Freedom is Around the Corner - What does it mean?

Freedom is Around the Corner - What does it mean?

The Danish avant garde composer, performance artist and political agitator Henning Christiansen loved dreaming up slogans that provoked thought. In 1987 he created a neon sign that read, in German, ‘Die Freiheit ist um die Ecke’ = Freedom is Around the Corner. His gravestone in Copenhagen includes the words: ‘Freedom is Social’.

Ultima 2022 picks up Christiansen’s vision of freedom that is deeply connected with ideas of society and community. For the magic of music and the arts to happen, there has to be deeply social interaction between artists and audiences.

This interaction became hugely problematic under Covid, causing events and festivals to shut down and forcing people and artists into isolation. Just as the world was coming out of this defensive state, war broke out in Ukraine, with all its ripples affecting the global economy, the balance of power, and the climate.

Populist politics threaten democracies across the world, climate goals are under threat, and the prospect of a catastrophic winter is approaching. The utopian futures promised by politicians, writers, economists, thinkers and artists continue to be postponed. There are many solutions to humanity’s problems out there. They just don’t quite seem to be ready to put into practice. They’re just around the corner…

What does this mean in practice at Ultima? We have lined up a row of concerts, performances and events in which public participation is a key element. This could be the use of children’s texts about their own dream life in Dreams of the Future, or the giant public art project Organotopia in Grünerløkka. It means works involving community groups such as SÅLE, or the audience participation project Into the Open.

It also means various concerts in which freedom versus control, and the social dynamic, are in focus. Our opening concert Xenakis’s Oresteia is one of the great tragedies of world literature and deals with the impact of war and fate on human destiny and lawmaking. Or there’s the world premiere of Missy Mazzoli’s opera The Listeners, imagining the damage caused when societies become divided. The great German avant rock group Einstürzende Neubauten bring their apocalyptic, unrestrained music to Oslo for the first time in many years. Special guest at the festival is Valentin Silvestrov, Ukraine’s leading modern composer, whose music is performed several times, including by Silvestrov himself.

In our talks programme, Ekko author Lena Lindgren discusses the negative fallout from technology and social media. Seminars try to find solutions to issues around curation, decolonisation ande cancel culture.

In 2022 Ultima is celebrating freedom while also reminding us how fragile that freedom is, if the social dimension is not secure. Not long to wait… It’s just around the corner…

Rob Young

Published Monday, 1 August 2022