Academy – Overcome yourself! Independent theatre between empowerment and self-optimization (2019)

20-23.06 at Ringlokschuppen Ruhr | A co-production of Impulse Theater Festival & Cheers for Fears

The constant reflection and change of one’s own artistic practice and its conditions is an important part of the work of freelance artists and theatre professionals. Today in particular, we can observe how more and more freelance theatre professionals are joining together in collectives and networks in the struggle for better working conditions and opportunities for artistic development, campaigning for the visibility of the scene, systematically criticizing power relations and exclusion mechanisms, engaging in targeted further training, exchanging knowledge, and further developing their signature in mentoring programs and feedback sessions.

This development can be described as the professionalization and self-empowerment of the scene and its actors. At the same time, it can be interpreted as a general optimization tendency at the individual and institutional level. How should we interpret this shift in the history of Independent Theater, which until now has defined itself precisely through its demarcation from ‘the institution’? And is an artistic practice that emerges in competition for funding and program slots still ‘free’ at all? If Independent Theatre, with its continuously producing groups and houses, is increasingly institutionalizing itself today, the question of the direction in which the scene and its structures can be productively changed becomes all the more urgent.

The Academy invited participants to consider the fine line between self-optimization and empowerment through several days of workshops and a conference. How do strategically planned work processes change the way artists see themselves and their work? What are the effects of solidarity-based forms of organization? And what role could Independent Theater play in cultural politics and society in the future? Is it a critical corrective and field of experimentation, or rather a model for the efficient cultural institution of tomorrow?


(c) Björn Stork