As successor to the tradition-rich “Neue Stücke aus Europa” festival (New Plays from Europe), the complex social narrative and debate surrounding topical issues of European identity take centre stage in the newly designed Biennale. Who are the writers of this new narrative? Are any of their stories being suppressed, manipulated or distorted? With the global heading “This is not Europe” as its benchmark, the 2016 Wiesbaden Biennale seeks to shine a spotlight on the many contradictions ingrained in this “identity narrative” which is causing such social upheaval in Europe. Who do we want to be, what is it that makes us unique, and who belongs among “us”?
These topical issues drive the Wiesbaden Biennale’s programme selection process. As such, the focus is on international productions which imaginatively respond to the many challenges of our time, through the attachment of visionary artists who employ unusually diverse practices and techniques as their creative tools. As internationally active, prolifically connected creatives, their stories transcend nationality and lay bare the very complexities of the European identity conflict.
For the first time in the history of the festival, artists in residence will be working on site to develop six new productions, inspired by a central conceptual theme: the “Refuge for the Weary European” (German: “Asyl de müden Europäers“). The group, comprising leading figures from a new generation of European artists and authors, includes Rabih Mroué, Dries Verhoeven, Thomas Bellinck, Tiago Rodrigues, Georgia Sagri, Ingo Niermann, Margarita Tsomou and Arkadi Zaides, among others. Together they will work to transform and redefine some of the quintessential utopian institutions which surround us, seizing central locations like churches, market places and schools, and redefining social rituals like funerals and religious feasts. Over the course of the festival’s ten days, they will call upon their diverse backgrounds and pool their distinct artistic styles to establish an experimental model which puts “transitional society and community” through its paces.
By their very nature, artists are master improvisators, able of taming even the most absurd visions and presenting them as attainable, even if somewhat utopian, ideals. Who else then – if not them – would be better equipped to endow the ancient spa town of Wiesbaden with this unique source of cultural therapy for the rejuvenation of weary Europeans? The Wiesbaden Biennale extends a hearty invitation to all residents and visitors to re-discover the charming city and its community through the minds of the artists. Participants can sleep over in the State Theatre’s Neo-Baroque foyer (which will be temporarily converted into a swanky Grand Hotel), become actively involved in the many planned projects or simply come along to watch and experience the huge selection of events and performances taking place all over the city.
In addition, a panel of international students will once again be on site heading up the “Academy of Translations”, an inter-cultural language and translation platform.