The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Presenter Interview
Berlin’s HAU as an epicenter of the performing arts — What’s the ideas behind its aim to “Create friction in the world?”
Berlin’s HAU as an epicenter of the performing arts — What’s the ideas behind its aim to “Create friction in the world?”
What is the underlying concept running through the HAU programming as a whole? I have heard the words “a hysterical longing for reality.” Is that the theme?
I think it is boring if you believe that theater has to be based on a particular kind of performance or has to always involve internalized artistic process. For me it is important that theater attempt to make some kind of statement about reality or connect to reality, or put forth a debate about it.
 The expression “a hysterical longing for reality” is one that was born when I began working on the X-Wohnungen project. What this project attempted to do was to create a conflict between the people who lived in a building or the condition of the rooms in an apartment and the director’s artistic approach. At the same time, there was the aim of freeing the works from the theater environment. And, with regard to the term “a hysterical longing for reality,” can say that it is indeed a concept that runs through all the HAU programming.
 Also, there are the terms reality theater and documentary theater. Since 20 years ago, Hans-Werner Kroesinger had been writing quite dry documentary theater. Then there is Rimini Protokoll, who create works that explore realities that are unknown to us by putting real people on stage. When we add X-Wohnungen to these two, we see that documentary theater certainly has an important place in HAU’s activities. But that is not all we do.

What do you try to communicate to your audience through these types of works?
I don’t really know. At the very least, what we are trying to do is to make things that can be differentiated when seen from the outside. Especially, in may case, I want to see us put things out there that are unknown, or that involve issues that still incomprehensible. I am interested in bringing focus on problems that the society has not expected. I am not interested in taking issues that I already know about and making a statement on them.

Why do you wish to see reality in theater works so strongly? What is it about documentary theater that interests you so much?
For someone born and raised in Germany, theater has always been deeply involved in ideology or the collapse of ideology. When thinking about ideology, the important thing is to have a grasp of reality and researching the nature of the realities we are confronted with. The important thing is to grasp realities and put them in forms that can be seen.
 The project “Foreigners out! Schlingensiefs Container” created by director Christoph Schlingensief was one where he put actually foreign exiles seeking political asylum in a shipping container set up in the square next to the Vienna National Opera House and allowed spectators to peek in at the process of selecting those among the exiles who were to be deported. This was done as an extreme version of the popular reality TV program Big Brother that broadcasts footage of people living on closed quarters 24 hours a day. I abhor works that present reality just as it is, or naturalism. I believe that we rediscover reality when it is put into mechanisms or film, for example the video images in games.

Could you tell us about what projects HAU will be undertaking in the near future?
We will continue our projects on the theme of immigrants. We are thinking about projects with the Vietnamese and Arab communities. In September, we are having general elections in German, so we are taking this occasion to run performances of a work on post-democracy and hold discussions. The theme is the hollowing out of democracy with the behind-the-scenes activities of lobbyists. It may be the same in Japan, but in Germany the people are losing interest in politics and elections and in fact it is mostly the media that is playing out the campaigns by remote control. The work to be performed is Rimini Protokoll’s Wallenstein. This is a work in which politicians who have actually run for office in regional elections will appear. We will also invite the British political scientist Colin Crouch who promotes post-democratic thought for lectures and an installation project.

You also have a festival that programs cross-over works, video and dance works. Can you tell us something about the contents?
As a cross-over project involving multiple genre, we did a project with a group of unemployed architects called Traumlabor (dream lab). This project involved flooding part of the former East German “Palace of the Republic” (Diet building) and having visitors paddle through the building in inflatable boats. It was a joint project between Sophiensaele and HAU and it ran for six months. Could we do it in Japan’s Diet Building too? (Laughs)
 For the festivals we usually have a theme. In the festival held in June the theme is family structure and immigrants and child education. It tells stories about the system in which poor immigrants are used for educating children and stories of some families. The title is “Your nanny hates you.” It deals with the situation where wealthy North American families hire poor South American women as nannies to care for their children and the way these women work hard far from home and send as much as they can back to their families. In this way, we set a different theme for each festival. But we avoid the common pattern of inviting a selection of the best works from a given region or country and instead do research into subcultures in search of leads.

You also have regularly held festivals.
For dance we have our Tanz im August festival and our Brazil Festival. We also have one involving Poland. We would also like to have a yearly Japan festival as well. (Laughs)

I understand that HAU is the center of an independent art scene, but are there other similar centers in Berlin?
We sometimes do collaborations with public theaters, such as works by Johan Simons with Munich Kammerspiele, but that is the exception rather than the rule. HAU is indeed the center of an independent art scene. As for other such centers, there is the Sophiensaele for theater, DOCK 11 for dance and RADIALSYSTEM V for early music and contemporary music performance.
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