Tarun Kadecuratorial director, for the team of Tangente St. Pölten – Festival for Contemporary Culture
It was a day in July 2023 at the former Glanzstoff site in St. Pölten that gave me a sense of what could really make Tangente a festival for contemporary culture.
I had been working for the festival for just over two months at that point. Christoph Gurk, until shortly before artistic director of the Tangente and a long-time colleague at the Kammerspiele in Munich, had brought me to St. Pölten. Now his involvement in this project had come to an end and I had taken on the exciting, responsible and also quite demanding task of further developing and bringing together the concept and programme designed by him and his team.
This week the second edition of the Tangente Stadtprojekte (city projects) summer programme was coming up. The Stadtprojekte are something like the heart of the festival. With the aim of creating sustainable connections, the curators Magdalena Chowaniec, Muhammet Ali Baş and Andi Fränzl have been working on connecting Tangente with the city for over two years. To this end, they organise discussion formats such as the“ Kulturdialog” (cultural dialogue) or events, gatherings, food and art as part of the series “Neue Freundschaften” (new friendships). The summer programme was one such initiative of “Neue Freundschaften”. For one week, “The Villa”, which had originally been the home of the brother of the Glanzstoff company founder, was declared a cultural centre for the district. For example, there were a mosaic workshop for families, hip-hop workshops and a barbecue with karaoke. Everything free of charge.
On the day of the barbecue, the Berlin artist Markus Selg was a guest in St. Pölten to prepare the site-specific installation “Wasteland”, which I hoped he would realise together with the director Susanne Kennedy in the summer of 2024 on the derelict land behind the former Glanzstoff factory. In the past, the spinning mill had been located here, Selg and Kennedy called it the “temple”. With the help of an augmented reality app, the artist had a creature fly through the “temple” that he had developed from the seeds of a magnolia fruit growing on the Glanzstoff site using artificial intelligence. On the smartphone screen, the reality of the industrial ruin expanded before my eyes to include natural phenomena and virtual worlds. Through this superimposition of past, present and future, of virtual and physical reality the works by Susanne Kennedy and Markus Selg touch on the festival themes of ecology and memory in a surprising way.
It had started to rain again. Hungry, we walked over to where music and voices could be heard, to the Villa. There, the curators of the city projects, together with a man introduced to me as “Markus, our helping hand”, were at the grill preparing meat, sausages, halloumi and vegetables for the waiting queue of children, parents, artists and team members. In the courtyard, children played football or drew pictures with chalk on the ground. Until a few years ago, the Villa was – as the people of St. Pölten know – a pub with a beer garden. Markus told us that over five years ago he had celebrated his wedding here. Now he was happy to return to the place of this memory, which was so important to him, to help make the summer programme a success. I sat down with a group of people at a beer bench under the impressively old copper beech tree and began to eat. You could taste that the curators’ central expertise was not so much in preparing barbecue food for larger groups, but mainly in creating social situations. I was obviously in one of those at the moment.
Next to me sat the artist Tuğba Şimşek, who had just led the mosaic studio for families with children. She asked Markus Selg about his practice (“immersive theatre and media art”), the contexts in which he otherwise shows his work (“together with Susanne Kennedy lately mainly Volksbühne Berlin, Wiener Festwochen, Festival d’Avignon”), the themes of his work (“new rituals, virtual reality, nature as stage”). I asked Tuğba Şimşek questions about her work. Şimşek told me about her exhibition “Ramba Zamba” at Kunstverein Grafschaft Bentheim, where she had laid out coloured chalk and the visitors could help design the walls of the exhibition space. Another day, I researched on the internet that she has been documenting the time of creation of each of her works with chalk since February 19th, 2020, the day of the racially motivated attack in Hanau, where a man murdered nine people.
Later, when the rain had started coming down in buckets, there was karaoke in the Villa. Pop songs in Turkish, German, Persian, Arabic and English.
“To dance in the alleys / For fear when kissing / For my sister, your sister, our sisters.” I got an umbrella from our production manager Anna Sonntag, checked on Markus Selg, who had by now wandered off to his “temple” again, and we got into a taxi. A few days later, the production “Wasteland” was confirmed.
On that day at the “Glanzstoff”, Tangente became visible, tangible and palpable for me – in the encounter of people from different social and cultural backgrounds who come together through art and culture to engage with the conditions of our communal life.
As Markus Weidmann-Krieger, Martha Keil and Boriana Karapanteva-Strasser do, told in the portraits that journalist Solmaz Khorsand has written for this programme book. As a landscaper in the Sonnenpark, as the director of the Institute for Jewish History in Austria and as a teacher in the Eybnerstraße school centre, they help shape the environment, culture of remembrance and democratic coexistence in St. Pölten. Not only in the context of a festival, but as the centre of their biographies.
