Festivals, Presenters and Organizers Should Find New Formats and New Ways of Showing Their Artists’ Work. Reflections after “What is Next” EEA Webinar and street theatre performances on residential roads in Elsinore.
If we’re talking coronavirus and the outdoor arts, there are two perspectives to consider: that of the festival and that of the artist. The timing of the lockdown all over Europe has had a devastating impact on many artists, who are likely to end up losing almost a full year’s work and income. Artists should be helped, supported and compensated for their loss of income.
A good festival should always make plenty of space in which to experiment and grasp at the unknown, providing forms and formats for the artists’ work under the conditions the new reality dictates. In real life, it has been different: almost every street theatre festival scheduled for 2020 has been cancelled, mainly because they have been built up to become institutions themselves.
A liberal former Cultural Minister in Denmark, Bertel Haarder, wrote in “Institutionernes Tyranni” (1974) [“The Tyranny of the Institutions”] that it is much easier to build a new institution than to close one, that institutions have a tendency to build themselves in such a way that they become indispensable.
A festival is not an institution. It should be as easy to close a festival as to found one.
If a festival does not fulfil its purpose to serve the artists and produce high quality art for the people, it should be closed.
Even 150 years ago, Denmark’s most famous critic Georg Brandes (1842-1927) was aware of the danger of institutions. In 1874, The Royal Theatre in Copenhagen built a new theatre at Kongens Nytorv. Brandes was crossing the square and noted the two statues of Denmark’s old national poets Adam Oehlenschläger (1779-1850) and Ludvig Holberg (1684-1754) outside the new building; he found that both statues gave the impression of being “old and settled. One of them is fat the other is weakened by old age. Absolutely no sign of their revolutionary spirit and stunning intellect.”
The statues are still there in the central square in front of The Royal Theatre in Copenhagen.
Meanwhile, inside, Bertel Haarder is now chairman of the board.