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La Strada (Graz, Austria)

Werner Schrempf

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    2020, A festival in four movements.

    "20th century modern art has done a very, very good job. What job?
Opening people's eyes.
What could have been better than that?
But now we must turn our attention
to other things, and these things are social.“
    John Cage

    Much has been said and written about the importance of art in times of crisis and about the sudden and unexpected creative power of artists under adverse circumstances. The following seems essential to me in my function as artistic director, as "Intendant" of an internationally active festival - and I would like to take it literally here: lat. intendere "to take a path, to turn in one direction" - to pick up the thread again, to collect the scattered pearls of our international programme in order to thread them anew!

    After many intensive and often very touching conversations with the artists, our colleagues scattered all over the globe and with our partners from Austria, Styria and Graz, I proposed and together with my team decided to follow a new path, carefully step by step, prudently and responsibly, but always in the certainty that any form of activity will feel more right in this situation than stagnation.
We want to find the right rhythm, develop a choreography that helps us to find our living space again piece by piece - to show the pandemic the way to get out, to accompany it out of our lives. Who would dare to do this, if not a festival that uses public space as a space for action? With due respect, of course. 
With sufficient distance. With reason and all the courage of the heart. 

    Over the past few weeks we have been searching together for traces of how a diverse cultural life remains possible in the current situation, how we support hope and confidence, how we accompany social interaction and how we keep in touch with our colleagues in Austria, in Europe and the world - how we share this process with the people in our city. In other words, to carry out the very own task of art and culture: To find good answers to complex problems in interdisciplinary processes. The community art projects, which are developed and realized together with the population, are particularly in focus.

    A way has been found - together with the artists we were able to invent an exciting concept which stands for a very special festival (in compliance with all applicable regulations) and which we present on the following pages. It is a path that is reflected and quoted by our international network partners and festival colleagues as thoroughly exemplary and inspiring. 

    Our goal is, of course, to be able to show as many productions of the planned programme as possible this year. The preparations have been going on for many months and the programme was already completed at the beginning of the crisis. It included 26 projects by artist groups from 12 different nations, including many community art projects involving local artists and the population of Graz.

    The first movement was to extend this year's festival period to the entire calendar year to expand. La Strada 2020 already started on 1 January and will end with the last hour of sunshine on 31 December. And it will do so with the project "The Graz Vigil" on the Schlossberg, a "choreography for an entire city" by the Australian/Belgian artist Joanne Leighton, which we have been preparing for several years. We were able to realize this project in cooperation with Graz Kulturjahr 2020 which has been running without interruption since the beginning of the year.

    In the second movement, we are working with highly esteemed, mainly local, composers, musicians and choreographers to jointly devise artistic formats with an installative-performative character for the original period of the festival at the end of July and beginning of August. During this phase of the summer, these formats will work through the city and its public space without actively gathering audiences in specific places.

    Within just a few weeks, the festival has succeeded in creating an incredibly exciting programme that can give people back their cultural city, piece by piece and turn them into actors themselves. I am very pleased to be able to implement this programme - which was specially conceived for the current situation and this festival period - with artist friends whose entire international engagements have been postponed or cancelled altogether until the autumn or even next year.

    For the third movement of the festival we have opened a time window in the last week of August and the first week of September before school starts. Here, we will program outdoor theatre productions that make it possible to regulate the number of spectators - the number of performances will be increased accordingly. Due to the size of performances and the expected uncertainties in international travel, we had to postpone a few productions to next year’s

    Starting from this fine theatre focus, we will be implementing the project "What if...?" within the Cultural Year 2020 in Graz Reininghaus over 4 focus weekends until this autumn. This concept also involves numerous local artists and the local community.

    It seemed obvious to us to develop the program in analogy to the creation of a symphony in four movements - only all movements together form the whole. 
Full of confidence and anticipation.

Werner Schrempf

La Strada, Partner

Austria (AT)


Founding-member of IN SITU in 2003

International Festival of Street Art, Puppet Theatre, Contemporary Circus and Community Art in Graz. The La Strada festival takes place at the beginning of August for a period of nine days since 1998. It creates an interplay between the city, artists and audiences.
The venues are the streets, squares and courtyards of the city, but also include theatre spaces such as the Graz Opera. The festival spots new districts as well as abandoned spaces and creates places, where audience and artists meet for the first time. La Strada also shows selected productions in smaller towns in Styria. Due to its integration in IN SITU, La Strada also works as a driving force of exhibited Eu rope-wide theatre work. At least 1/3 of the annually programme of the festival presents productions as premieres, always in co-operation with national and international artists. Austrian artists are supported by integrating them in the network of European festivals.

Director : Werner Schrempf

Artistic Assistant : Noémie Fonteneau