22 June to 1 July

Cologne, Mülheim/Ruhr & Düsseldorf

27 April 2017

Since 2013 the Impulse Theater Festival has regarded theater as a social laboratory and has examined what political art might look like today. The theme of the last festival under the artistic directorship of Florian Malzacher is both an appeal and a threat: ‘Decide or Else’: How should we decide, what can be decided and who should make those decisions? Does art have something of its own to set against the crisis in our democracies? 

For Boris Nikitin’s „Hamlet“ to be or not to be is no longer a question to be decided but a tension that has to be withstood – similar to the artistic trap that Monster Truck set for us with „Sorry“ : in this controversial work created together with the Nigerian choreographer Segun Adefila, the desire to take action finds no outlet –an experience also generated by Milo Rau’s „Five Easy Pieces“, one of the most discussed pieces of the last season. Members of the audience become witnesses, just like they do in Dries Verhoeven’s political and poetic live installation „Guilty Landscapes“ where we have to accomplish the paradoxical feat of questioning ourselves while at the same time taking a stand

Styrian women’s collective Die Rabtaldirndln look for the political within the personal in radical life decisions in „Du gingst fort“ (You Went Away) and ask similar questions about social conditions to the young Giessen graduates of Swoosh Lieu. While the staged installation „Who cares?!“ presents a feminist perspective on the conditions of care, „Die Erfindung der Gertraud Stock“ (The Invention of Gertraud Stock) by the equally young theater company vorschlag:hammer focuses on the biography of an unconventionally conventional woman at the end of her life. 

At the opposite end of the age spectrum are the three- to ten-year-old spectators and performers of „DA GEFAHR!“ (DANGER THERE!), a work by FUNDUS THEATER from Hamburg, in which it becomes evident how scope for decision-making is restricted by norms and precautions from a very early age. If the theater can be the space where you can lick a 9 volt battery after all, then perhaps there is hope –as the filmmakers Daniel Kötter and Constanze Fischbeck demonstrate with „state-theatre #4– 6“. She She Pop and Gintersdorfer/Klaßen – familiar guests of the festival – and the group internil, invited to Impulse for the first time, make more optimistic use of the theater space when they adopt the form of the Monologs at the end of the festival: what say does the individual have in society? 

The invited productions from German-speaking countries are framed by international commissioned works: in WDR’s large broadcasting studio the film „Germany Year 2071“, made by the Nature Theater of Oklahoma from New York together with the citizens of Cologne and Berlin, will be given its world premiere. The radio play of the same name – a co-production with WDR – provides the overture to a series of radio plays that will take over the ether as an additional stage for Impulse. Meanwhile, in the Great Hall at Ringlokschuppen Ruhr in Mülheim, the British company Stan’s Cafe use their expansive theatrical installation „Of All The People Of All The World“ which nevertheless consists of nothing but piles of rice to examine the factors on which our decisions are based. A project which is closely linked to the Silent University Ruhr, the autonomous knowledge platform for refugee academics that Impulse initiated in 2015. In Düsseldorf „Delicate Instruments of Engagement“ – a durational performative action by the choreographer Alexandra Pirici – investigates breaking the boundaries of art and politics some thirty years after the death of Joseph Beuys.

In conversations, lectures, working meetings and above all at the Impulse-Konferenz on the final day, artists, theoreticians and activists, most of whom have been connected with the festival over a longer period will come together once again and address the question of what political and artistic decisions are possible. Chantal Mouffe, who as a political philosopher has had a strong influence on the festival’s thinking in recent years, will take part along with Antanas Mockus, the legendary former Mayor of Bogotá, and Impulse mentors of recent years such as the political scientist Oliver Marchart and the philosopher Marcus Steinweg

The festival center – designed by Richard Lowdon, founder member, performer and designer of the legendary theater company Forced Entertainment – deliberately withdraws from the political perspective of most of the work at Impulse: „Sideshow“ is a bar, a stage, a wonderful garden. Taking its name from English fairs and community fetes where modest attractions are offered along with the right drinks, this sideshow offers performances, concerts, discussions and much more. 

After five years, four editions and a fundamental reconstruction of the festival – that since 2015 takes place annually in three cities – at the end of this festival the team and artistic director will change, having reached the end of their term. But Impulse will remain – as a clear decision in favor of independent theatre in German-speaking countries. 

Tickets can be booked as of now.
Come visit us from 22 June to 1 July at the festival in Cologne, Mülheim/Ruhr and Düsseldorf. More information on the entire program can be found here.