65th Festival d'Avignon
6-26 July 2011
While preparing this edition, we went back to the letter addressed to old Europe, that we had commissioned from Jacques Derrida as an opening for the Théâtre des idées cycle, in July 2004. In this letter he questioned Europe addressing it in a familiar tone: "I see in you the 'old new Europe,' a Europe that has kept its memories, both good and bad, the luminous and the dark. The luminous basically refers to the idea of philosophy and democracy (...), the Enlightenment and even what is called, in a rather questionable way, 'secularisation.' Let it also keep its gloomy memory, the memory of all the crimes that it has committed throughout history and in its name; all those forms of hegemony, of colonialism, and during the last century, all the European totalitarianism monstrosities: fascism, Nazism, Stalinism. My hope is that your two memories, and especially the awareness and regret that followed what I call your 'gloomy' memory, will help you, my new 'old Europe', take a path that only you can open up today. (...) This change, of course, implies a 'new European political culture. (...) I believe that a desire to involve the heart, the body, the existence and even the affect of the citizens of this new Europe is necessary. A sense of belonging must emerge and a certain European affect must support this new anti-globalization policy. Because (...) I wish to witness the advent of a resolutely anti-globalization Europe, which would put all its strength to serve as a social and cultural model..."
These words are as relevant as ever and remind us how much we must keep faith in the fact that the worst is not always bound to happen and that, despite the rising appeal of nationalism in Europe, artists, researchers and thinkers still believe in our ability to radically change society. The Arab revolutions have shown us how much peoples are longing for freedom.
Democracy is at the heart of the changes taking place in the world today, and it was born at the same time as theatre. The Festival d'Avignon has been aware of it since its creation in 1947, when France was developing a new model of society initiated by the National Council of the Resistance, instituting for instance a public service for arts and culture. A public service that each individual can appropriate and that therefore belongs to everyone. A forum for individual development and emancipation, in which contradiction has its place as long as it follows rules shared by everyone; a place where we can learn to talk, to listen to one another, to doubt, to dream, to think, to be free and live together.
This is the challenge of modernity; a modernity that draws its strength from memory and that we try to reinvent every year through the artistic creations we propose. We are driven by this intention - and will still be for the next three editions - and also by our project to build a rehearsal and residence centre in Monclar for the Festival d'Avignon. This new phase in the history of the Festival, that will provide it an essential working tool to confront the future and remain a place for artistic adventure, will also give us the opportunity to rethink the symbolic and solidarity role of art. In fact, with this new venue that will open in 2013, we will become the inhabitants of an area of the town marked by a great social and cultural diversity, and find our own way of taking part in its life. With this project, the two founding principles Jean Vilar established when he created the Festival d'Avignon - creation and focus on a wide public - will be associated in the most accurate way.
This 65th edition was conceived in a dialogue with Boris Charmatz who is primarily a dancer. He is a dancer when he interprets or improvises and when he choreographs, disrupting the usual codes and boundaries of dance to put the body in intense or unexpected states, a concrete and poetic writing. He is also a committed artist who sets himself in motion to question in a different way the creative process, both the artist and the spectator's part, the performance venues and places for sharing.
During this Festival, the major existential questions will ring out once again: questions that haunt the theatrical tragic figures, underlying in the historical destinies embodied on our stages through the work of authors, directors and actors; questions expressed through the authors' words and through the language of choreographed bodies. Movement will be at the centre of the presented works, but also transgression of desire, transmission, the experience of childhood and its conflicting relationships with our society, our own relationship to forgetting and denial.
Standing upright to experience joys and disasters, growing up, setting ourselves in motion, resisting reactionary or demagogic temptations, either individually or collectively: we sincerely wish all these elements will be part of the energy of this edition.
Hortense Archambault and Vincent Baudriller
Avignon, 19 April 2011