The artsy octopus is on its way
While preparing our very first season at Gessnerallee, we asked ourselves what things would look like if we’d simply dismantle the entire existing theatre system.
We sought out cultural workers representing the up and coming generations and discussed with them alternative scenarios. Scenarios in which theatres would actually reflect the demographic diversity of cities by resisting and disrupting the status quo, which inherently embodies and prioritizes white dominant culture. In these conversations, we envisioned a theatre scene that is not plagued by power structures, exploitation and a narrow understanding of art. In fact, we were hoping for a halt, a standstill causing a rippling effect which would tackle and end the industry’s compulsion to "grow" and the debilitating professionalisation taking place. We were actively wishing to hold space, at last, for sincere responsibility, wholeness, spontaneity and true love.
Then, the pandemic-related lockdown occurred which nixed it all. Now, these exceptional circumstances are explicitly demanding an urgent change of direction – one, as it turns out, we had envisioned all along. Stasis is followed by motion.
Like many others, we are carefully navigating new and uncertain territory. How do we act in solidarity while remaining autonomous? How can we individually carry responsibility yet be a collective without hierarchy? How can we live in community when physical distance is required? The times we live in appear to be increasingly untenable and even the most basic aspects of our daily lives have revealed themselves as nothing more than alleged safeties. What seems, at first glance, to be contradictory can also be observed on a scale. Despite distance we remain close: online, masked, through diasporas and shared history. We are collectively chipping away at the procedures and structures in place. The collective can be organized like an octopus – an invertebrate organism with three hearts, eight arms and remarkable learning abilities. The lack of rigid bones gifts the octopus with a striking flexibility – one that we so urgently need today.
In our first season and beyond we are working with a heterogeneous group of artists and accomplices, whose individual personalities interest us, as much as the themes that they tackle. During the opening weekend of the first cycle – every season consists of five cycles lasting five and a half weeks each – we won’t be hosting a 15-part festival program but instead a process-oriented gathering of sorts. We plan to do so by introducing the artists and cultural workers and sharing with you their respective artistic practices.
Just like that, Gessnerallee itself will turn into an artsy octopus who will gently and carefully explore the city. However, Gessnerallee will remain a home for the performing arts while "performative" will be experienced and explored in many ways: in drama and dance, in concert and poetry slam, in conversing, cooking, creating and more. Each new cycle is introduced and celebrated with a long weekend. At the inaugural opening weekend, however, we will be rolling out the "sound carpet" instead of the red carpet: language, tones and music await you in the various spaces of Gessnerallee. Our aim is to practice the art of listening together with you, our cherished guests. Listening in community and hearing each other – this is how we wish to keep moving forward in the hours, days and years ahead of us.
In I Lost, Michelle Ettlin and Jessica Huber share the first vestiges of mutual research that they are conducting together with artists and passers-by and which they will continue further in various form(at)s for at least one year.
Jours Fixes: Schwarzenbach-Komplex – eine andere Zukunft erinnern.