As an international arts festival that takes place in the widespread network of former industrial sites that are now protected monuments across the Ruhr region, every day we are confronted with the devastating effects of the overexploitation of nature by the coal and steel industry and the structural problems of mobility within North Rhine-Westphalia. The Ruhrtriennale’s foundation in 2002 simultaneously marked a change in thinking about how to approach that past while also revealing the opportunities contained in repurposing these unique locations for culture.

At the same time, it is clear to us that in our work producing new stage and costume designs we are responsible for the use of resources, the release of emissions and air travel and that at times we ourselves require cars to travel from one venue to another.

So what options do we have as an international festival? How can we produce anything if we want to reduce emissions and our consumption of resources? We too are in a dilemma because to give up art or become a regional festival cannot be a viable alternative.

Is it right to hide behind ideologies we have become fond of in the face of all these contradictions? How can we counter fears of engaging with this topic and at the same time demonstrate that asking critical questions about our own sustainability does not necessarily have to be derived from an anti-artistic, ascetic logic of prohibition but can also be a creative, open and joyous exploration?   

We still don’t know exactly how to do this ourselves, some questions may have no practical answers, some tasks may can not be solved, but they serve us as a guideline and should successively have an effect on all areas of our festival in order to pave the way for a sustainable approach. On this path, we have already taken various measures, initiated others, and found allies and partners – for example, through our cooperation with the course of study for sustainable development at Bochum University of Applied Sciences or our participation in the Aktionsnetzwerk Nachhaltigkeit (Sustainability Action Network).

Supported by the E.ON Foundation.