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International Summer Festival 2017

Dear guests,

In past years, we used this space to write about overcoming limits and norms, and about resistance and entertainment in the age of terror attacks and wars. 2017 is different because of its increased level of noise. And because we are a festival that deals with present-day theater more than foregone drama. Everything is illuminated by digital stroboscopes; our eyes hurt and our heads are throbbing. What is to be done? How to react to a world in which political reality and media fiction are melding? When politics becomes a big entertainment show with simple slogans, and the president of the USA makes it – with digital help – to the Oval Office directly from the trash TV format “The Apprentice” to then penetrate democracy with twitter feeds – what does this mean for art? We are self-confident in our approach and say: the reality game is better off when played in our field instead of in the political sphere. And the louder reality yells at us, the more colorful and diverse we become. We place our bets on differentiation and vary the perspectives, forms, aesthetics, volumes and locations. To ensure that this shimmering diversity of voices can create a song that the masses can dance to, the festival program has been composed densely – and this is what the motifs and connections between the individual parts look like: Our game with the present day begins in the European super election year with a campaign by our leading candidate Juan Dominguez. This artist will destabilize the festival and garden with clandestine performances for three weeks and will certainly soon be the most well-known face in Hamburg.

We will examine what true dangers lie in the political game with media interfaces in a conference with the journalist Hannes Grassegger. What can you do as an individual in the digital war? Go out with your desperate sadness and intrude on private spheres with caustic humor like the celebrated British Kim Noble? Or like Annie Dorsen, work with masses of data live under a planetarium’s stars? A strong theater answer to being imprisoned in the infinite loop of media also comes from the British performance pioneers and theater Nobel Prize winners Forced Entertainment; they will show their sublime theater work REAL MAGIC, which was honored at Berlin’s Theatertreffen and sees the world as a game show hell – Beckett for the 21st century. We also have his ENDGAME. In full length and in Beckett-English, staged in an impressive surveillance theater tower by the Cuban artist and activist Tania Bruguera. Yes! We can also do theater classics (but from the visual arts perspective). And we also have material such as Euripedes’ BACCHAE that can become a popular culture craze if placed in the hands and legs of the choreographer Marlene Monteiro Freitas. The present is an exaggerated grotesque, what is to be done? This is what the Argentinian theater esthete Mariano Pensotti asked himself and thus revised the ideals of the Russian revolution in an impressive contemporary theater proposal. In his unbreakable miniature riot installation in the Schanzenviertel, the British artist and concept musician (The KLF) Jimmy Cauty reminds us that battles are still taking place on the streets of the miniature wonderland metropolis Hamburg (the G20 meeting was still a future event when this prologue was written). At the same time, the geheimagentur will protest for a different use of the city and port with a substantial artistic approach.

How artistic protest can turn into politics will be shown from an extra-European perspective by Serge Aimé Coulibaly. His hypnotic dance piece (p. 24) about the pan-African resistance fighter and Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti leads from the African revolution directly to the present day; and Fela Kuti’s son Seun will play a concert with his father’s 14-member band in the Club (p. 35). Revolution? Didn’t the Arab Spring just originate from Tunis? Addressing this question is what the Tunisian choreographer Radhouane el Meddeb will do in a big dance piece that will come to us directly from the Avignon festival. Our festival all-star choreographer Eszter Salamon will also concentrate on extra-European regions in a state of change or crisis, as well as their respective dance styles. She will do a durational performance with dancers in Hamburg’s Museum for Arts and Crafts for ten days. Michael Clark, ballet re-inventor and British style icon with a glamor guarantee, also always had one foot firmly in the visual arts. He will open the festival with a major dance work to music by Erik Satie, Patti Smith and David Bowie. And, since we are already on the subject of pop: embodied by trombonist Fred Wesley, music history is on stage in the world premiere of our new anarchist-puppet musical by the crazy Canadian Josh „Socalled“ Dolgin. There is also a version for children on the weekends, as is Philippe Quesnes’ enthralling stage theater art piece with moles – the most beautiful parable about art and life that can be currently seen on European stages.

And now – you’re familiar with this: when the International Summer Festival label is on the outside, then there is high culture, pop and music on the inside. Every night, we will pick you up after the performances with club formats and concerts from the German grandmaster of pop Andreas Dorau to the surface divers Beach House (p. 17) and the Canadian Mocky (wait for it!); nothing can load the present day with more meaning than music. And yes, this year we are sending our friends Tindersticks, Rufus Wainwright and the orchestra karaokes into the concert house wonder Elbphilharmonie; after all, it also needs to be filled. That wasn’t it by a long shot, but I have run out of space. Now it’s your turn; dive into the festival adventure. Look and listen as much and as broadly as possible, to then submerge together with an open spirit into the warm summer nights (or mornings) with us. And, as always: in the end, we would like to thank the people and organizations that so often trust us unconditionally – and support us financially (and also ideally). Without them, this three-week International Summer Festival refuge of difference in the white noise of the present could not exist.

See you very soon,

András Siebold & the Summer Festival team


Theatre & Performance