Berlin was oddly still this week. It seems everyone has gone to Art Basel. Although I’m sure Basel is the circus of fabulous wealth, beautiful objects and pretty people that it always is, I also know that Basel has an ugly side, as all art fairs do.
For those poor souls actually working the fair, trapped inside all day, smiling politely, repeating themselves inanely, desperate to close the (next) deal, Art Basel, the ultimate art fair, can be the ultimate torture. Throngs of people, billionaire collectors haggling over a few hundred dollars, increasing pressure to sell out the booth—it all adds up to an epic migraine and is only exasperated by nightly networking commitments lubricated by a deadly combination of jet lag and alcohol. The stress can turn colleagues into nemeses and the event’s abject display of commercial excess can render even the most enthusiastic art lover an eye-rolling cynic. Like I said, it’s not so pretty.
But, for weary Berliners returning from Basel, there’s hope. Next Wednesday, the Berlin Biennial’s night program will offer a workshop with theater director Augusto Boal, whose humanitarian efforts won him a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize this year. Boal will host “Theater and Sensitive Thinking,” which will continue his practice of “incorporating the audience into the play’s production in order to restore a sense of community,” according to the bb5 website.
While the international art community recovers from Basel’s inflicted wounds, the Berlin art scene can take solace in Boal’s continuing example of true artistic civic service. Touted as “the most prominent theater pedagogue of our time,” his work “Theatre of the Oppressed was created in 1971 in Brazil with the specific goal of dealing with social exclusion, political repression, and other urgent local issues.” The chance to participate in an event with an extraordinary artist who has made such substantial cultural contributions is a rare opportunity to meditate on art’s most meaningful manifestations, especially in the face of the ever-mutating, all-consuming market. It’s a profound and much needed reminder about what it’s all about and, frankly, it couldn’t come at a better time. For more information about Augusto Boal’s Biennial workshop or to purchase tickets, click here. Schoenes Wochenende.