On September 17, Robert Wilson’s theater production of OEDIPUS opened the MITEM Festival in Budapest, whose general director is Attila Vidnyánszky, who was also instrumental in destroying the independence of the SZFE University last year on behalf of the Orbán government. While other cultural actors refused to tour again to the MITEM Festival, Wilson did not want to cancel the OEDIPUS tour to Budapest, as he believes that isolating the Hungarian audience is not a good way for him to express his criticism of the government’s actions. Instead, he is going to publish a statement, voicing his dissenting opinion and expressing solidarity and (financial and symbolic) support for the #FreeSZFE initiative.
The Czech Supreme Court decided in the last instance about two controversial performances from the Brno National Theatre and the Centre for Experimental Theatre. Prague’s Cardinal Dominik Duka had demanded an apology from both theatres for two productions from 2018 by Croatian director Oliver Frljić, “Condemnation” and “Our Violence and Your Violence”. Duka felt his personal rights violated since the plays had dealt with child abuse by priests and the relationship of Western society to Islamic society. The Court dismissed Duka’s appeal and decided that the plays had not been discriminatory against Christians, nor had they interfered with the right to freedom of belief.
The newly formed FREESZFE association announces that European universities will form partnerships to save the degrees of about 150 SZFE students. The Theater and Film University in Budapest (SZFE) has been occupied by its student last year to protest against the loss of independence and academic freedom (see ACAR post). The diploma rescue program “Emergency Exit ” will be supported by the University Mozarteum Vienna, the University of Performing Arts in Ludwigsburg (Akademie für Darstellende Kunst in Baden-Württemberg) the puppetry department of the Akademia Teatralna im. Aleksandra Zelwerowicza) at Bialystok and the Swiss Academy of Drama (Accademia Teatro Dimitri). They agreed to take over fourteen SZFE classes and will recognize the credits they have earned so far. As the epidemiological situation worsened, the association switched to a digital work schedule: courses are held online, projects are developed without physical contact.
The long-term plan is to acquire a building with the help of donations and a foundation and to establish a private democratically run university with an international profile.
The Victoria & Albert Museum in London have decided to close the department of Theatre and Performance as part of a massive organisational remodelling of the structure of the museum. The department is one of the largest and most important resources for theatre and performance heritage worldwide. ITI’s partner organisation SIBMAS, the International Association of Libraries, Museums, Archives and Documentation Centres of the Performing Arts has startet a petition to stop the decision until the end of March, when the internal consultation ends.
“At a time, when the Performing Arts have been so badly damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, this national collection should be given more support to protect the past and record the present in order to inform future generations. This is a serious threat to the history of the British live performing arts. The collection is a vital educational and research resource on an international level.” says Alan Jones, SIBMAS President.
The European Theatre Convention (ETC) stresses, that “the theatre ‘production jam’ effect— caused by postponing or cancelling an entire season of performances—will all but eradicate the time and space for young artists to perform, direct, and develop on Europe’s stages for the next 3-5 years.” The time and space for work that is still in development will be drastically squeezed. “This means that there will be less access for young creatives to stage new work, or to step up from their studies into creation…. We risk creating a ‘lost generation’ of young artists, who are unable to develop and grow as normal.” says the statement on behalf of 44 publicly funded theatres around Europe.
Representatives of major cultural and research institutions in Germany, among them ITI Germany, the Goethe Institute, and the House of World Cultures, published a jouint statement related to the German constitution, article 5.3 – where freedom of art and science is granted. The group criticises culture boycott demands like those coming from the BDS movement against Israel as well as the anti BDS resolution of the German parliament to exclude critical voices from the public discourse. The group states: “We share a mandate from the state to promote arts and culture, historical research and democratic education and to make these accessible to the general public. Toward this end, we rely on a public sphere that welcomes controversial debates in accordance with the norms of the German constitution. At the center of our initiative lies a common struggle against antisemitism, racism, right-wing extremism and any form of violent religious fundamentalism.”
More than 1.400 artists, academics and cultural workers from Germany, or working with German partners in arts and science, have signed an open letter to support the initiative.