far as possible.  I would like to thank all my colleagues at the Ruhrtriennale for managing to continue our work in this unavoidable yet effective manner. I would also like to thank all the artists and artistic partners in this programme for their trust and for their creative willingness and openness.

By the end of the summer our relationship to the world, to other people and to ourselves will probably have changed. We are experiencing something none of us has ever known before. Art as a space for reflection and for shared reception and experience in the performing arts is going to be very important to us then. Art’s particular exploration and probing, the sensitivity of its reactions and knowledge, will be highly relevant in enabling us to feel that we are once again taking part in social interactions.  

Stefanie Carp, 31.3.2020


Christoph Marthaler, Artiste associé

In the current days and weeks it appears as if all our internal and external co-ordinates had been dislocated in a manner beyond our control. As if much had suddenly become unattainable and we ourselves are immersed in concrete. And of course we can stop using the subjunctive here because all this is very real. What can we now fall back on? Is there any blueprint for this situation? An endless number of voices are making public statements. However as there aren’t (and can’t be) any genuinely productive answers to most of questions that are currently bothering us, I feel an even stronger need to participate in thinking in my own individual way about this present that is so difficult to pin down and possible scenarios for the future.

For months now I have been working together with a great many other artists to prepare a project entitled Die Verschollenen for the up-coming Ruhrtriennale. This is a proposed piece of music theatre that tells of great loss, the dangers of drifting apart and of increasing invisibilities. At the same time, however, it is also about the importance that is attached to art (in this case music and the theatre!) when all other parameters begin to slip away. Isn’t this oscillation between profound uncertainty and quiet confidence exactly what we all feel exposed to now? Not least for this reason I very much wish that this and all the other productions that are currently being prepared for the Ruhrtriennale will be able to take place. On the dates planned or at some later time. In their planned form or some rather different one.  

It is possible that we will need to react: to shorter rehearsal periods, to different spaces, to certain audience configurations for safety reasons. If that is necessary, then we will manage to adapt. Improvisation and flexible reactions are fundamental (and rather interesting) parts of our professions. The most important thing is that we consider every possibility to be able to make the up-coming edition of the Ruhrtiennale happen. Right now the space that art gives us to reflect is indispensable. More than that: it is absolutely essential for a society in irritation. All of us – the participating artists, the audience, the media and political decision-makers – need to accept this challenge and work together to find a solution so that this exceptional cultural event can take place.

Statements and video messages by artists of the festival can be found here.


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