For almost a year now, the global pandemic has been presenting cultural institutions with unimagined challenges. In terms of performing arts organizers, this affects several spheres. On the one hand, we want to continue to fulfill our mission as cultural organizers; especially now, when there is so much uncertainty and insecurity, it is more important than ever to have communal experiences, to be stimulated to think, to find diversion and to learn about new things. But of course, we also want to put our audience at as little risk as possible. Knowing the need to limit personal contact to the maximum runs counter to our need to facilitate encounters and broaden horizons. So we vacillate almost daily between the hope that we will soon be able to reopen the gates of the Gessnerallee and the fear that this will happen too soon, as it did last summer. And yet, of course, even in this time of impossibility of coming together, we wanted and still want to continue to organize culture and make it accessible.
The Gessnerallee under the new management opened the house to its audience for the first time in September 2020, after 1.5 years of preparation. Although adapted to the Corona protection concepts, we were able to welcome the existing audience familiar to the Gessnerallee, but also many new faces who felt invited by the changed program, new artistic positions and by addressing specific communities. With the growing constraints on event implementation, which were added in the course of October and November, up to the actual closure of the theaters in December, on the one hand the number of audience members became smaller, guest performances were canceled, many formats were adapted and gatherings that we wanted to initiate in the program area Community, unfortunately, became impossible. Many ideas and projects that we wanted to try in the course of the reorientation of the Gessnerallee in relation to the audience have been pushed into the background for this season: How do we create encounters between people in Zurich's urban society who are committed to socially relevant issues and artists* who deal with the same issues in other ways? How can the Gessnerallee become a place for art forms and practices that are not shown in the usual art institutions and training centers, but which have a large audience and are practiced by people who see themselves as artists? And how do we integrate questions of accessibility and inclusion as early as possible into the production processes of the house artists, as well as into the communication work of the Gessnerallee?
The interest of encountering the audience in physical space is of course one of the main motivations of performing artists for their work. In conversation with the groups and artists producing at the house, we encountered great interest, many ideas, and a wide variety of abilities to meet the challenge of transforming their art from physical space. Regular live streams of performances were joined by Zoom and Telegram theater, texts, audio pieces, podcasts and so on.
Gessnerallee's programming moved further and further into digital space, where audiences and artists* could safely meet, no matter the time or place. The artworks went from being initial "substitutes" to independent works that demanded their own space. The Gessnerallee came to have another stage space unexpectedly, so to speak; the hall, the north wing and the south stage were supplemented by a digital space: "Gessi Digital".
As soon as the event ban is lifted, we will inform you here again about the protective measures.