Discovering the rural creative community of Moosach, in Munich

From Noh performances, to a Bauhaus theatre and a man who is building his own house in reverse, VERONICA STIVALA discovered a special village in Munich that is setting an example for what can be achieved when there is ambition and hard work in a community

One of the attractions to the trip attended by movers, makers and shakers in the arts community, was discovering how this village built itself up to be such an attractive creative hub
One of the attractions to the trip attended by movers, makers and shakers in the arts community, was discovering how this village built itself up to be such an attractive creative hub

Despite having a population of a mere 1,000 people, the district of Moosach in Munich has a vibrant and rich artistic community. From an idyllic theatre built in Bauhaus style, to a converted farmhouse that serves as an artist’s space for various creative projects, to cultural events organised for the community in the city centre, Moosach is indeed a special district: it is a wonderful example of what can be achieved with ambition, hard work and a community that openly embraces this cultural vibrancy.

Community is the key word here as it was thanks to another community that I discovered this district and its cultural vitality. IETM, the international network for contemporary performing arts, recently organised its biannual plenary meeting in Munich. The outing to Moosach was one of a number of trips held a day before the plenary started, the so-called pre-meeting trips.

Indeed the fact that I discovered the village together with an international group of people who work in the arts world gave the trip added significance. There is something particularly special about unearthing such treasures together with others, and being able to chat and share our thoughts and reactions. I found myself re-living fun school outings as the group of some 12 people – that included a dancer, a theatre studies student, a theatre producer, a director and a dance producer – clambered onto a bus and we set off on our journey. The fact that this was an international group understandably made things more interesting as we shared best practices, and stories from our corners of the world.

Many were interested to discover more about the village, and to meet the community running it: “As an artist based in a rural area, and with a history of presenting contemporary work for rural audiences, I was really excited to visit Moosach,” commented Alister Lownie, director at Two Destination Language, a theatre company based in the UK.

The first part of the outing saw the group visit the Meta Theater. Built in Bauhaus style, the building is a performer’s paradise. In a style typical of the movement the building emphasizes geometric forms; the quadrangle motif repeated in the wooden floored adaptable performance/rehearsal space and then in the seven half-levels that spiral up above – living quarters for its founder and architect, Axel Tangerding and for artist residencies. Looking out of the ceiling to floor glass windows one is met with only countryside: fields, trees, and more trees.

The performances and training here offer the opportunity for artists to take inspiration from and use the surrounding nature in their work. The renowned theatre director Jerzy Grotowski once took his students out of the theatre and into the nearby trees, using them as their working space.

Founded as an experiment in 1978, the theatre has its roots in the inspiration Tangerding found in Ellen Stuart, who had set up her La Mama Experimental Theatre Club in New York and enabled young, unknown directors and actors to try out their ideas for a new theatre. And so in a similar vein, the Meta Theater serves as a welcoming platform for performers and creative artists without the pressures, financial and just the faster pace, that a city like Munich presents.

A highlight was definitely the Noh theatre performance by Akira Matsui, designated an ‘Important Intangible Cultural Asset’ by the Japanese government. The highly codified 600-year-old theatre form is considered the oldest major theatre art that is still performed to this day. Matsui danced the Noh classic Shiro Tamura and followed this by the one-act Rockaby, which Irish playwright Samuel Beckett had dedicated to Noh theatre. Through these two performances, Matsui wanted to show the mutability of Noh, from the traditional to a contemporary style.

“It was great to see the ambitious programming of complex, challenging work in a small community, and to see that local people embraced the vibrancy that both the resident artists and the programming brought their place,” explained Lownie.

One of the attractions to the trip attended by movers, makers and shakers in the arts community, was discovering how this village built itself up to be such an attractive creative hub: “Many of the places I’ve worked at haven’t been so wealthy, and it takes time to build familiarity with cultural activities, so I was really interested in how Tangerding had used the situation of a new building on the edge of the village to entice internationally renowned artists to the place while allowing a curiosity on the part of his neighbours. To make a success of such a project needs long-term [time and financial] investment, and it was clear that Tangerding himself had been instrumental in creating the Moosach of today,” added Lownie.

The rural creative community stretches beyond the theatre to an impressive nearby atelier. The home and working space of Hubert Maier, this wooden edifice serves not only as Maier’s workshop, but is also another space for amateur artists to come together, paint, do crafts and help out the artistic community. Most impressive was certainly Maier, who is currently building his house in reverse: he is making the furniture, around which he will then build his own house.

It was at this atelier that the outing group really got to an up-close taste of the Moosach community. Unassuming, yet warmly welcoming, various members of the community started showing up as the day approached its close, with a variety of homemade, traditional dishes. From ‘radi’ (radishes), to leberkäse (a form of meatloaf), obatzda (a kind of cheese dip), pretzels and one local’s homemade beer, the visitors were treated to a veritable feast. As we sat, we mingled and shared our stories, our ambitions as artists.

Jordi Perez, director at CiA Sargantana/La Vilella in Spain, was brimming with enthusiasm.

“Learning about such an interesting project that has been working, successfully, for so long was a great inspiration and gave me some of the answers that I was looking for,” he mused, adding how even after all these years, he could still feel “the [initial] inspiration and commitment needed to start a project like this.” The project, was, as he put it, not just related to ‘construction’, but also, “The performance and the engagement of those who offered us a great evening sharing their table and food with us.”

Perhaps the effervescent student Laudia Lás’s words about how the trip has motivated her, sums up many of our feelings of inspiration most aptly:  “Next to a brilliant performance on the last day of the plenary, this trip was the most important, inspiring and refreshing experience of the whole event. As we were sitting at the table together and eating that great dinner together, I had a short talk with Tangering about my very fresh idea of organising activities in rural areas. Since the trip I’ve been constantly very intensely engaged in what is my biggest life project so far!”

The IETM plenary meeting was held in Munich between November 1 and 4. For more information, log on to: www.ietm.org

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