Berliner Festspiele 70

During the first half of their anniversary year, Berliner Festspiele will present international guest performances, a “living archive” and a programme of events conceived jointly by the institution’s festival directors and curators.

Despite hours of rain, music enthusiasts experienced an open-air music festival of the Berliner Festwochen in autumn 1964 with unique slapstick interludes on the glassy stage.

Despite hours of rain, music enthusiasts experienced an open-air music festival of the Berliner Festwochen in autumn 1964 with unique slapstick interludes on the glassy stage.

© Film still from: “Blick in die Welt”, 1964/42, PROGRESS Film GmbH

Berliner Festspiele will turn 70 in 2021: On 5 September 1951, the first Berliner Festwochen, as they were originally called, were launched at the newly opened Schillertheater. It was the beginning of an unusual festival history between East and West, in the theatre and public spaces, presenting pop and avant-garde, exhibitions of contemporary art, cinema and the cultures of the world.

In this programme conceived by the artistic directors of Berliner Festspiele under the title “Wild Times, Planetary Motions”, we will welcome artists including Jimmy Robert, Nikhil Chopra with Yuko Kaseki, Manuela Infante, Monira Al Qadiri & Raed Yassin, Alexander Hawkins & Siska and many more. They will present installations and international performances that can be experienced as a day version or a nocturnal version, which last six hours each. The five-day programme also features seven archive spaces dedicated to various focus topics, including the history of the Berliner Festspiele in the public sphere, their large-scale theme-based exhibitions and the original ensemble constellations presented at their music festivals.

Over a period of seven decades, Berliner Festspiele implemented such a wide range of projects – a “Tag der Sensationen (Day of Sensations)” and the “Große Welttheater (Great World Theatre)” in front of Schloss Charlottenburg, the exhibition “Ostdeutsche Kunst der Gegenwart (East German Contemporary Art)” or a radio bridge to the GDR after the construction of the Berlin Wall. The Living Theatre presented Bertolt Brecht’s “Antigone”; Nico, Brian Eno, Steve Reich and Terry Riley performed at the Metamusik-festival, attended by an enthusiastic David Bowie. We are hoping that this eventful history will tell itself chiefly through the people who witnessed it – spectators, (former) employees and artists will have the opportunity to share their stories, objects and memories of events at Berliner Festspiele with the visitors of Gropius Bau. Thus, quite aside from the presentation of historic photos, found pieces and films, a kaleidoscopic narrative of the Festspiele’s history made of subjective experiences and perspectives will unfold.

Immediately following “Wild Times, Planetary Motions”, the first comprehensive retrospective of the work of Yayoi Kusama in Germany will open at Gropius Bau. In Stephanie Rosenthal’s innovative exhibition concept, historical exhibition spaces that Kusama designed as spatial installations over the past decades will be reconstructed, and a new Infinity Mirror Room will be presented and demonstrate the development of Kusama’s work.

The international guest performances that we will show during a short hiatus in the refurbishment of Haus der Berliner Festspiele in March and April of our anniversary year will consist of German premieres and co-productions of Berliner Festspiele. During the first six months, we will present “INFINI 1–17” by scenographer Jozef Wouters (5 to 6 March 2021), followed by “Temple du Présent. Solo for an Octopus” by director Stefan Kaegi (Rimini Protokoll) in co-operation with Judith Zagury and Nathatlie Küttel (ShanjuLab) (9 to 11 March 2021). Next will be “The Goldberg Variations, BWV 988” by choreographer Anna Teresa De Keersmaekers/Rosas (25 to 26 March 2021), “Outwitting the Devil” by choreographer Akram Khan (8 to 10 April 2021), “Screws”, a parcours devised by circus artist and choreographer Alexander Vantournhout (9 to 11 April 2021) as well as a performance trilogy that Berliner Festspiele co-produced: “Porca Miseria” by choreographer and dancer Trajal Harrell (17 to 18 April 2021).

Our festivals MaerzMusik – Festival for Time Issues (19 to 28 March 2021), Theatertreffen (7 to 23 May 2021) and the National Contest Theatertreffen der Jugend(28 May to 5 June 2021) will present various focus themes at Haus der Berliner Festspiele and other venues across the city. The programme series Immersion will take us to Kreuzberg: At Kühlhaus Berlin, we will show the opera performance “Sun & Sea”by Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, Vaiva Grainytė and Lina Lapelytė, a winner of the Golden Lion at Biennale di Venezia (10 to 13 & 15 to 17 June 2021).

2021 will be a year of anniversaries for Berliner Festspiele. Not only does the institution itself turn 70, Gropius Bau was opened as a museum of applied arts 140 years ago and the festival MaerzMusik will see its 30th edition. We are striving to make our events and festivals accessible to as many people as possible while taking the pandemic developments into account – in the hope of being able to provide performance and production opportunities to the many contemporary artists. 2021 is not only the year when the German Parliament will be elected, but also a year for Berliner Festspiele to choose new avenues of reaching our audience and setting innovative impulses.