A place by the fire. Narratives we tell ourselves and the underlying responsibility that derives from them.
A place by the fire is also the theater stage. The ritual of sitting together in a circle while listening and telling stories has existed and shaped culture since the earliest days of mankind. It is indeed birthplace of ritual, of dance and of song.
The winter season is particularly inviting to summon up this image. Nights are long and dark, allowing the line between us and other worlds to become thinner so we can dare to take a glance. This is essential for the Winterwerft. Theater requires a space that enables the mind to go beyond these boundaries.
A handful of these stories drive our modern society since we successfully internalized it’s narratives. As an example, consider the story of “growth and progress”: keep in mind this story includes multiple variables such as religion, economics, mysticism, and science. With the common denominator being the assumption that we as humankind have overcome nature and our animal roots; that we are capable of conquering and mastering Nature, to which we no longer belong, and that this achievement will bring us prosperity and infinite growth. It is the story of human centrosyncrasy, which exists above and beyond the limitations and necessities of all other species. And what makes this storyline even more dangerous, is the fact that people have forgotten that this is, in fact, just a story. A story that that we told to ourselves so many times, that we began to believe it, till the point that our society is now convinced that it is the only true story, the only possible story.
But by following this narrative of unlimited growth and endless exploitation of finite resources, more and more questions arise about the morality and sustainability of this story. But this story appears now to be reaching the limits of its credibility. The obvious dangers and consequences are now reaching the midst of our society. Agitation, concern and uncertainty are spreading. But there are also many other places where ideas, visions and solutions are being sought with a great deal of creativity and commitment. There is an enormous amount of potential to turn this around and make a positive change in our world. The Winterwerft is a theater and cultural festival that consciously embraces the role of the artist as a storyteller, by not only creating a space on stage for the expression of criticism, grief, and uncertainty, but also by exploring the possibilities for action in a collaborative creative process.
The Winterwerft, seeks to create a space where reflection and exploration can thrive. Is there a different story? A story told from a different angle and perspective, away from that of our own and our society? The Winterwerft provides a space to listen to these stories told through the means of theater, physical theater, dance. But also along classical storytellers, scientists, researchers, musicians and poets.
Long time ago, as the first anthropoid ape got up in two feet, sowhere in the African savannah and decided to step away from the shelter provided by trees, it was hard to imagine where this one step would lead us.
Some may even claim that this is when it all began, the Anthropocene, the rule of the bipeds. Step by step, in the truest sense of the word, the earliest ancestors of Homo Sapiens ventured out of the undergrowth of world history – initially on the run. A lot speaks for the fact that at that time we served largely as cat food – but by the time we learned to tame fire, at the latest, the tables turned and the hunted monkey became the hunter, perhaps the most deadly hunter in history.
At the same time, it is astonishing that we were successful in the first place.
It was simply our ability to sweat, which enabled us to walk for long periods of time despite the heat, so we could literally run large animals to death, cause then, just before heat exhaustion, a well-aimed shot of a spear did the trick – Even until the 1970s, the San hunted this way for the most part. If you ever witnessed the hordes of joggers running by the Main riverbank, keep this picture in mind. We became big runners.
Furthermore, the imitation of animals and their typical movements used for communication, after and during the hunt, probably played a substantial role in the development of dances, rituals and even rhythm.
There are many other interesting details and facts about the history of mankind to talk about – undoubtedly – but this should not get out of hand here. Although, these details should be helpful in the process of de-articulation.
Because if at the Winterwerft we would only be concerned with where we stand at the moment as mankind – then we would be taking ourselves as humans, in our superiority, our isolation and our role as masters as way too important. Instead we can embrace this details as apportunities to look at things from a different perspective and broaden our horizon: In length, width, height and pace. Ultimately, it seems that we are not even that far away from our closest relatives – not yet.
We even share more genetic material with earthworms and mayflies than we would like to admit. And on the subject of isolation: the number of microbes and bacilli alone, which are essential for our survival and keep our body’s systems functioning, run into the thousands. technically, we wouldn’t be alone. At all.
So what induces this brute arrogance with which we are plundering and destroying more and more ecosystems? Or to such uncertainty that we do not prevent it?
We do not want to join the ranks of the cultural pessimists, but we also do not want to shy away from uncomfortable questions. This text alone is teeming with generalizations, which are of course dangerous: there is talk of “us” and “mankind” – yet certainly it was not always all mankind that thought to be reasonable against all reason, and thought to act humanly against all humanity. There have always been exceptions of people and communities who have managed to exist more or less sustainably and more or less peacefully with the environment. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of them anymore….
So what can, may and should culture do? Once again, deliberately and without generalization, the purpose of the Winterwerft is – to ask questions.
It is certainly a festival that seeks to raise far more questions than we will be able to find answers to. In particular, we want to be wary of easy answers, the much-loved all-too-easy ones.
Watching, listening, being analog, being here, being together. This is at least part of our proposal to address our cultural role. Also listening, taking in, and not forgetting how to smile. Remembering.
Our ability to change says a great deal about our capacity for empathy. Without claiming that we will ever be able to understand another sentient being, an animal for example, in it’s entirety, we can definetly try to persuit deeper connections than just food and consumer – and this, this teaches us memory, over many millennia. Venture to step away and step up. But also crawl, roll, jump, sneak – or just remain seated for a while. Changing the range of vision, exploring the depth of generations.
We’re not a political party and we do not follow a political agenda. We can – and must – allow ourselves to make mistakes, as well as to propose and reject daring ideas and thesis. At the end of the day, we are always allowed to push forward our artistic freedom. We are curious and concerned – and as a matter of fact, we also ask ourselves, how are we going to explain this or that to our children …
Already a good dozen helpers and friends from all over the world have gathered here. Our wingspan stretches from Chile to Malaysia. People who didn’t know each other over a week ago, are now building yurts together, setting up a whole theater, working hard and fooling around.
No easy answers.
Julian Böhme (protagon e. V.)