April 16, 2018

Chris Deacon, Director of Berlin's Storied Volksbühne Theater, Resigns

BERLIN, GERMANYChris Dercon has abruptly stepped down from his position as director of the Volksbühne Theater in Berlin after a tumultuous tenure. According to a statement issued by the City of Berlin today, Dercon and the senator for culture, Klaus Lederer, “have mutually agreed” to the resignation, which is effective immediately.

Dercon took over the helm of the prestigious theater from Frank Castorf, who was known for staging experimental programming during his twenty-five years as director of the Volksbühne. His appointment was met with widespread protests when it was announced in 2015.

In an open letter penned in June 2016, after a meeting with the institution’s managerial team, critics of Dercon voiced concern over the direction he was going to lead the theater in. “This is not a friendly takeover,” it read. “This change represents historical leveling and razing of identity. The artistic processing of social conflict is displaced in favor of a globally extended consensus culture with uniform presentation and sales patterns. We miss in the conceptual designs of the future director everything that makes this theater unique: politically engaged art, a specific theater concept, a steady repertoire and ensemble, and a vision for the unique potential of the house’s own workshops.”

After Dercon took up the post in 2017, his leadership was met with protests by activists, who even occupied the theater for a weeklong action. Dercon eventually filed a criminal complaint against the demonstrators, and the police had to intercede.

The statement released by the city continued to say that that “the concept of Chris Dercon did not work out as hoped, and the Volksbühne needs a fresh start.” Lederer has tapped Klaus Dörr as the interim director while the theater searches for a replacement. Commenting on the conflict between Dercon and the city’s cultural community, Lederer said: ”I find it important to emphasize that personal attacks and insults from parts of the city against Chris Derconhave been unacceptable in the past. Such forms of confrontation are unworthy and devoid of any culture.”

Dercon joined the Volksbühne from Tate Modern in London, where he served as director. Previously, he worked as director of the Haus der Kunst in Munich in Germany from 2003 to 2010, led the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam from 1996 to 2003, and was founding director of Witte de With in Rotterdam from 1990 to 1995.

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