Posted: 11/03/21

From Munich to Hull!

The Munich Vigil began at sunset on 12 December 2020. This performance will run until 12 December 2021, so will overlap with The Hull Vigil connecting the two cities through a shared international experience.  

We caught up with Julia Eulenburg, from The Munich Vigil, to tell us more about their Vigil and the challenges of launching and holding this performance amidst a global pandemic.  

Hello Julia, tell us a bit more about the Munich Vigil?

The Munich Vigil, started at sunset on 12 December 2020 while the final Vigil will hold the presence at sunrise on 12 December 2021. The German name of the performance is “Türmer München.” This title refers back to the medieval role of a tower-keeper (Türmer), who had responsibility to hold watch over the city and protect citizens against any upcoming dangers, because they are carefully scrutinising their environment. The idea is to transfer this medieval role model to a modern version of a “Türmer” and to interpret it in a new way: Every citizen has the possibility to take on the responsibility for their fellows.

Participants are invited to reflect in their hour about their relation to the city and society they are living in. This project is not only about a lovely view of the city, it is also about having an insight into ourselves.

The Vigil project allows people to reflect on the actual situation and to share their thoughts, feelings and impressions. They are contemporary witnesses, reflecting about past, future and present throughout a whole year. Many of the participants see their hour as a gift. Nowadays it is a luxury to take an hour for yourself without mobile phone, meetings and stress.

You have launched the Vigil in the midst of the global pandemic. Tell us about this? 

In the shelter the vigils are holding their presence completely alone. A companion, who is a former vigil, is waiting in a room nearby and accompanies the vigils in their experience. This seems to be ideal under the actual conditions, as not many people are allowed to meet.

Even if people are not allowed to visit the shelter, as happened to us shortly before the opening of the vigil due to a lockdown with a strict curfew, it is possible to continue the performance in an amended form. Now the vigils are accompanied by phone and holding their presence from home.

Once the lockdown is over, we will allow people to catch up on the experience in the shelter. Now, as the first month is over, we experience that the “home-vigils” are adding a new quality to the project, which is very positive. They are participating from all over the city. It is more decentral as when people “pilgrim” to the shelter on the roof of the Gasteig. There the empty shelter is illuminated twice a day, so that the hour from sunrise and the hour before sunset are marked for every vigil at home. A few of them saw the shelter from their window at home and were touched, because it is shining for them. Every vigil takes a selfie and a landscape photo from their view outside the window at home. So we get a deeper and very private insight in the city we are living in. Other citizens are reading their traces in the project’s blog or are following on social media, newspaper etc.

Has this been challenging? How have you overcome them? 

Setting up such a project in these times of unsteadiness and unpredictable changes requires a maximum of flexibility from all team members. You have to be aware that tomorrow everything may be different and you have to find a solution so that the show can go on.

In the preparation of the project we had so many impediments to remove and also some good luck at essential milestones of the project. The people behind the scenes are undergoing all up and downs, so our vigil journey is also very adventurous. Sometimes it is difficult to stay motivated in these times, but receiving positive feedback from all our participants gives us a reason to continue and put even more efforts into the work around the project.

How have the people of Munich responded to the performance? 

When we opened the application at the end of October for the first bookable period from 12 December until end of April 2021 we were overwhelmed by the people’s reaction. Within less than 24 hours we were fully booked. People were excited about a project that works during these difficult times.

At the end of January the 100th vigil will have participated from home. The “Türmer” are very grateful. They see the hour as a gift. Reading their impressions, thoughts and feelings in the blog is a mirror, a reflection. It touches people’s hearts, for those who have participated and those who are reading their traces. In a few traces the pandemic situation is very present, in other texts it is a corona-free-zone, like an escape room. Every hour is a free space to be (ful)filled by every “Türmer”. The vigils and the companions stay connected in the preparatory workshops and the sharing evenings, where they will exchange their experiences. We will end our year with a closing ceremony around the last vigil on 12 of December 2021. What an adventurous journey!

Who are the organisations behind the Vigil? 

The Gasteig Munich is Europe’s largest arts centre, including different organisations like the Munich Philharmonic, Munich Adult Education Centre (Münchner Volkshochschule), Munich City Library and the University of Music and Performing Arts Munich. Five halls and expensive foyer spaces are booked for more than 1,800 events every year by regional, national and international event organisers.

“Türmer München” is organised by the Gasteig Cultural Endowment (Gasteig Kulturstiftung) in collaboration with the Gasteig Munich Ltd. They aim to organise extraordinary arts and cultural projects in collaboration with international artistic partners, as Joanne Leighton / WLDN for the vigil project. The “Gasteig Kulturstiftung” is supported by private funders and other foundations, such as the Beisheim Stiftung for the vigil project.

In autumn 2021 the Gasteig Munich will move to a new location, as the building constructed in the 1970s and opened in 1985 will undergo a general restoration. “Türmer München” is our gift to the citizens to farewell the Gasteig and welcome the new building we are using for an interim period until the end of the refurbishment.

The Munich Vigil will overlap with the Hull Vigil - have you ever been to Hull? What do you know about Hull? 

Unfortunately we have not been to Hull, but we would love to visit the Hull Vigil and to discover your city and its rich cultural life and history.

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