eSeL Foto – Zhameli Khairli: Wiener Festwochen 2022: Bruno Beltrão - NEW CREATION (Halle G / MQ, 24. - 28.5.2022)
Wiener Festwochen Diary:
Zhameli "WaSCHbärhunds" first encounter
The air flowed freely (aka without a mask) into the lungs, giving Vienna residents and visitors the opportunity to fully enjoy one of the city's most anticipated festivals, Wiener Festwochen. The festival's program was sexy and tasty, literally and figuratively, delighting in its abundance from performances, theaters, and concerts to workshops and artist talks. But since no one cancelled the daily duties, I tried to choose the most diverse events, both in concept and in price category.
Chapter I: 14.5.2022
The opening of the Austrian Museum for Black Entertainment and Black Music (ÖMSUBM) opened the Wiener Festwochen season for me. People greeted each other with smiles and hugs. The opening was grand and festive.
Chapter II: 15.5.2022
The theatre play “Madama Butterfly” by Satoko Ichihara left nobody indifferent. It was provocative, fascinating, confusing, straight-forward, fluid, pleasant, disgusting, witty, uncanny, in one word: mindblowing. Since photography was not allowed (as usual, let us stick to the house rules – Ordnung muss sein), you might have to put efforts into imagining the analogue-digital mix aka the scene, where the projections reminding me more of virtual reality than real-life videos complemented the backstage, and “analogue” actors were talking to digital ones. People were chilling on the brut’s summer stage before the play began, after the performance the audience walked in silence – or so it seemed to me.
Chapter III: 28.5.2022
Empty big stage, only spotlights on all sides and a display on the left side. The lights and dancers flash episodically. Birdsong and the sounds of nature dominate the background noise of the running engines. The music intensifies, the industrial sound becomes stronger and tense. The movements of the dancers are sometimes sharp, sometimes smooth, with accents on the whole body or on specific parts of the body - the hands imitate playing the piano, convey wonder, tension or fear. The dancers meet and disperse, as if battling and waltzing, coming out solo or in pairs, gathering in groups and finally coming all together. The dance performance “New Creation” by Bruno Beltrão and his Grupo de Rua kept the audience in suspense. Maybe it was the heavy music, maybe it was the tension between the dancers, accentuated by the serious faces and sharp movements, but the applause seemed relieving. One more thing: the dancers' outfits were amazing, something reminiscent of minimalist architecture.
Chapter IV: 29.5.2022
The stage was cleaned figuratively through the incense ritual, and literally the performers washed the floor. One day in the lives of four women, gathering together to celebrate and to mourn, to sing and to dance. They share joy, worries and sorrows, full of trust and mutual support. The performance “Éléphant” by Bouchra Ouizguen and Compagnie O was for me somehow dramatic, even if there was no specific tragic plot. I was impressed by the grandeur of the Odeon theatre itself and even its audience, people really dressed up for this occasion.
Chapter V: 30.5.2022
Participants of the workshop “Souffle continu” had the opportunity to try out special instruments created by Tarek Atoui and his brother. Produced sounds could be not only heard, but also seen through vibrations of the instruments.
Chapter VI: 3.6.2022
Witty and elegantly, Slavs and Tatars talked about languages, scripts, political conjectures and many other funny, clever things. I finally understood why talks by Slavs and Tatars are called performances.
Chapter VII: 4.6.2022
A friend of mine visited me, she was forced to accompany me to one of my most unfamiliar show types. I said to her, we are going to the theatre, but we wouldn’t watch any plays or performances, although, it would be “performances” of backstages. It was called “Decoratelier INFINI 1 – 18” by Jozef Wouters. Photography was not allowed, unfortunately, because the views were fantastic.
In fact, the theatre offers its guests a complex work of art, not just the play itself, and it was demonstrated through a new way of looking behind the scenes. It was a storytelling, a personal way of mutual understanding between the stage designer and the playwright and their shared work on the set. The sets were put in the role of actors, conveying the subtle intent and mood of the production. I was fascinated by Infini #18 - the workflow on Amanda Piña’s performance presented as a background discussion between her team and Jozef Wouters, with longing on conveying the scene without too much refinement. The frustrating meaning and the feeling of despair in the depiction of the scenery as a tunnel of columns (Infini #5) was revealed by Rimah Jabr in her letter to Jozef Wouters, which was read aloud.
Chapter VIII: 9.6.2022
Mai Ling artist collective catches us tangled up in our tropes of East Asian people. More words on that later, soon we’ll publish an article featuring the collective’s work. The Pickle Bar is awesome, it serves vodka with pickle juice, and lots of different pickled foods. The drinks and food were on the house. No wonder the crowd stayed long even after the performance had ended.
Chapter IX at last: 14.6.2022
This theatre play was a good chance to challenge my own craziness. No offence, but I found the plot of the play “Astronaut Wittgenstein” by Nataša Rajković rather banal, if it wasn’t for its site-specificness and the surprising appearance of an astronaut, quite out of the blue. It really changed the whole situation. I had a lot of fun wondering if a passerby was an actor or just an actual passerby. One dog entered the scenery, and the owner who persuaded it to keep walking briefly became the star of the show. A swan with its cygnets also paraded across the stage. The astronaut was fooling around on the other shore before the audience even noticed him. Walkers, runners, cyclists, scootists, and skaters, all could enjoy their seconds of fame. They gazed at us as if we were somehow lost, sitting there and staring into the void, we looked at them as if they were clueless and didn't get that we were the audience of a theatre. In fact they could have stayed and watched the performance for free.
I was bitten by ants, and midges flew up and down my nose and ears, so I didn't stay for the artist talk. The view on the way home was very cool though.
I would sum up my first encounter with Wiener Festwochen dry and mathematically: two months, 38 productions, more than 30 artist talks, more than ten workshops, and other events including walking tours and picnics. I attended nine events, three of them were free of charge, the other six would have cost me, if not for my press accreditation, (lucky me) €127. I think that’s a fair deal, even though there were some productions (for instance “Einstein on the Beach”) that I would have loved to visit, but found to be an expensive pleasure for students like me. If there were 127% as a highest score to evaluate my first encounter, I would rate the Wiener Festwochen 100%.
Text & photos: WaSCHbärhund - Zhameli Khairli