Tanz und Performance im Bürgerauftrag (dance and performance commissioned citizens) is an offer to civil society groups to lend visibility to their urgent concerns through the possibilities of performative forms of expression. They can direct their civic commissions to international artists, who react to local issues precisely where something should also move in the literal sense. This creates new perspectives and dynamics of civic engagement.
In line with the New Patrons model, in Tanz und Performance im Bürgerauftrag the civic groups, as New Patrons, take responsibility for the projects they initiate. Throughout the process, they are accompanied and advised by mediators who contribute their experience in producing ambitious artistic projects. They connect the New Patrons groups with artists, each of whom responds to the commissions with specific concepts, involving citizens in the development and implementation of the projects.
Starting in the fall of 2023, the mediators will enter into dialogue in various regions of Germany with people who want to help shape their living environment through Tanz und Performance im Bürgerauftrag. A consultant with proven expertise in the field of dance and performance will additionally accompany the program. Overall management and coordination are the responsibility of the non-profit Gesellschaft der Neuen Auftraggeber (Society of New Patrons) in Berlin. In order to strengthen the commitment of local cultural actors in Germany, associations, cultural centers, institutions or even public bodies are to be involved as local partners for the implementation of the projects.
Nowadays, dance and performance are associated with a broad spectrum of equally classical as well as experimental and innovative artistic forms of expression and possibilities for action, the boundaries of which are constantly expanding. Artists for whom the body and its relationship to the social and material environment are essential, who give shape to movement in time and space, who work on living forms of the common or negotiate the boundaries of what can be moved, can explore new paths of artistic participation and production at specific locations within the framework of the program. Places of action can be the street, the public space, but also physical and virtual stages of all kinds. At the same time, this creates opportunities to examine the potential and limitations of performance venues.
Both in the international New Patrons network and in the pilot phase in Germany, civic commissions in the past already exemplified the potential of performative disciplines to bring people together regardless of age, background, and prior knowledge and to address their concerns artistically. For In C – Marler Partitur by Sasha Waltz (photo), around one hundred citizens danced together with 16 internationally working dancers at architecturally significant locations in the city of Marl in September 2022. The exemplary project was developed together with the company Sasha Waltz & Guests and local actors. Tanz und Performance im Bürgerauftrag consolidates experiences from the pilot phase of the New Patrons and the international context. The program builds on previous successes, opens up citizen-commissioned art to other aesthetic forms, and expands the radius of the projects to places with less cultural infrastructure throughout Germany.
During the pilot phase, from 2017 to 2022, a total of around 700 patrons and active participants were directly involved at 17 locations of action. They worked there with 31 international artists. Over 20,000 people were reached as an audience – even under difficult Corona conditions. The New Patrons also became visible in the cultural-political discourse. This included the 2021 project being awarded the Innovation Prize of the Deutsche Kulturpolitische Gesellschaft (German Society for Cultural Policy).
Following the pilot phase, the Gesellschaft für Kunst und Mediation im Bürgerauftrag e.V. was founded in 2022 to represent the interests of New Patrons mediators in Germany. The association offers its members peer-to-peer consultations and organizes training and continuing education in the New Patrons mediation model. The association and the non-profit organisation Gesellschaft der Neuen Auftraggeber promote the model throughout Germany to local authorities, institutions and funders and provide advice on adapting the model to local conditions and needs. They are part of an international network that is implementing the model in a growing number of countries and regions.
Since 1991, first in France and later in other regions of Europe and beyond, thousands of people have already commissioned over 500 projects in all possible fields of contemporary arts. Together with outstanding contemporary artists, they have given form and shape as well as weight to the art commissioned by citizens and thus also to a new cultural-political idea.
Image: Presentation of Sasha Waltz: In C – Marler Partitur, for the New Patrons of Marl, project from the pilot phase of the New Patrons, Marl 2022, Photo: Florian Wagner