Artistic freedom is anchored in the German constitution. Nevertheless, it is controversial and constantly scrutinised. Is art “allowed” to do anything? Who can speak for whom? Must art take a stance? What exactly is art and what are its limits? While the right calls for the preservation of customs and national culture, on the left and centre of society, debates about identity politics are escalating.
In his piece ODE, the novelist and playwright Thomas Melle captures these different voices and creates situations with unfathomable wit, that present the dilemma faced by artists, as well as the heated nature of the social debate: the great artist, for example, who was “cancelled” because she dedicated her work to the Nazi perpetrators; the noisy mob who finds ambiguity in art an intolerable impertinence; and the director who considers himself challenged to only portray what he himself has experienced.
Contradictory, unideological and very funny, ODE creates a mood picture of our society and a declaration of love for art. ODE premiered in 2019 at the Deutsches Theater Berlin. For Schauspiel Köln, Thomas Melle updates his piece to encompass the current situation: How systematically relevant is art?