The first “FRAGILE – Festival for young changemakers” on the theme of sustainability took place at the Wuppertal Schauspielhaus and future Pina Bausch Centre from 20 September to 1 October 2023. It featured an exciting line-up of international dance, music and theatre productions, the GRUNCHY VILLA and the project Symbiosen by raumlaborberlin and Raul Walch. An accompanying programme of enriching “humus” events included the bicycle repair workshop Mirker Schrauba, lessons in how to build insect hotels and opportunities for upcycling.
Wuppertal welcomed around 90 international guests for the festival, who arrived from countries such France, Argentina, Italy, Mali, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, Togo, Rwanda, Spain, Chile, Belgium and Germany. In different ways, they all reflected on the theme of sustainability – from an ecological, economic or social perspective. The Schauspielhaus and its forecourt were transformed into a public forum, where many people participated in discussions about values, new perspectives and questions of global responsibility. To conclude the FRAGILE festival, an apple tree was planted near the Schauspielhaus as part of Performance 4 Future’s initiative 7000 Setzlinge (7000 seedlings). Bettina Milz, the director of the preparatory phase of the Pina Bausch Centre, says: “We reached a wonderful intergenerational audience. The school performances in the mornings were full, playing to very diverse groups of young people and many different school groups, including from vocational colleges and the JEKITS-programme at the music school. 15 young people from the Pina-Bausch-Gesamtschule acted as Young Change Watchers, accompanying all productions, moderating the post-show talks with huge professionalism and documenting their experience with pictures and collages.” The productions presented in the festival were selected by a jury which included members of Fridays for Future Wuppertal as well as the curators Melanie Zimmermann, Tobias Staab and Bettina Milz. The festival was supported by the German Federal Cultural Foundation’s fund “Zero – Climate Neutral Art and Culture Projects”. Co-funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media. Additional sponsors: the Ministry of Culture and Science of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Goethe-Institut and the Sparkasse Wuppertal. The Pina Bausch Centre is a project by the City of Wuppertal, co-funded by the State of North-Rhine Westphalia and the German Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, in collaboration with the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch and the Pina Bausch Foundation.
The response from the audience was very positive and also emotional. This was particularly evident in the enthusiastic audience reaction to the very young dancers of Compagnie Dumanlé from Abidjan, who performed their piece Sacred Forest on a six-metre-high circus rig on the forecourt of the Schauspielhaus, telling the story of an endangered sacred forest through urban dance, circus and acrobatics. The beauty of the forest and the important role it plays in our lives were also at the centre of another piece, the audio walk through the Barmer Wald :hearing the unknown by studio s:o:m. The festival’s opening performance by Michèle Noiret from Belgium combined dance and film to celebrate the fragility and peculiarity of insects. The giant crocheted coral reef in the production Organismo, by company Maraña and choreographer Paula Riquelme Orbenes, delighted audience members of all generations. The Afro-futurist production PL3MONS by the young Belgian company around Younes van der Broeck and Ramos Sama featured parasitic extraterrestrial creatures that take over our world in the future and find a host in plastic to wreak havoc and destruction on Earth. In Kolochi Baw, the Pina Bausch Fellow Aïda Colmenero Dïaz and the Cameroonian bio-architect Angel Fulla reflected on some of humanity’s greatest architectural achievements, inspired by the story of the construction of the Djenné Mosque in Mali, the world’s largest mud building in the Sudanese-Sahelian architectural style.
The forum on sustainability was a much-visited part of the festival. The pavilion Symbiosen by raumlaborberlin, which was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2021, revitalised the public square in front of the Schauspielhaus. With the support of AWG Abfallwirtschaftsgesellschaft Wuppertal, an international team of around 20 artists and architects built a pavilion out of discarded timber and bulky waste. The central questions in this process were: What is a resource, what is waste, how do we value materials? The Grunchy Villa became a space for workshops and pre- and post-performance talks, where people also came together to paint chairs or create bags from old tarpaulins. Susann Tonne transformed old clothes into large beanbags, using a weaving loom made from the spokes of old bicycle wheels. Dr Holger Kreft from Scientists4Future playfully explored the theme of sustainability through a game of musical chairs. The Food-Sharing-Station and Clothes Swap were also very popular. And last but not least, there was lots of dancing, facilitated by Wuppertal DJs Miss Mush Mush and Greta!
The Community Space offered a programme of films and materials from the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy to reflect, inspire and relax. Video installations showed footage from the projects Vintage Dance by Annika Kompart and Letters from Wuppertal, the documentation of a Tanzrauschen workshop with the choreographer Jo Parkes.
The Pina Bausch Centre will be an inviting and highly sustainable contemporary arts centre that is open all day to welcome a broad range of people. Its sustainability strategy is being developed in collaboration with the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy and the Szenografie-Bund. The new festival FRAGILE – for young changemakers was an important step on the way – for young people and all generations. The next edition of the festival will take place in September 2024.
Fotos ©: Caroline Schreer