Thursday, May 4, 2023
Since the turn of the millennium, the independent theatre scene in Germany has been subject to the paradigm of internationalization, which found expression not only in the increasing guest performance activities of leading collectives, but also in the formation of international co-production networks, funding programs, and internationally compatible aesthetics. The profound caesura that the Corona pandemic represented for the independent theatre scene foregrounded two crisis discourses that question the narratives, structures, and consequences of internationalization. On the one hand, postcolonial discourses are finding their way increasingly into funding policy and curatorial and artistic decision-making processes; on the other hand, climate protection and the associated demand for a reorientation of artistic production processes and travel activities have gained new significance.
Thus, the narratives and structures of internationalization, which were originally closely linked to the production conditions and funding of independent theatre work, are also changing: the largely unquestioned, politically and economically conditioned paradigm of internationalization is increasingly accompanied by an awareness of its problems.
On the basis of individual empirical examples from the independent theatre scene, the panel seeks to identify and outline specific phenomena of internationalization with regard to their political framing and legitimation strategies.
The panel will focus primarily on aspects of change: on the transformation of co-production spaces and relations, on the priorities of funding programs, and on an imbrication with the asymmetrical power relations of global funding. How, then, does the international market for the independent performing arts perpetuate the global power imbalance "postcolonially" through unequal financial resources? And what mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion are at work here?
Furthermore, the panel wants to deal with processes of aesthetic isomorphism and the phenomenon of artistically induced glocalization through the international transfer of forms and formats. Which criteria of difference and adaptation to an internationally readable aesthetic play the decisive role in the curatorial context? How is the concept of translation to be grasped and operationalized here? Which incompatibilities and which homogenization processes can be identified in the artistic context?
As a result of the pandemic caesura, the conditions of production, the consequences of global mobility and the internationally prevailing power structures and imbalances ("white money") have, once again, re-entered the critical discourses of self-understanding of the independent theater scene - and revive questions about the consequences and ethical responsibility within the framework of artistic practice. The panel will explore these questions, with an impulse lecture by and a discussion with Nikita Dhawan.
In recent years, governance has developed into a key approach for analyzing, steering, and evaluating cultural policies. As a concept of public administration, it stands for a hands-on participatory approach and encompasses the de-regulation of cultural institutions that are no longer thoroughly integrated into public administration. Instead, organized in a private legal form, they are independently managed organizations that must cope with increasingly complex environments with the goal of safeguarding their legitimacy and organizational survival.
Cultural governance impacts significantly the performing arts since they have been in the center of critique. This specifically holds true for Austria, Germany and parts of Switzerland. These countries stand out for a highly developed theatre scene and a comparatively high degree of public funding. But the performing arts as an area of cultural production have undergone a significant process of diversification. Many new initiatives have successfully moved out of amateurship. Simultaneously, due to individualization and heterogenization, “going to the theatre” has significantly lost attractiveness. The “theatre” is no longer “the only kid on the block”.
The panel analyses how and to what extent the new mode of governance impacts government-theatre relationships? What does de-regulation mean for a public theatre? Are there differences between the three countries? If and how does the legacy of history, specifically regional cultural policy traditions, come into play? Which are the common trends?
The panel will be introduced by the research team of Münster University which analyses cultural governance in publicly funded theatres in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. The tour d´horizon will provide background information for a panel discussion in which four experts will take part. Dr. Alexandra Portmann will shed light on recent developments of the performing arts in Switzerland. As an important facet of the cultural and creative industry in Switzerland, the performing arts, similar to other areas of cultural production, are generously supported by private donations besides public subsidies. Cultural governance at an arm´s length principle looks back upon a long tradition in the country that might serve as a textbook-example for innovative and participatory cultural governance. Thomas Heskia will focus on the development of cultural policies in Austria. In particular, he will outline the trend of merging cultural institutions under a holding structure. It is questionable whether this approach to organizing the muse can be reconciled with participatory governance, or whether, on the contrary, it solidifies centralized control of cultural institutions. In any case, the practice of appointing supervisory board members directly by the minister strengthens existing networks and is fundamentally susceptible to corruption. Dr. Julia Glesner and Anja Quickert will, with a special eye on Germany, highlight the growing importance as a trend-setter and as a business-model of the so-called Freie Szene in Germany. The theatre venues and groups that still distance themselves from the more traditional venues, run by the municipalities or the regions (Länder) in Germany, have increasingly gained access and eligibility to public funding. It will be discussed if the highlighted trends are found in each of the three countries.
