“There is no safety, and there is no end.
The word must be heard in silence.
There must be darkness to see the starts.
The dance is always danced above the hollow place, above the terrible abyss.”
-Ursula Le Guin
Last year around this time it seemed that the world around us was ablaze, and so in Winterwerft we met around the image of the „House on Fire“. This year, the situation seems even worse – and yet: again and again we find hope in the little moments.
Losing the ground under your feet. It’s a phrase that in recent years has become a new reality, a collective experience. How then, to surrender to the sensation of falling? Stop holding on with all force and use the freed capacity to take stock of where we are?
We are becoming aware of how catastrophic events are becoming a familiar experience for ever larger parts of the world’s population. Be it in the form of floods, storms, forest fires, and drought – or be it simply that what was believed to be safe all along is suddenly shaken: that the plant that has fed the family for centuries suddenly stops growing. That the river by which entire regions were supplied is suddenly no longer navigable, and the fish float dead on the surface. Rockets and bombs, in the place that used to be home.
A legacy of modernity is that “soil”, that “earth”, that “land” is for us today an abstract category, something that is viewed through the cartographer’s gaze, something that is yours or mine, that has to be divided up, parceled out, and if necessary defended. Something that can be shaped and molded to our liking, into which trenches and pits are dug and from within which all that keeps the machines of modernity running is extracted.
At the same time, we have lost any real connection to the soil that sustains us. Where our food, our livelihoods come from, how much we are tied into a web of human and especially non-human communities that depend, as much as ours, on clean water, air, fertile soil – but are at the same time the source of all these livelihoods – all this we no longer understand in a way that goes deep enough. In the way that those cultures we call “indigenous” understood and understand.
We are uprooted, alienated, ungrounded.
„We need to have a sense of who we are as a people, whatever that means to us, and who our ancestors are. Otherwise we’re just individualists. We need a sense of being part of something across time. And we also need a sense of being able to say ‘This is my home.’ It doesn’t have to be where you’ve come from, but it’s the place you are, where you’ve said, ‘This is where I’ve put my feet down.’
If you look at that from a non-human perspective, it starts to make a lot more sense. Because you’re not just saying, ‘Where is my human culture? Who are my people?’, arguing about all that endless identity stuff that everybody kills each other about all day. You’re saying, ‘I don’t even necessarily need to be from the place I’m in, but I can pay attention’, to the biotic community of the place you’re in.“
So we want to find it again: the ground under our feet.
With Winterwerft we are once again embarking on a search. And we do it in the way that is close to us and that, we believe, will be decisive if we want to create other stories and other realities: With culture, theater, dance, music, poetry, painting, and all that makes it possible to create encounters and bring people together.
Stumbling, tenderly, wildly and furiously we make an attempt to give voice to those who otherwise remain unheard, precisely because they are not speaking with a human voice. Landscapes, rivers, swarms of bees and fellowships of trees, ghosts and ancestors, trolls and forest spirits.
Together we want to look into the abyss, into the bottomless pit. Get to the bottom of the matter. Put the ear firmly on the belly of the earth, and listen. Explore how it might be done: to stand with both feet firmly on the ground. And then, in this ground, we want to plant a seed.
It takes time until a seed starts sprouting. This is the great challenge of the arts: You want to change the world, but the impact of your actions can not be measured. You have to believe in it. Today, more than ever, we believe in the idea of gathering people around a slow, caring process. Around the fire. On and off a stage. In a rehearsal room.
In an accelerating world, planting a tree has never been such a revolutionary act.
As storytellers, as cultural creators, we see our role, our task and responsibility here. Are you joining us?