The love of all that is possible

Revolution isn't a solitary activity. Major changes and revolutions are always the results of collective forces helped by the wind of history, but how can we live when that wind has abated? How can we live when politics is hopeless, when it has forgotten the future? When ideas are deemed worthless and the social body is torn apart and scared, when it has been silenced? How can one lead a dignified life when politics has been reduced to political machinations? When revolution is no longer possible, there remains the theatre. There utopias wait for better days, creative forces can still invent a new tomorrow, and wishes for peace and equity aren't just empty words. When Hamlet sees that revolution is impossible, he calls on the theatre to stage a dramatic revolution in which everything is still possible, if only we can bring back the desire of those days when the future seemed limitless.

The theatre is where the lifeblood of change on the scale of the individual is preserved. When politics cannot but inspire despair, the theatre invents a political hope that isn't just symbolic but also exemplary, emblematic, incarnate, necessary. Politics is too beautiful a thing for us to relinquish it to politicians who only care about their own class privilege. And the first sign that politicians no longer care about politics is always their withdrawal from the cultural realm. Yes, culture is unquantifiable, and its necessity is so much more important than its supposed economic legitimacy that it cannot be understood by those men who don't know what hope means.

This political despair won't prevent us from still believing in the future. To believe in the future when historical forces say you shouldn't might be the best definition of what culture is. Because politics isn't the cold management of economic realities, but the practical application of our love for the moment and for others.

Our duty is to resist, to insist. It is our duty to future generations, because millennial cultures can be washed away and forgotten in one generation's time. We have to insist, because there cannot be a future for politics without culture. Education is the beginning of culture, and culture is the continuation of education; we have to insist, because the link between generations can only exist through culture, and is one of the foundations of society. And we have no need for gods if we believe in transcendence through community and learn to apply this principle in our daily lives.

When Jean Vilar came up with the idea of a pact between artists and the republic, he knew he was opening a sanctuary to utopian wills, to meetings of differences, and to the love of all that is possible.

We insist, with intellectual rigor, with trust in the intelligence of the public, with the engagement of the artist, with the conscience of the poet. We desire more than anything that the sad spectacle of the world and of our impotence find a rebuttal on the stage, a rebuttal made of wonder and bravery.

The space of the theatre is in itself a representation of society; one need only look at the splendid agora of the Cour du Palais des papes to picture a more beautiful version of our society and find there the architecture of hope. In Avignon, we deny fatality. The public, with its fervour and spiritual thirst, responds to all determinisms with a burning desire for the unknown, for what isn't prescribed. Of course we can't know what's coming... Culture is different from erudition, which only thinks it knows, from material analysis, which claims to know, and from the false authority of pragmatism, which affirms it knows.

To be political is to believe in mankind. Artists give us good reasons to do so, they make themselves the voice of the people by denying a world that would be devoid of meaning, by reminding us that wonder and hope are a choice.

Yes, we insist, if those in power no longer believe in culture, then they no longer believe in the sovereignty of the people. That is what Jean Vilar came to Avignon to say, and what we will tirelessly say again throughout this 70th edition of the Festival.

Olivier Py