Impulse Theater Festival 2016: political, discursive, successful!

28 June 2016

“Once again the Impulse Festival is an exciting think tank with many different perspectives.”
(Dorothea Marcus, Deutschlandfunk)

Celebrations lasted into the early hours of Sunday morning at the Festival Center in the FFT Kammerspiele following a concert by Schwabinggrad Ballett and Arrivati to mark the conclusion of Impulse 2016. After an eleven day festival, the leading platform for independent theater in German-speaking countries had gained an extremely positive response: Impulse attracted 5,300 visitors from the region and all over Germany plus an audience of professionals from other countries to over 80 events. Box office returns of 92% also endorse the concept introduced last year of concentrating on one main venue – this year the FFT in Düsseldorf – while collaborating closely with our partners in Cologne (studiobühneköln) and Mülheim (Ringlokschuppen Ruhr).

Under the title ‘Start cooking … Recipe will follow’ Impulse presented remarkable work from the independent theater scene in Germany, Austria and Switzerland operating performance, theater, concerts, installations, lectures and parties. These included well-established and familiar companies such as Gintersdorfer/Klaßen (‘Der Botschafter’), She She Pop (‘50 Grades of Shame’) and Rimini Protokoll (‘Evros Walk Water’), as well as newcomers like Julian Warner & Oliver Zahn (‘Situation mit Doppelgänger’) or Ariel Efraim Ashbel and Friends (‘The Empire Strikes Back: Kingdom of the Synthetic’). Several artists focused their attention on the crisis which is moving ever closer in the Near East, for example Christine Gaigg with 2nd Nature & Netzzeit / Klaus Schedl (‘untitled, look, look, come closer’) or COSTA COMPAGNIE (‘Conversion / Nach Afghanistan’). A similar urgency could be felt in the search for areas in which individuals can be free agents pursued by Boris Nikitin (‘Martin Luther Propagandastück’) and Sebastian Nübling with junges theater basel (‘Noise’).
Impulse also initiated artistic works this year which involved themselves directly in social and political affairs. One of these was the Silent University Ruhr, an initiative by the Kurdish artist Ahmet Öğüt brought to life last year by Impulse and this year embedded in an international summer academy entitled ‘Learning Plays’: here four artist-initiated schools, academies and theoretical platforms came together for a week to exchange ideas at the Ringlokschuppen in Mülheim; the Performing Arts Forum – PAF from St. Erme, the School of Engaged Art by the St. Petersburg-based collective Chto Delat, die Vierte Welt from Berlin and the Silent Universities from London, Stockholm, Hamburg, Athens, Amman and Mülheim.

In her project entitled Make Art Policy! Israeli choreographer Dana Yahalomi / Public Movement invited influential politicians from all the significant parties in North Rhine-Westphalia to Düsseldorf City Hall to outline their cultural policy positions while making use of the structural similarities between art and politics, the stage and the civic chamber. While 300 members of the audience watched proceedings inside the chamber, 1,000 more interested viewers followed a live stream of the events and 1,000 more have since watched the archived video. Recordings of other events in the festival were also archived, for example in audio form on Voice Republic.

In Cologne, the Nature Theater of Oklahoma shot a retro science fiction film together with local citizens at a series of locations all over the city, including the building site of the city theater at the Offenbachplatz. Several hundred extras participated with great enthusiasm in the partly public filming at the studiobühne as well as in the city center and the harbor on the banks of the Rhine. The completed film Germany Year 2071 will be screened as part of the Impulse Theater Festival 2017 in Cologne. Until then a Making-Of will provide impressions of the filming on the website of the magazine Monopol.

We are delighted that for eleven days Impulse was able to become an artistic and social laboratory highlighting the highly diverse aesthetics, strategies and approaches of independent theater. And we’re already looking forward to next year: Impulse Theater Festival 2017 will take place from 22nd June to 2nd July in Cologne.