«Why Festivals III»
Statement in the discussion
by Thomas Oberender
«The question why we have this increasing number of festivals is for me one of the main points. It is difficult to explain why we find new festivals every year in a situation in which everyone has less money. The less money we have, the more festivals there are—this is a curious development.
There is a reason why this should be so. It is a reaction to the general social development of our society. In a time when capitalism becomes more and more rigid, liberalization forces us to explore our own capital as a human much more intensively. Society is losing more and more its shared unity through religion, tradition and values. In this situation festivals provide a kind of substitute for what we have lost in society and give us something in common with other people, but in smaller circle and a more fluid way. In a way, the entire society is becoming more fluid and in this process festivals are an expression of a contemporary awareness of life. Festivals are not forever, but for a certain time they are important. I think that people like this feeling that they feel assured by a very clearly defined issue.
On the other hand, festivals have a kind of spirit similar to social networks. You have a very high level of excitement about something that is over the next day. It is also, in these contemporary times, a good point to remember that festivals are very good tools in a world that is changing so fast. It is difficult for us today to develop something like the political positions that our grandfathers found it easier to describe in the past. I think there is a new kind of policy process behind that and it is as a part of this social development that makes festivals more attractive for society.
It is worth speaking about the risks that are related to festivals. Festivals are easy tools for politicians, because they can end tomorrow. It is easier to kill a festival than a 100-year-old orchestra or museum. In the time of capitalism festivals are an interesting tool for politicians and also for large companies, because they can stop the money for festivals if they are no longer interesting. This is the value of festivals in that they are insecure as a structure. This is an attraction of festivals, but it also presents dangers.
As the head of the organization of the Berliner Festspiele, I have already discontinued one festival and founded another. In a way it is natural process, but sometimes it becomes a dangerous process, especially if the economic situation is the reason for making decisions that destroy cultural heritage. I want to answer your question in a different way; maybe it would be a good way to summarize the value of festivals.
When the wall came down in Berlin, for several days and weeks afterwards the people all over Germany were full of smiles, because they were touched by a movement that was bigger than the things that ordinarily happened in their daily lives. I think that sometimes very good festivals can have the same effect. They unify and they let us experience that there is something more that is important in our lives—joy and experience—things that you cannot buy in any shop. It is good that we get tax money to do this.
When Germany won the recent World Cup we were able to feel that we were Germans together in a good way, not in a bad, nationalist way, which was something that we had been frightened of before. When former Chancellor Willy Brandt fell to his knees in Poland in the 1960s he gave a sign to the world that the Germans regretted what had happened during the war. It took much longer for the German nation as a whole to begin Germans started to embark on a new life as a democracy that is no longer in fear of falling back on bad old times.
To hold the Olympic Games in Japan could provide a big opportunity to have a new experience of what Japan is in the world and what Japan is to the Japanese themselves.»
Culture and Social Innovation: Tokyo Conference 2014 »Cities of Cultural Creativity and Festivals”, November 7, 2014 /
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