Friday, May 5, 2023
The unprecedented suspension of cultural events across Europe in March 2020 had a profound impact on the performing arts. Alongside the proliferation of digital and hybrid forms of theatre-making, the Covid-19 pandemic has triggered a fundamental shift in the way theatres operate at an institutional and organisational level in response to the volatile economic impact of Covid-19. Considering these difficult circumstances, three scholars from the UK and Germany present extensive empirical data on the impact of the pandemic on various aspects of the performing arts in both countries. The paper by Professor Rosemary Napier Klich explores how a lack of touring content, labour shortage, a limited audience catchment, changing audience habits, availability of digital content from larger theatres and dramatic increases in running costs, have impacted regional theatres’ capacity to ‘bounce back’ from the impact of the crises. Thomas Fabian Eder investigates how the pandemic exacerbated the already precarious working conditions and inadequate social situation in the independent performing arts across Europe and how cultural policy crisis management in the DACH countries has responded to this challenge. James Rowson subsequently analyses the institutional impact of the pandemic on theatre and performance in the UK. He will illuminate how new forms of artistic innovation emerged during Covid-19 and, connected to it, he considers wider complexities of artistic labour during the ongoing public health crisis.
A professional exchange moderated by Professor Ulf Otto, who will contribute his own distinctive perspective on the topic, follows these presentations. Together with him, the three scholars debate the findings presented, focusing on the social, cultural and economic impact of the pandemic on the performing arts in the UK and the DACH countries.
The research projects "Cultural democratisation in publicly funded theatres - theatre governance and audience development strategies in Germany, France and England" and "Outside the Box: Re-formatting publicly funded theatres in the aftermath of the 2020 pandemic closures in Germany, the UK and Switzerland" present a joint panel together with their guests Neil Darlison (Arts Council England) and Steven Hadley (Trinity College Dublin). They examine legitimation strategies and myths of publicly funded theatre from a cultural policy perspective and at programme level in an international comparison.
The panel focuses on the following questions: How is public theatre in England legitimised in terms of cultural policy in comparison to Germany? What are the characteristics of cultural governance in the two countries, and to what extent do legitimation paradigms for public theatre funding and programme policy of public theatres differ in the two countries? What legitimation strategies can be identified in theatre programming and what influence does the Corona pandemic have as a turning point?
The panel presents key findings on cultural governance in England and Germany as well as consequences for theatres regarding funding, programming and audience development.
Birgit Mandel and Maria Nesemann focus on the legitimation narrative of theatre as a public good. Based on a brief comparison of the English and German publicly funded theatre landscape and cultural policy, the aim is to investigate: Which differences in theatre governance concerning audience and participation do we find in the two systems? In which ways are paradigms of legitimacy and thus also strategies of governance regarding democratisation of “high arts” culture versus cultural democracy changing in the countries?
Steven Hadley, Trinity College Dublin, addresses the question of the understanding of participation and the goals and strategies with which audience development has been implemented in cultural policy in England over the last 40 years, and to what extent current English cultural policy represents a turn from the democratisation of (high) culture to cultural democracy.
Bianca Michaels and Angelika Endres investigate the effects of the pandemic on programming and on legitimation paradigms and strategies of theatres. How do programming, expectation structures, the Covid19-Crisis and deficits of legitimacy interact and what effects does this have on theatre as an institution?
Neil Darlison outlines the goals and ambitions of the current Arts Council’s 10-year-strategy “Lets create”, the implications for theatres, their programmes and audiences and describes the consultation process that led to the development of the strategy. As the strategy’s launch marginally preceded the arrival of the Pandemic in the UK, Neil Darlison also reflects on the effects of the pandemic on theatres and theatre programmes in England – both during and post the pandemic – discerning what is likely to be cyclical and what are likely to be structural changes in theatre.
Imagining and outlining the future is never a value-neutral endeavour but has inevitably ethical implications: Utopian guidelines and dystopian warnings, as well as the distinction between ‘best case’ and ‘worst case’ scenarios are predicated on a strong moral code. The handling of major future challenges seems only possible with a deepened and shared ethical awareness. With every positive evocation of the future, however, comes an ethical responsibility towards those who are attracted and live by it. Futurity – understood here as talking about and ‘designing’ the future – thus, raises tricky ethical issues. The performing arts, as the art form of the present in time and space, nevertheless have a specific potential to imagine, reflect or even anticipate the future with all ethical consequences.
The contributions to this panel discuss these ethical dimensions in conceptions of the future in and through the performing arts from a variety of angles and different disciplines – covering music theatre and video art, drama, performance and contemporary dance. The ethical, practical and methodological questions raised will be taken up in a joint panel discussion, chaired by Anno Mungen.
The panel opens with the practitioner’s reflection “Immersive Playground vs. Ethical Responsibility”: Based on her more than 15 years of expertise in the conception and implementation of immersive, interactive and participatory works, Evelyn Hriberšek speaks out in favor of a code of conduct and thus against a limitless playground. Using O.R.PHEUS (2008-2013) and EURYDIKE (2013-now) as examples, she explains why architects of real, virtual and hybrid worlds have a (digital-)ethical responsibility towards the public, society and nature, as well as where concrete room for improvement lies.
