Uke 33 / 2023

Since 2014, Ariel Efraim Ashbel and friends have been working on a cycle of small-scale performances that explore Jewish culture and Jewish holidays in the context of a predominantly Christian society. In intimate performance formats between salon and lecture they adapt rituals of Jewish holidays such as Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashanah, examine the traditions of these occasions for their current socio-political relevance, discuss their backgrounds, and open them up for a personal approach. Relating Jewish writings and customs to pop-cultural, historical and political references is as central as the reference to site-specific conditions and discourses.

In the summer of 2023, Ariel Efraim Ashbel and friends will bring one of their salons to Trondheim and present the FIRE WALK WITH ME SALON. The group will combine the parashah «Shoftim» – the Torah passage that will be read in the Jewish community during the week of August 18, 2023 – with performative, aesthetic and contextual set pieces from their performance «Fire Walk With Me,» which premiered at the Donaufestival in Austria in 2022.

About the artists

Ariel Efraim Ashbel and friends is a Berlin-based group comprised of professional dancers, artists, performers, musicians, thinkers, technicians, anthropologists and many other collaborators from various fields. Interdisciplinarity and a cross-disciplinary approach to work are central to their work. Therefore, the production processes are always marked by a multitude of perspectives: Stories from different cultural backgrounds alternate with pop-cultural set pieces and scenarios from science fiction, preceded by analytical-academic research processes. The process itself always extends beyond a theatrical framing, only to reappear on stage. Ariel Efraim Ashbel and friends understand theatre as a sensual space that goes beyond mere representation. Theatre enables unpredictable kinds of community: at its best, bodies come together that would not otherwise meet, discourses are held that would otherwise find no place. Speculation, imagination and humour are used to reflect on the world and imagine a new one. No digital space can replace this experience – and the absence of physical bodies during the Corona pandemic has made this clearer than ever.

Since their first works all white people look the same to me (2013) and The Empire Strikes Back (2015), the question of the status of humans within the fabric of the world has been central. At the moment, in the face of the destabilisation of supposedly essential Western values (progress, economy, control), it is particularly clear that man in his ideological form of the isolated, indestructible, Western, male subject is a long-outdated paradigm of modernity.

The artistic practice of the group ican be understood as an attempt to decentralise the human being in the theatre and to create a space in which thoughts can be addressed that go beyond the categorical restrictions of Western thinking.  The working approach of Ariel Efraim Ashbel and friends, like the team of artists, musicians and scientists itself, is diverse from the ground up, interdisciplinary and sets the entire theatre apparatus into motion: In their works, light, music, stage, video and props act without hierarchy with the performers in the space. For the group, this is a way to pave the way for transformation and speculation: no verbal representation or intellectual didactics, but sensual articulations which function as a swarm of multiply meaningful content that keeps our thinking in motion. The work of Ariel Efraim Ashbel and friends attempts to escape the Western European tradition and history of theatre. Not out of an anti-attitude, but rather out of a deep affection and conviction that theatre has the potential to grow beyond itself.

In 2018 and 2019, this ongoing process was evident in two stage works: DO THE RIGHT THING, which was presented at HAU Hebbel am Ufer in 2018 in the context of the Bauhaus focus of the German Federal Cultural Foundation, and no apocalypse not now, which was shown in 2019-2020 at HAU Hebbel am Ufer in Berlin, Kampnagel Hamburg, FFT Düsseldorf and at steirischer herbst in Graz.  Together with MOONSTRUCK: in praise of shadows (2021: HAU, FFT, Gessnerallee), these three works form a triptych that deals with the rise and fall of the modern Western subject, but also with the myriad ways in which this dialectical movement relates to modern theatre.

The group regularly presents its work at HAU Hebbel am Ufer Berlin, Kampnagel Hamburg, FFT Düsseldorf as well as at Gessnerallee Zurich and Mousonturm Frankfurt. They are also invited to festivals such as Impulse (NRW), Spielart (Munich) steirischer herbst (Graz) donaufestival (Krems).

The group also collaborates regularly with other artists and groups, most recently with the soloist ensemble Kaleidoskop for «The Seventy Deadly Sins», which premiered at Radialsystem Berlin in 2021.