Weimar Arts Festival dares to predict the future of theater

FifthWaiver of conveyors, cranes and restrooms. Agricultural machinery that was exported to the entire Eastern Bloc was manufactured in the past. Until the turn of the century, a thousand industrial workers worked in the KET hall in northern Weimar, assembling engines and bodies, because KET stands for “potato-harvesting technology”. Hardly anyone in the city could imagine that one day this hall would be restarted, at least temporarily. But Kunstfest Weimar uses this artificial pit, with its 15-meter-high ceilings, to experience the “Animate” theater, dedicated to the motto of “Nostalgia for Tomorrow”. This year, the art festival is dedicated to the city of utopia in the future, and has included segments in the program that tell about climate change, political polarization, and new social systems.

“Animate” is the boldest piece. Canadian computer artist Chris Salter has envisioned this immersive theatrical show that uses the latest generation of virtual reality glasses to tell a dystopian love story that thrives in the midst of the climate crisis and then crashes. Text by Canadian author Kate Storey. Laurie and Daniel, the main protagonists, are newly divorced and reunite in their unit. Both are traumatized by past relationships and experiences. A climate catastrophe has destroyed your homeland. That’s why they flee to the pristine nature of Newfoundland. Stoic and stunning at the same time, admire the vast forests, blue rivers and proud mountains of this sliver. “This infinite expanse. Only infinity.” During audio playback, the eight spectators are escorted across the hall on a rope at one-hour intervals.

Tightrope walking in KET halls: only virtual reality glasses and rope separate reality from digital imagination in


Tightrope walking in KET halls: Only virtual reality glasses and rope separate reality from digital fiction in “Animate”.
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Photo: Thomas Muller

Judith Rosemayer and Steve Carrier tell the story ecstatically as they perform in harmony with digital reality. As she balances on stones and always near the abyss, he falls into a trance of more and more depression and despair. “You’re done, we’re done,” he said in a sobbing voice. The industrial hall with all its natural impediments provides a surreal backdrop to it. In the video, the images appear blurry, the chirping of birds turns into a loud bass tone and the rocks seem to be flying around.

At that moment, the performance begins to fulfill its overwhelming promise. Now the rope is laid. The audience moves freely in space, following and avoiding the floating stones. You are trying to get rid of the debris with your hand, which really works thanks to the latest virtual reality technology. The stones change course and fly by. Realized using technology from the Meta Group, Salter’s play offers a preview of what theater could look like in ten years’ time.

In the end it will be decided

The experiment continues for one kilometer. At the Theaterplatz in Weimar, the urban space has been converted into a radio studio. In their performance of “Nervös,” Extra Unruhe, directed by Schorsch Kamerun, creates a dissonant sound space. “The fences don’t stop. The vending machines don’t stop. The despots don’t stop,” voices from the speakers. The highlight of the Dadaist scene is a panel discussion based on a personality test that the audience can participate in which filters out 16 personality types. In the end, the participants must decide which one of their ranks can be deleted. …the panel composed in bright colors also makes this decision. The choice must later be justified anonymously, and the vouchers are read. Twenty minutes is all it takes. And the speakers shouted, ‘The hours never stop.’ The character type “architect” becomes a victim of the masses; A man of especially strategic power shapes his world without regard.

In a group discussion, the type of character being screened must be determined.


In a group discussion, the type of character being screened must be determined.
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Photo: Candy Wells

Elon Musk and Vladimir Putin are examples of this. Dominic Horowitz portrays such a person in the monologue “The Tribune” in Mauricio Cagel’s play comically embodying a dictator. This can be seen in an intimate setting in fourteen different locations in the province of Thuringia. The one-act play was first performed in 1979 at the height of Argentina’s military dictatorship under General Videla. Horowitz plays a tyrant who delights in his narcissism. He is trained to speak to his people alone on the balcony, flipping words back and forth. “Gather together. Gather yourselves. Together like the first day. To be together freely,” he shouts in the audience. Prejudice is aroused, images of the enemy are expressed, and war is presented as a solution to all problems. The reactions of non-existent listeners are recorded on tape. However, it eventually breaks. His makeup is smudged, the masquerade is falling off, and Horowitz plays a desperate-looking man like the Joker in Todd Phillips’ movie.

Windmills are also loud, like here at Theatreplatz in


Windmills are also loud, as here at the Theaterplatz in “Nervös” by Extra Unruhe.
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Photo: Candy Wells

In line with this, the ACC Gallery is dedicated to the play that made quite a stir in early 1896 and raised a mirror in front of tyrants – the anti-war farce “King Ubu” by Alfred Garry. The gallery displays the gruesome masks made by Joan Míro sixty years ago, and shows Ubu as a round monster with sunken eyes and crooked teeth. There’s also an audio installation by Robert Wilson, who put King Ubu to music. She says, “Who is preventing you from slaughtering the whole family and putting yourself in their place?” This installation also ends with a stinging criticism of the authorities. “Then you can increase your wealth, eat liver and ride a chariot.” Equally disgusting and at the same time very present, Kagel’s “Tribune” whispers – “I’m glad to see you. One nation of experts. I want and you can.”

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