According to Ulrike Hartung’s focus on “Operatic Feminisms? Possibilities for feminist music theatre making”, the ethics of working conditions in the performing arts can be considered as one of the key components in the configuration of crisis. Independent music theatre today appears not only as a laboratory for artistic experiments, but also for those of production. Highlighting concrete examples of feminist methods of making music theatre, this paper will discuss how changing conditions of production subsequently affect the structure as well as aesthetics of music theatre as an institution.
Benjamin Hoesch’s contribution “A professional future in the performing arts? Theatre director’s training between institutional advancement and false promises” raises the question of art schools’ ethical responsibility toward their students facing a professional future of uncertainty and possible precariousness. The ethical dilemma between honest career preparation and organizational self-preservation will be explored in discrepancies between schools’ public profiles and data from a survey conducted among European theatre schools.
As Gerald Siegmund notes in “Handle with Care: Fragile Bodies in Contemporary Dance Practice”, the contemporary independent dance scene is saturated with discourses on precariousness, vulnerability and care work. His paper seeks to analyse to what extent these discourses are reflected in the (self-)descriptions and programmes of academic institutions that train dancers and choreographers. What kind of future is envisioned by the artists and institutions and what are the tacit assumptions about how this ‘future’ will look like? What are the contradictions inherent in their visions?
Saturday, May 6, 2023
Speaker: Sara Örtel
In 2020, the corona pandemic and its impact on Germany’s theatre system were the reason for launching a new collection project in the Performing Arts Archives at Akademie der Künste (Academy of Arts) in Berlin.
The "Theater during the Pandemic" Collection focuses on event cancellations and changing working conditions due to protective measures, on programmatic reactions of theatres, production houses and theater professionals as well as on the economic and artistic consequences of the measures. Thus collected material includes documents on program planning, artistic issues and hygiene measures of selected theaters, opera houses and production houses, production materials, digital productions and performances, online discussions, internal and external correspondence, cultural-political statements and concepts as well as statistical information.
Since 2021, the Performing Arts Archives have been in regular exchange with the research group of the sub project "Theatre after Covid: Impact and institutional transformations" and sub-project 4 "Outside the Box: Aesthetic Re-formatting at Public Theatres following the 2020 Pandemic-related Closures in Germany, Great Britain and Switzerland" concerning the "Theater in the Pandemic" collection project. An exchange of collection material for possible research by these sub-projects of the DFG research group is planned for 2023 and 2024, as well as the subsequent transfer of surveys and interviews with theater employees by the research group to the "Theater in the Pandemic" Collection.
Matteo Paoletti: Funding theatre in Italy: critical scenarios across the pandemic
The Italian institutional framework for the performing arts has been deeply reshaped in the last years. Although a unique and comprehensive law by the Parliament is still missing in the country, the sector has been revised by an articulate series of regulatory and administrative acts delivered on several levels of government, from local authorities to the State. The process started in 2013 with the ministerial decree Valore cultura, followed by a large number of legislative interventions by the Regions that have led, in a decade, to a scene which is highly complex and controversial. The health crisis did not help in this regard: the emergency legislation was frequently used to introduce ad hoc (and broadly unknown) funding for specific theatrical institutions, leading to an even more unequal and controversial panorama. As an example, a few lines in the Covid-decree 28 October 2020, n. 137, introduced a 1,000,000 euro grant to the “Orchestra giovanile Luigi Cherubini”, to be delivered annually without any explanation. Such legislative initiatives, frequently disguised in clauses of the State budget laws, led to a tremendous increase of ad hoc contributions, that doubled between 2014 and 2021.
The paper describes the evolution of theatre funding in Italy in the last decade and outlines those critical legislative initiatives and their effects on the theatrical system. The work relies on a database developed by Paoletti and his team, which includes over 11,000 records and 7,000 theatre enterprises in the period 2013-2022.
Sebastian Stauss: Cooperating and breaking barriers in music, theatre and education
Even before the Covid outbreak, publicly funded music theatre had been under pressure in terms of audience structure and declining attendance in many places. Outreach and education programs have been established for some years to counteract such developments – and gain more importance after the pandemic. Comparing European countries, the cultural policy framework within which cultural organizations cooperate with educational facilities varies, especially considering regulations. Using case studies of English and Italian music theatre companies with clear profiles of outreach work, we will show how national and regional structures have been used to exploit formerly unused or impeded opportunities for cooperation between culture and education. The increasingly observable European networking in music theatre also allows an assessment of future developments at the intersections of artistic and pedagogical strategies. Unified by concepts such as early learning and excellence, not only is a field of work getting more professionalized, but the striving for prestige through increased creativity is also intensifying.
The paper draws on the organizational history of the case studies in their respective theatre systems against the background of recent political developments. Qualitative data, also in the form of interviews conducted in the sub-project within the research unit, will be included as well.