Hotel Beethoven Wien © Holidaycheck

Hotel Beethoven: A World Theatre

With a major exhibition, numerous concerts, and a string of talks and literary events, birthday boy Beethoven is definitely the centre of attention at BOZAR this autumn. The ever changing icon is also the subject of 6 radically contemporary visual interpretations by artists from all over the world. The series of short films kicks off with a live-streamed event on September 29, 2020.

Contrary to the image of the solitary artist, doomed to reclusion by the fatal deafness that struck him in the middle of his life, Beethoven “was in the middle of society, determined and keen to fight”, as recently uttered by pianist Igor Levit. He adds that Beethoven is probably the best example of music as “emotionaler Zustandbeschreiber” (“depicting the world through emotions”).

German philosopher T.W. Adorno rightly described Beethoven’s music as “world theatre”, insisting that it is through his works – and thus the emotional power of listening – that Beethoven’s ideas were best understood.

BOZAR invites artists to explore what Beethoven means today, the significance and relevance of his ideas and his music for the 21st century. The composer’s startling and enduring universality is illustrated by the wide variety of nationalities that responded to the call, with artists from Egypt, Albania, Vietnam, Austria, Russia, and the Czech Republic. Come and watch their short movies for free in our Horta Hall from October 13, 2020 in the framework of the HOTEL BEETHOVEN exhibition.

Opus 2020, Variations in Bo-zar, 2020 (10’)
Dominik NOSTITZ-RIENECK (Austria, b. 1973)
LIVE-STREAMED 29.09.2020 - 20:15

Opus 2020 explores a place full of different opinions, memories, and encounters around the figure of Beethoven in the form of a 90-minute livestream from the various rooms of the Hotel Beethoven Vienna. Hotels are transitory places where public and private meet. Every room of the Hotel Beethoven in Vienna unveils personal stories around Beethoven's vast public heritage, offering private moments with personalities of the cultural Viennese world. Tghrough conversations and sonic experiences, we discover Beethoven's importance in the 21st century and question his lasting influence on today's art and culture. The title “Variations” hints at the many possibilities and ways to experience Beethoven and his work.

Second Movement, Birds Watching © Rania Atef
Second Movement, Birds Watching © Rania Atef

Second Movement: Birds watching, 2020 (5’)
Rania ATEF (Egypt, b. 1988) 

Second movement: Birds watching brings together the Western Classical music of Beethoven and Mahraganat music, a popular type of music mixing techno with folk, which was banned because it was “spoiling the public taste”. The film questions the role of media channels and syndicates in the struggle to extend influence and impose control. Music emerging from marginalized and poor social classes, with its own performative dancing, managed to overcome censorship to find its audience. The video includes archival footage that presents two narratives; one represents the state of merging between Beethoven and Mahraganat and the other is the narrative of official authorities.

DJ © Alzbeta Bacikova
DJ © Alzbeta Bacikova

DJ, 2020 (10’)
Alžběta BAČÍKOVÁ (Czech Republic, b. 1988)

In DJ , shot in a dark night club, Mac Henzel performs excerpts from his autobiography Fuchsia, reflecting on his move from Prague to London. Mac, whose identity is defined by belonging to two minorities - being Deaf and gay, tries to find a job, love and a meaningful life in which his creativity and talent may flourish. As the Czech sign language is his native tongue, the fact that he has moved to a foreign country means that he is immediately confronted by situations where comprehension is truly complicated. Mac’s story gives us an idea how he manages to get around a world where sound is important if you want to understand reality correctly, but also a world where imagination can sometimes offer us different perspectives which might be more joyful. He remembers emotionally charged situations such as when he hangs out with other Deaf friends dancing at a party, or perceives the sound of the sea.

Sound of Nothing © Edit Pula(j)
Sound of Nothing © Edit Pula(j)

The Sound of Nothing, 2020 (8’)
Edit PULA(J) (Albania, b. 1974) and Klod DEDJA (Albania, b. 1976)

Taking Beethoven’s deafness and ensuing sense of isolation as a starting point, Edit Pula(j) links the sound of ear tinnitus to traditional iso-polyphony, part of Albanian folk music, and invites composer Fatos Qerimaj to embed that in a Beethoven symphony. Physically isolated, performer (and modern-day Beethoven look-alike) Klod Dedja is trapped in a white box inside an anti-nuclear bunker built by the then communist Albanian government. In an attempt to connect the individual with society, the voices of a non-existent choir infiltrate the tunnels, while Dedja cuts the sides of his isolating box with a snap-off blade cutter - movements that remind us of conducting and with a visual poetry reminiscent of Luciano Fontana.

The Joy of Brotherhood © Antonina Beaver
The Joy of Brotherhood © Antonina Beaver

The Joy of Brotherhood, 2020 (10’)
Genda FLUID (Russia, b. 1989), Alexander OBRAZUMOV (Russia, b. 1981) and Arnold VEBER (Russia, b. 1991)

The Symphony № 9 in D minor, op.125 is Beethoven’s final complete symphony and undoubtedly one of the supreme achievements in the history of Western music. It also birthed the belief in ‘the curse of the 9th symphony’: any composer who completes a 9th symphony (starting from Beethoven) will die right after. The authors of The Joy of Brotherhood project assume that the curse is more likely connected with Friedrich Schiller’s text Ode an die Freude (Ode to Joy) used by Beethoven in the final 4th movement. Friedrich Schiller wrote the poem in 1785 as a "celebration of the brotherhood of man" but dismissed it in later life as “typical of the bad taste of the age”. 2020 saw a wave of protests, opposed to the dominant male "brotherhood", which has been noticeably gaining momentum for centuries. The Joy of Brotherhood asks the question: can we ever remove the age-old curse?

Eroica 2020 © Viet Nguyen
Eroica 2020 © Viet Nguyen

Eroica 2020, 2020 (11’)
Nguyễn Lê Hoàng Việt (Vietnam, b. 1991)

It has been an extraordinary year: human beings are held inside rooms and the distance between people in public is specifically defined.  Vietnamese director Nguyễn Lê Hoàng Việt turns to Beethoven’s music and wonders if it can provide us with a window to escape the four black walls surrounding us. How can it bring us to the world outside? These images are proof of the lives that we have experienced, are experiencing, and will continue to live when this pandemic is over.

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