Welcome to Oslo Internasjonale Teaterfestival 2021!
Oslo Internasjonale Teaterfestival 2021 is opening precisely one year after the festival stopped last year. In the meantime, the world has changed. Our lives have been deeply impacted, to various degrees depending on one’s context, support and healthcare infrastructure. Many have experienced losses, sickness, anxiety, loneliness. The pandemic has reinforced inequalities and privileges. We have all been trying to adapt to lockdowns and to the ‘stop & go’, enjoying brief moments of release.
A sense of festival feeling
As a new variant of the COVID-19 drives a painful third wave and Oslo is under strict restriction measures, we have decided to maintain the festival through exploring yet available spaces, and by proposing ways of enabling conversations between the artists and the audience while taking responsibility by limiting sanitary risks. Of course, we will miss live experiences. Of course, we will miss the warm vibe in our foyer, the late night discussions, the excitement of being “together here and now”. But hopefully, you may experience a sense of festival feeling, enjoying the intensity of the program and the possibility of a temporary (remote) community.
We need art in times of crisis!
Over the past year, the art field – like many other fields– has been adapting and transforming according to constantly renewed guidelines. The field has been resilient, showing a strong determination to keep on going. To which extent is it possible to adapt, without sidetracking until exhaustion? During the past months, most countries have made the choices to close down cultural life, while maintaining other activities. Art and culture have been demoted. Moreover in Norway, we are facing significant changes in terms of cultural policies that are expected to have a detrimental impact on the field. All this is taking place while extreme right forces are putting artists under threat.
Isn't it precisely in this exact moment that the meaning of having art and culture in our lives, as well as the role of art in society, should be emphasized – and its meaning for our imagination?
I don't see this festival as an act of resistance, but rather as a statement to underline the importance of art and culture – and of the link between artists and audience – in a time when theaters are closed. This festival is an attempt to investigate spaces that are yet available (the digital and the domestic ones among others), with a poetic and transformative approach.
Collaboration is key
In this moment of isolation, where our social contacts have been limited and the situation is ungraspable, I wish to affirm the need for the collective, for co-construction and thinking together. The program of the festival has been elaborated as a patchwork, with many guests who have brought their proposals and works, and gathered around a common question “at the present time, what do we need most?”. Bouncing back and forth on each other's ideas has been a collaborative working method.
I wish to thank all the contributors, artists and partners, for our fruitful, inspirational and heartwarming conversations. Several works and artists embody the notion of sisterhood, as well as relate to solidarity that also carries ambiguity. Solidarity needs to be practiced – and this, again, can lead to change.
At the present time, what do we need most?
The festival leans on feminist, intersectional and queer perspectives. The program presents several works of artists that break silences and investigate political bodies. At the present time, which voices should be heard? This is a question we have been asking ourselves – and now, we invite you to practice listening. Several of the works also invite us to to reflect upon care and to dive into intimacy, sensitive, experiential and sensorial spaces.
An investigation of available spaces
We were hoping to propose more projects for a limited live audience, but the recent restrictions in Oslo have made this impossible. Most of the program will now happen digitally or at home. Still, there is a diversity of formats to watch and experience.
Moreover, some projects carry a physicality – objects or maps that will be delivered at your house. And we are happy to keep international conversations alive, with artists abroad joining in remotely through various formats.
In dialogue with the artists, we have chosen not to stream actual shows per say. The productions we usually present are somatic experiences which deal with the activation of the room, the sound, the proximity with the audience and multilayered expressions. All these elements are impossible to convey with video.
Though being titled “theater festival”, the artistic identity of the festival has always been at the intersection between theater, dance and performances. This year, we affirm even more the cross disciplinary aspect and pay attention to contents rather than mediums.
Choose your own tempo!
A festival is momentum. It usually proposes events and meetings points.
This time, we wish to embark you into another temporality: you are free to choose your own tempo.
Being aware of digital fatigue, the program allows you to make your own selection, to navigate at your own rhythm and to experience various modes of listening. Most of the contents will be available for several days or throughout the festival.
A need for cultural recovery
Last but not least, we deeply thank all the artists who were supposed to be part of the festival. Artists suffer from not having their work visible, from vulnerable economic situations, from rescheduling and adapting constantly, from working on productions and projects that are not shown, not seen, not shared. Witnessing the difficulties, we have proposed a series of interviews about cultural recovery, to mirror how artists at home and abroad experience the present time – and what they need most. Moreover, the festival will enable conversations for the field, by the field.
Our medium is definitely the live experience. I do not intend to propose a substitute to it; but rather to explore – together with the artists, the contributors of the festival, our partners and the team – possibilities to convey a room for artistic voices to be heard in a moment when performing arts and many other activities are being banned. Like the virus, we mutate. Even though the live experience is and remains our medium, I am sure that this festival will bring ways of thinking and sharing that will be transformative in the long run.
See you soon, here and there!
Artistic & General Director
Oslo, 8 March 2021