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Franziska Werner: Joy, pleasure and communal mourning

Outgoing director of the Sophiensaele,, Franziska Werner on her grand sendoff: the Leisure & Pleasure festival.

Photo: Katja Renner

Franziska Werner has been the artistic director of Sophiensaele, one of the most important spaces for Berlin’s ‘Freie Szene’ since 2011. The final event of her tenure is a six-week festival entitled Leisure & Pleasure. It celebrates the political dimensions of leisure through performances, residencies, raves and workshops that attend to the concept’s accessibility by marginalised identities and provides a glimpse of a world where leisure and pleasure are available to all.

Why take on the theme of “Leisure and Pleasure” as your final sendoff?

Franziska Werner: This festival emerges from our work and conversations with artists who are working in the ‘Freie Szene’, where we are always concerned with who works how, when and under what conditions. In other words, what value does work have, and what value leisure time? What does ‘leisure’ actually mean? When and how is it accessible – and for whom? How do ‘spacetimes’ of pleasure relate to activism?

Watching it, you just want to join them on stage.

[Co-curator] Lena Kollender: Also, if you ask why now, one could obviously say, “because of corona”. A lot of the work that appears in the festival deals with the social experience of joy and pleasure, as well as communal mourning. That is, of course, something that comes out of the pandemic, which showed us how important social experience actually is.

But even more importantly, we live in a time of crisis, a time of emergency, and there is the necessity to imagine another world. Watching it, you just want to join them on stage.

Leisure & Pleasure: Jeremy Nedd + Impilo Mapantsula. Photo: Philip Frowein

Can you give us a few highlights of how you’ve done this?

LK: For the opening weekend, we have invited Jeremy Nedd and Impilo Mapantsula with their work, The Ecstatic. Jeremy Nedd is a choreographer from the US working with Impilo Mapantsula, a group from Johannesburg, South Africa.

They are dance artists who specialise in pantsula, a South African urban dance form that developed during Apartheid in the townships of Johannesburg. Together, they developed this energetic piece about states of ecstasy and about the power of ‘breaks’. It’s really powerful. Watching it, you just want to join them on stage.

FW: And there’s a workshop on Saturday where you can try out the dance with the dancers for yourself! That’s something really exciting about this festival – so many works invite the audience to actually get involved. The other guest performance that weekend is FIEBRE, a very sensual, playful work dealing with slime as material, exploring eroticism as a source of empowerment.

Leisure & Pleasure, FIEBRE: Tamara Alegre, Lydia Ö. Diakitè, Marie Ursin. Photo: Klara Utke

Is there anything in this festival that you haven’t done before?

FW: I’d have to say the rave by the Lecken collective – I have experienced many things, but not yet a rave in this building. Also, our new Leisure Garden will be open on the performance days to relax in. Then, on June 10, we will organise a street party with music, neighbours and friends.

But don’t forget: during the last weekends of the festival you can also join the very special performative Colonastic Workshops by Joanna Tischkau and Elisabeth Hampe and experience fitness through a whole new gaze.

Leisure & Pleasure: Lecken. Photo: Souad Hervé