70 Years of Berliner Festspiele

Channel Three. Arts

Thilo Fischer und David von der Stein
Sound: Max Heesen
Ultra-Widescreen Format, Stereo

“Channel Three. Arts” shows a compilation, lasting more than four hours, of art presentations taken from every decade of the festival’s history, selected because they expose the greatest possible intransigence, obstinacy and lunacy.

Cars that are parked in an open air-area. In the centre of the image a female read person can be seen who walks towards the left. In the right foreground of the image is a male read person. He stands, with his back to the camera, in front of one of the cars.

“Berlin Fieber – Wolf Vostell” by Ulrike Ottinger in: “Channel Three. Arts”, Thilo Fischer and David von der Stein, 2021. Film, colour, sound. Film still

© Courtesy of the artists

  • 263 min
  • German, English, French, Russian, partly with German subtitles

With their comprehensive film collage on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Berliner Festspiele, Thilo Fischer and David von der Stein set off on a journey through time. The assemblage includes previously unpublished material whose video and sound have now been restored and digitised, overcoming the scepticism about the feasibility of preserving stage arts from long ago. It conveys the same feeling that a live audience might once have experienced. From Anna Magnani through Herbie Mann and John Cage to Merce Cunningham, the programme covering the first 20 years gathers the Who’s Who of the international art scene. Also included are discoveries such as the Living Theatre from New York, the bagpipes jazz player Rufus Harley from Pennsylvania, and Berlin greats such as Boris Blacher, Boleslaw Barlog, Erwin Piscator, and Tatjana Gsovsky. Artistic presentations from Africa have also been part of the programme from the outset.

In the 1970s, artists increasingly moved away from conventional performance venues and started using exhibition spaces for their performances and concerts. They also made use of public space. The audience was encouraged to participate directly, and political, activist and processional aspects entered the programme of the Berliner Festwochen. From events to circuses, procession to confusion – the art of the 70s shook things up and challenged the status quo. This part includes theatre by Samuel Beckett, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Tadeusz Kantor and Peter Zadek; performance art from New York; an entire festival dedicated to the circus; dance and drama from China; war dances from Burundi; and events by Allan Kaprow and Wolf Kahlen.
At the Metamusik festivals of the Austrian music pioneer Walter Bachauer, and later at the first Horizonte festivals, music of all genres and continents came together: griots from Africa, rock from Europe, experimental singing from America and koto string playing from Japan. Also on show are acts by Gordon Matta-Clark, George Maciunas and Wolf Vostell, Luca Ronconi’s knights charging through the audience and, for the first time in Europe, traditional Kabuki theatre from Tokyo.

In the 1980s, divided Berlin as a construction for peace in Europe becomes the dominant theme of the programs of the Berliner Festspiele. Above all, the painting and theatre art of East Germany was appreciated in the west of the city long before the fall of the Wall. As the school band Anyway performed at the Treffen Junger Liedermacher (Meeting of Young Songwriters) in 1989, the opening of the German-German border took place just a few kilometres away. Since then, the German-language theatre scene has been strongly influenced by East German artists such as Bert Neumann, Corinna Harfouch, Frank Castorf and Heiner Müller. But the theatre performed at the Berliner Festwochen also drew new energy from other directions: Pina Bausch was the first person to perform dance at the Theatertreffen, Thomas Brasch’s controversial play scripts were interpreted exuberantly there, and Einar Schleef deployed the potent forces of choric theatre. In addition, René Block invented an exhibition for the eyes and ears that was devoted entirely to musical spatial experimentation; an exhibition on Prussia was on display at the reopened Gropius Bau; and the open-air exhibition “Topography of Terror”, which still exists today, opened on the neighbouring site.

Arriving in the 21st century, we look back at Jean-Luc Courcoult’s legendary urban space reunification spectacle, “The Giants”; Olafur Elíasson’s play with optical illusions; René Pollesch’s discourses at the Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz; Milo Rau’s highly political documentary theatre; Christoph Schlingensief’s Nazi Hamlet; Sasha Waltz’s abstract dance pathos; Susanne Kennedy’s expressive alienation theatre; and much more. Rarely has art on the stages of the Berliner Festspiele been as uncompromising and stubborn as it has been for the last 20 years. It no longer has to win anything; the play itself is the big prize. More is more, and love, brutality and humour are not mutually exclusive. We follow this assessment all the way to the home stretch. Artists such as Vegard Vinge and Ida Müller, Ragnar Kjartansson, William Forsythe, Jonathan Meese and Ilya Khrzhanovsky once again strike deep into the pit of the stomach of the international art world. Either it will be very loud or very quiet, extremely long or pure repetition, quickly and directly transferred from the immediate reality of life or artificially created over several years. We also look back at the Immersion programme series and see wonderfully sprawling musical experiments.

“We can’t start until you’re out!” (That is the announcement at the beginning of the performance “Stomp” by the group The Combine; Circus Busch, Berliner Festwochen 1970)

Cooperation partners

null     Logo 3 sat     Logo Deutschlandfunk Kultur

Akademie der Künste, Arsenal – Institut für Film und Medienkunst e.V., Associazione Grupporiani, Berlin Art Link, Boosey & Hawkes, Bundesarchiv, Transit Film, EAI Electronic Arts Intermix, Edition Peters Group C.F. Peters Ltd & Co, Felix Bloch Erben, Filmgalerie 451, Japan Actors Association, Kobalt Productions GmbH, MONA productions, Sammlung Video-Forum des Neuen Berliner Kunstverein e.V. (n.b.k.), Phenomen Berlin Filmproduktion GmbH, Progress Film GmbH, Suhrkamp Theater Verlag, Shochiku Co. Ltd. Tokyo, Schott Music GmbH & Co. KG, Südwestrundfunk (SWR), Telewizja Polska S.A., ZDF / Arte, ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medien Karlsruhe

With special thanks to
German Embassy in Bujumbura (Burundi), Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Federal Republic of Germany, Bunraku Kyokai, Osaka (Japan), German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv, Galerie Hauser & Wirth (Zürich), Goethe-Institut Tokyo and Kyoto (Japan), Goethe-Institut Kigali (Rwanda), Japanese-German Center Berlin, Japan Foundation in Berlin, The Living Theatre, La MaMa Archive, Landesarchiv Berlin, National Ballet of China, Neue Nationalgalerie (SMB), Nohgaku-Kyokai (Association of Noh Actors), Rowohlt Verlag GmbH, Wolf Vostell Estate as well as
René Block, Maksym Demydenko, Guido Diekmann, Ulrich Eckhardt, Helfrid Foron, Petra und Erhard Grosskopf, Felix Gruntz, Werner Heegewaldt, Nathalie Huck, Mona Intemann, Peter Konopatsch, Torsten Maß, Udo Lindenberg, Ida Müller, Heinz-Dieter Reese, Frieder Schlaich, Julia Schmejkal and Martina Seidel

© Courtesy of the artists