@home! Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken to slow the spread of the virus, the Berlin Performing Arts Festival will take place this year in front of everyone’s personal screen at home. In light of having to plan a festival, this was a decision that was necessarily made at short notice and has posed new challenges and questions for all participants, the festival team and the artists as well as the performance venues ever since. But how could things be any different in a time where everything in our familiar everyday lives has been turned upside down? While the challenges arise in respectively individual instances, it is certainly problematic, to put it mildly, for all involved that there is no road map, no available knowledge, no certainty and most of all, that the situation is still open-ended. Open-end – except that this time it is not a dramaturgical device, but instead an overwhelming reality.
While the decision to realize the festival this year as an online edition was made at very short notice, it was in no way, shape or form indiscriminate. Hosting the events online on the internet was discussed very controversially within the team of the Berlin Performing Arts Festival. How can a festival be translated into a digital edition that normally performs in theaters and performance venues throughout the entire city? How can the festival do justice to the artists with their current, very different and often quite precarious situations? How to provide a signal that the performing arts within Berlin’s independent arts community continue to be significant and are urgently needed?
We have decided upon a new form of collaboration with all of the artists and performance venues who are participating in the festival.
Together with all of the artists involved, we have created a multipart documentary miniseries that will be presented during multiple days of the festival. Each episode is dedicated to a question that the festival team posed to all artists and performance venues: Why do we need the performing arts in times of crisis? What can the internet and the performing arts learn from each other? How can we use the performing arts to help us envision a hopeful future?
The answers reached the PAF team in the form of short statement on video. They constitute the source material for the filmmaker Paula Reissig. The documentary miniseries that has been created is a reaction to the special times that we are all currently living in. It is also an attempt to provide an equal form of participation.
The Digital Showroom, a virtual tour through Berlin’s independent performing arts community, shows what the voices collected here stand for artistically: here, artists and groups present their artistic works that had originally been planned for the schedule of programming to the audience using words and (moving) images, opening up points of access and providing creative approaches to their artistic praxis and projects – or provide invitations to live streams of their work adapted to the new circumstances. An overview presents the theaters and performance venues with their varying aesthetic signatures and profiles.
A variety of discussion and networking formats has been provided to deal with the questions and voices in the PAF Documentary Miniseries as well as with the artistic work and approaches: the conversations and discussions are intended to deal with the different aspects in a more in-depth manner with artists and scholars as well as to further develop them.
The familiar and popular newcomer’s platform Introducing… will present the selected artists in their own special online format in 2020, one that is not intended to simply be received by the audience, but instead is intended to activate them as well. With each participant creating an instruction manual for those stuck at home, this year’s Introducing… artists will invite the audience to regard their performances as practical knowledge that the audience can in turn actively use. The showcase and networking format PAF Show & Tell will take place digitally for visiting industry professionals and interested audience members. In addition, the internal advisement format 1:1 – Conversations About Artistic Praxis will also be offered.
We wish you a wonderful festival – it is truly uplifting to (digitally) come together and celebrate Berlin’s independent performing arts community as well as the deep and powerful transformative strength of art in times of crisis.
Sarah Israel & Tessa Hartig
(Festival Director Berlin Performing Arts Festival @home 2020)