Foreign Affairs Festival 2016

Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Berlin, Germany
05 Jul 2016 - 17 Jul 2016

Foreign Affairs Festival 2016

Between 5 and 17 July 2016, Berliner Festspiele will present the fifth edition of the international performing arts festival Foreign Affairs. Based on the cooperation with this year’s focus artist William Kentridge, the festival’s artistic director Matthias von Hartz invited international artists to develop projects on the topic of ‘uncertainty’ – for the stage, for urban spaces and a night exhibition at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele.

The guests are BERLIN, Jarvis Cocker, Joanna Dudley, Forced Entertainment, Handspring Puppet Company, Philip Miller, Nástio Mosquito, Nature Theater of Oklahoma, Needcompany, Alain Platel, Johannes Paul Raether, Mary Reid Kelley, The Brother Moves On, Dries Verhoeven, Nelisiwe Xaba.

Focus: South African draughtsman, film maker, performer and director William Kentridge speaks of uncertainty and provisionality when he describes his working methods in the studio and his view of the world. Berliner Festspiele present the first comprehensive show of the artist’s transdisciplinary oeuvre in a combination of his visual arts creations and his performative works at Foreign Affairs and at Martin-Gropius-Bau. The works presented are: “Paper Music – Ein Ciné-Concert” (5 & 6 July), “Drawing Lessons” (8 & 9 July), “Refuse the Hour” (9 & 10 July), “Die Winterreise” (13 July), “Ubu and the Truth Commision” (13 & 14 July). Some performances will feature William Kentridge himself on stage.

The large scale video production “More Sweetly Play the Dance”by William Kentridge can be seen both at Martin-Gropius-Bau and on the façade of the Haus der Berliner Festspiele, where it forms the entrée to the night exhibition “Uncertain Places”, which will enliven the venue with installations and live-performances from 5 to 15 July, between the hours of 22:00 and 01:00: In “This Is Offal”, Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley will perform live operations in the Box Office Foyer. In the video installation “Guilty Landscapes – episode II”, Dries Verhoeven will confront visitors with the relationship between uncomfortable news images and the looks of their viewers. In“Urban Mermaid”, choreographer Nelisiwe Xaba is trying to find water donations for an urban mythological creature from the artificial waters of Johannesburg.

For the festival’s opening night on the main stage of the Festspielhaus, Alain Platel’s musical theatre production “En avant, marche!” (5 & 6 July) takes a poetical look at an aged musician’s farewell from his orchestra. Together with directorFrank Van Laecke and composer Steven Prengels, choreographer Alain Platel examines the brass band as a microcosmic version of society. Beside the four performers of NT Gent, the heated musicality of Zentralkapelle Berlin will be at the heart of this performance, giving a new and unique sound to works by Mahler, Verdi, Strauß and others.

In “The blind poet” (15 July), Needcompany will counter canonical historiography with personal stories: The show by this Belgian company under the direction of Jan Lauwersquotes the writings of the Arabic poet Abu l-’Ala al Ma’arri (973-1057) and of Wallada bint al Mustakfis, an Andalusian poet from the 11th century. They describe an era when Córdoba was the economic and cultural centre of the world, where women held positions of power and atheism was commonplace. Starting from the various nationalities, cultures and languages represented by the performers, who talk about their ancestors, biographies and discontinuities, “The Blind Poet” deals with concepts of identity in a multicultural Europe.

The exploration of darkness continues beyond the night exhibition, too: Pulp front-man Jarvis Cocker has been hosting a Late Night Radio Show on BBC Radio 4 for years. For Foreign Affairs, he and the more than 60 musicians of Junges Sinfonieorchester Berlin invite the audience to hear stories of people and music at night: “Sleepless Nights” (12 July).

The last night of the festival (16 to 17 July) is dedicated to a world premiere by Forced Entertainment: The award-winning company, directed by Tim Etchells, will set out on a long journey from sunset to dawn in “From The Dark”. At the performance’s core is a series of texts in which eleven performers talk about their large and small fears. “From the Dark” is a continuation of Forced Entertainment’s legendary 24-hour-performance “Who Can Sing a Song To Unfrighten Me?” from 1999.

More uncertainties will be provided by works like “Zvizdal” (7 & 8 July) by Antwerp-based company BERLIN. They accompanied the final months spent by an elderly couple in a ghost village near Chernobyl. The Nature Theatre of Oklahoma returns to Berlin for another large-scale project: Over the festival’s entire duration and with a cast of amateur performers, the New York artists will shoot the science fiction film “Germany Year 2071”at many interesting locations throughout the city. Johannes Paul Raether, who developed a ‘herd’ of colourful research-drag-avataras for his artistic and para-scientific work, will also make a number of appearances: “Protektoramae – Forking Horizon–X” is a continuation of his Foreign Affairs-project from the year 2013. On the festival’s first weekend, artists and academics will present various perspectives and strategies for dealing with uncertainty and doubtfulness at asymposium entitled “Landscapes of Uncertainty”.

The following concerts will complement the programme:Vessels (9 July),Islam Chipsy (15 July), The Brother Moves on(16 July) and Mirel Wagner (16 July).

On an institutional level, Foreign Affairs continues its work on the interfaces with the visual arts this year by cooperating with Corpus, a network of European cultural institutions.

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