In the four large photo series in this book, further perspectives on the contents of the Tangente are presented. It’s about global politics and local microcosms, it’s about grass-roots initiatives and large corporations, it’s about music, theatre, discourse and communities, it’s about history, present and future, it’s about St. Pölten, Austria and the world. It is about the entire picture.
After all, that wars are being waged again in Europe, that natural disasters are driving countless people from their homes, that right-wing nationalist parties are trying to bring people’s economic and ecological fears into the service of inhuman ideologies – these are the things we deal with anew every day. Debates about migration, climate protection and democracy polarise societies. In Austria and the world.
Tangente is a festival dedicated to the present. The present is the “Tipping Time” when it is important to shape the future. Tangente is concerned with the question of how we can regain leeway for acting and shaping in this present. And it is itself an attempt to do exactly that. It would never have existed without the great joint effort of many citizens of the city of St. Pölten for the application for the European Capital of Culture 2024 and is therefore also a festival for and in cooperation with many people, institutions and stories of St. Pölten.
My thanks go to the artistic advisory board, Bettina Masuch, Constanze Eiselt from the Festspielhaus St. Pölten and Marie Rötzer from the Landestheater Niederösterreich, for the cross-institutional co-creation. My thanks go to Roland Risy and Thomas Pulle of the Stadtmuseum and all local cooperation paretners. My thanks go to Christoph Gurk, who as artistic director has developed and shaped Tangente. And of course to the entire Tangente St. Pölten team.
I am looking forward to the art parcours “The Way of the Water” curated by Joanna Warsza with Lorena Moreno Vera. More than 20 artists from all over the world are creating new works in collaboration with St. Pölten’s water bodies, the Traisen and the Mühlbach. “The Way of the Water” is open to the public free of charge throughout the entire festival. Just as all fine art initiated by Tangente is freely accessible in public space. The sculptural interventions on Domplatz by Christian Philipp Müller and Mariana Castillo Deball as well as the participatory “Stadt-Galerie” (city gallery) in vacant lots and showcases.
I am looking forward to spectacular co-productions at the Festspielhaus such as the opera “Justice” by Milo Rau, Hèctor Parra and Fiston Mwanza Mujila with the Tonkünstler orchestra, Philippe Quesne’s work “Der Garten der Lüste” (the garden of delights) which was celebrated at the Festival d’Avignon, the Ruhrtriennale and in Athens, as well as new productions by dance innovators Crystal Pite, Jeremy Nedd and Kyle Abraham.
I am looking forward to the international co-productions developed at the Landestheater St. Pölten with the Dutch collective Wunderbaum and the Iranian director Amir Reza Koohestani as well as the guest performances by the Polish director Marta Górnicka and the Argentinean Lola Arias.
I am looking forward to seeing unfamiliar perspectives at the theatre for forests and meadows “Shared Landscapes”, the children’s play “Super Farm” by Saeborg at the Jahnturnhalle and the wrestling show “Kampf um die Stadt” (battle for the city) at the same venue.
I am excited about new Tangente productions like “X-Erinnerungen”, “Nichts als Schule” (nothing but school) by Anita Lackenberger or Tania Bruguera’s “Many Ones”.
I want to broaden my horizon at the climate conference “Tipping Time” in cooperation with GLOBART and Solektiv in the Sonnenpark, at the remembrance conference “Erinnerungsbedarf” in cooperation with the Institute for Jewish History of Austria and the Coalition for Pluralistic Public Discourse and at the youth rally “Listen Now” with many local and supra-regional alliances, initiatives, associations from the field of youth work and above all with young people.
I am looking forward to being surprised in the series “Orgel Experimentell” (organ experimental) by Kali Malone, John Zorn and Elisabeth Schimana as well as at the music mini festivals “Alien Disko”, “StadtLandFluss” (Categories) and “Working Class”. I will let myself be carried away by the great concerts at Domplatz.
I hope you will join our critical editorial team KREDO, Teresa Distelberger’s dialogue play “about home”, our “Songriting Call” (musik.stp), the “Visionale” or the women*’s dance project.
I am happy to work with local cooperation partners such as KinderKunstLabor, Bühne im Hof, Stadtmuseum, KulturhauptSTART, Blätterwirbel or Freiraum.
I look forward to all the smaller and larger programme items that have not made it into this book. Information about them is always available up to date at tangente-st-poelten.at.
I look forward to many talks over food, drinks and music in the Festivalzentrum on Linzer Straße, that is being created by the architecture collective Biennale Urbana (BUrb) in collaboration with local and international partners.
I look forward to follow with you along the tracks that art will lay out for us. To the short moments of joy we share and to the long-lasting irritations of the moment!