Literally-speaking, shadows are the dark areas behind an opaque object. The associations that the word evokes go even further however, suggesting, at the same time something, negative, threatening, that which is suppressed, as well as protection, feeling sheltered, the unconscious, or even aspects of a living, breathing being's soul.

Shadows not only exist in a tangible sense though, but also metaphorically in expressions like “a shadow of one's self”, “old sins cast long shadows”, “beyond a shadow of a doubt”, “afraid of his own shadow” are all common expressions (all languages have their own).

We live in a time in which dark shadows have been cast by political and social change. Populism and reactionary movements as reactions to virulent fear and tension have appeared, exposing shadows cast by society. For these reasons, this year's multi-facetted annual festival theme promises ample material for critical artistic discourse.

It is a theme that demands attention in light of the current political atmosphere and the state of our democratic system, which expose the darker sides of society, dystopic future scenarios resulting from shadows cast by our common behaviour and repercussions of technological advances that we might, for comfort's sake or due to fear, suppress. On the other hand, the theme provides possibilities for concrete, poetic approaches to examining how a shadow can be cast on the essence of an artistic idea. Beyond the negative connotations of the word, a shadow also stands for what is 'other', on the margins, that which can be found on the edge of light shed by the mainstream. Those who seek refuge in the shadows can find a safe haven. Shadows have always played a significant role in epistemology. One example thereof is Plato's Allegory of the Cave: human cognitive facilities are only able to perceive the shadows of real things when outside of their 'caves' in sunlight. What we see is always a subjective view of the world, in which things appear in shadows and people perceive as objective reality.

Drawing on these thoughts, here are some starting points for delving into the 48 Stunden Neukölln 2017 theme of shadows which will, hopefully, help you come up with an idea for the festival:

  1. Critical artistic scrutiny of the question of the shadows in society, i.e. our political and social systems, and the threats that lurk therein
  2. Artistic investigation into the metaphorical meaning of shadows: the dark, other side of everything (her history cast a shadow on the party), delving into the shadows of the unconscious
  3. The connection between shadows and cognitive theory: shadows stand for human perception. Can a human being only perceive their own subjective, shadow side of reality?
  4. “In the shadows” as in alternative niches, reflecting the need for diversity (Roma, refugees, LGBTI)
  5. Artwork dealing with the relationship between light and dark, such as silhouettes, shadow plays and optical phenomena making use of shadows
  6. Art dealing with positive meanings of shadows i.e. as shelter