15-25 June: Impulse Theater Festival 2016: Action seems to be needed – but how? And what would be the appropriate form for theater to do this?

With Gintersdorfer/Klaßen, Ariel Efraim Ashbel and friends, Julian Warner & Oliver Zahn, Daniel Wetzel/Rimini Protokoll, She She Pop, junges theater basel/Sebastian Nübling, Christine Gaigg & Klaus Schedl, Boris Nikitin, andcompany&Co., Oliver Ressler, Nature Theater of Oklahoma, Dana Yahalomi/Public Movement, Dmitry Vilensky, Chto Delat, PAF, Mårten Spångberg, Valeria Graziano, Vanessa Ohlraun, Vierte Welt Kollaborationen, Dirk Cieslak, Boyan Manchev, Ludger Schwarte, The Silent University, Ahmet Öğüt, Nora Sternfeld, Stefano Harney, Markus Bader, Rubia Salgado, Oliver Marchart, Alexander Karschnia, Vassilis Tsianos, Matthias Lilienthal, Mieke Matzke, Tobi Müller, Schwabinggrad Ballett & Arrivati et al. - Artistic Direction: Florian Malzacher


To say things are unclear is a euphemism. Politically, socially, wherever you look: the situation is not good. But what’s even worse: it is hard to understand the implications. Action seems to be needed – but how? And what would be the appropriate form for theater to do this?” The independent theater, in common with the whole of society, is searching for vantage points from which we can view the present. From which we can plan the next step.

The works we have invited to this year’s festival from German-speaking countries examine the present sometimes in documentary form, sometimes analytically, sometimes clearly and conceptually, sometimes poetically and imaginatively:Gintersdorfer/Klaßen, who are represented with a large ensemble of Ivorian and German performers, dancers and musicians, investigate in the opening production ‘Der Botschafter’ how colonial structures continue to operate today – a question which is also asked in a very different way by the young theater-makers Julian Warner & Oliver Zahn in ‘Situation mit Doppelgänger’.
The war in the Middle East, which is getting ever closer, is the subject of two other invited performances: while the Austrian choreographer Christine Gaigg / 2nd nature together with the composer Klaus Schedl primarily examines our perception of war via the media in ‘untitled (look, look, come closer)’, the COSTA COMPAGNIE has collected words, sounds and images from the Hindu Kush in ‘Conversion / Nach Afghanistan’ with which they relay the war, its effects and complexities to the audience.
Rimini Protokoll director Daniel Wetzel places a very quiet, touching and playful work in contrast to the extremely loud discussion about refugees: in ‘Evros Walk Water’ (after John Cage’s ‘Water Walk’) the audience turn into representatives of absent refugee children who are stranded in Greece. The river Evros – as one of the borders of Fortress Europe – also stands in the center of andcompany&Co.’s radio play ‘Orpheus in der Oberwelt. Eine Schlepperoper’, which is broadcast in co-operation with WDR during the festival. In their film installation ‘Occupy, Resist, Produce’, Dario Azzellini and Oliver Ressler offer insights into three factories across Europe occupied by redundant workers.
Religion is also becoming increasingly influential: in ‘Martin Luther Propagandastück’, Boris Nikitin chooses a religious service for the enlightened white middle classes as a medium for manipulation, faith and the search for one’s own freedom to act. That what was regarded as personal always remains political is shown by She She Pop working together with actresses from the Münchner Kammerspiele in ‘Fifty Grades of Shame’: sexuality and the body are constantly historical, social constructions and a question of power, as. Bodies are also the center of attention in ‘Noise’, a work by Sebastian Nübling and the junges theater basel: for the young people on stage political movement, protest, is also always bodily movement – energetic, fast and loud. Can neoliberalism and its fake promises of freedom be accelerated so much that they crash into the wall with speed? 
And so the future suddenly enters through the back door, at least as a concept, In retrospect it will be clear what we are currently experiencing. Simply an episode or a time of fundamental change?  The prelude to catastrophe or salvation?  In the space of a black box Ariel Efraim Ashbel and friends stage  ‘The Empire Strikes Back: Kingdom of the Synthetic’, a future landscape in black in which future visions of past times echo and war is declared on concepts of race, identity, and cultural hegemony.

As one of the three international commissioned works which Impulse initiates in its live film project ‘Germany Year 2071’Nature Theater of Oklahoma imagines a Germany in which revolutions come and go, in which extra-terrestrials are first welcomed before being turned into sausages. For this, the camera becomes a tool for the New York-based company to make all the audience and passers-by in Cologne part of the project in a cogent way. The finished film will then be given its world premiere next year at Impulse 2017. The script will be translated by Ulrich Blumenbach, famous for his congenial German versions of David Foster Wallace.
The Silent University Ruhr which was founded last year – an alternative university for refugee academics initiated by the Kurdish artist Ahmet Öğüt – is embedded within an international summer academy. Under the title ‘Learning Plays’ four artist-initiated schools, academies theoretical platforms come together for the first time; the Performing Arts Forum – PAF from St. Erme, the School of Engaged Art of the St. Petersburg artists’ and theoreticians’ collective Chto Delat, dieVierte Welt from Berlin and the Silent Universities from London, Stockholm, Hamburg, Athens, Amman and Mülheim. At the end the circle will be extended into a performative conference which asks whether it is possible to find other, more radical forms of education and dissident participation.
That political art often avoids contact with real politicians is taken by the Israeli choreographer Dana Yahalomi of Public Movement as a pretext to initiate a very concrete meeting of art and politics. ‘Make Art Policy!’ invites influential politicians from all the parties represented in the regional parliament to Düsseldorf town hall to articulate their cultural political stance, using the structural similarities of art and politics, the stage and the civic chamber in order to discuss the role and future of art.

The program is supplemented by conversations, lectures, concerts (by acts including Schwabinggrad Ballett & Arrivati) and evenings spent together in the festival center designed by the Düsseldorf/Cologne creative collective Labor Fou at the FFT Kammerspiele. An online collection of material raises specific issues concerning the independent theater scene and opens them to discussion. 

The works shown by Impulse this year form part of a searching movement. Because perhaps this is precisely what we can do artistically and politically: not stand still, not be resigned, not insist on autonomy while lachrymosely protecting vested interests, but act artistically and politically, even if we do not know exactly where we are going to end up. Or as Brian Eno recently suggested, integrating both instant action with gradual development: “Start cooking. The recipe will follow”.