The White White West?

The world has changed massively in the past thirty years: Around 1990, the capitalism of the West seemed to have triumphed, spreading across the globe in streams of goods and data. Instead of the blocs of the Cold War, a multilateral, religiously charged, another form of war developed after September 11, 2001. Minorities fought for rights around the world before an extreme right-wing backlash in many states tried to curb the progress they had achieved, often with success. And it was not only with the young people of Fridays for Future that the radical, irretrievable transformation of the earth came to our attention.

Welcome to the post-Westphalian world order, in which nation states still exist and rigidly defend their borders, while on the other hand a new sense of global coexistence and interaction is developing.

© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson

Slowly, these changes are also reaching the German literary scene. While for a long time it was the stronghold of white, male-dominated high culture, positions, texts, formats, and biographies are now becoming more political and diverse. And yet there is still a long way to go from the era of the Federal Republic with its homogeneous audience and its glass ceilings to a diverse and also multilingual literary landscape.

Together with the international author and curator collective foundintranslation and many other artists, CfL 2021 set out to find models for this future.

In a digital laboratory and the resulting performance Westfailure, in a festival and in an open letter to the literary establishment, the project designed collaborations and visions for a multilingual, transnational and diverse literary world.

Wir present these building blocks here:

Westfailure – The Laboratory

© CfL/Jill Albanico

Prepared in 2020, a Super Group of eight international artists met since the beginning of 2021:

  • the essayist and novelist Jan Brandt
  • the choreographer Oliva Hyunsin Kim
  • the poet Mette Moestrup
  • the performance and installation artist Nástio Mosquito
  • the filmmaker Ian Purnell
  • the scenographer Philine Rinnert
  • the writer Stefanie de Velasco
  • musician and singer Shlomi Moto Wagner

In regular digital laboratories they developed together the performance Westfailure, a parcours from the city to the countryside and through history: from the Peace of Westphalia to the wars between nation states to new transnational alliances - and to the greatest crisis of mankind, the climate catastrophe.

Westfailure – The Performance

© CfL/Jill Albanico

Postponed by the pandemic, Westfailure premiered as part of the Westopia festival in early September 2021. The performance was a parcours between city and countryside that thematized, crossed, redrew and doubted borders:

Westfailure started at the Westfälischer Kunstverein in the heart of Münster, not far from the town hall where the Peace of Westphalia had been signed in 1648. Here, participants could add their texts to the interactive net poem by Mette Moestrup.

The participants then traveled through the city as a bicycle tour group through places and times, accompanied by the Potato Propaganda Car by Nástio Mosquito. Along the way, there was no less than a surprise show by the drag queens of the House of [blænk] and a reading by writer Stefanie de Velasco about her experience as a traveling plastic shaman.

Led by de Velasco in the residential bicycle she built herself, the tour group arrived at the Rüschhaus, home of poet Annette von Droste-Hülshoff from 1826 to 1848, where everyone was welcomed by writer Jan Brandt and his site-specific text Totenmontag.

In the baroque garden of the Rüschhaus, choreographer Olivia Hyunsin Kim marked the grassy areas with a chalk cart, drew the boundaries, which she then tore down again in her song Oh Westphalia!, a swan song to the racialization that the white old man of world history has afforded himself for centuries. This was followed by a moving poem in German Sign Language, written and performed by Julia Kulda Hroch and Rafael-Evitan Grombelka, authors of the Handpicked initiative. Here, too, nothing less than Western culture, which has excluded deaf people from Aristotle on, was put to the test.

One last time we went on our bicycles and to Hülshoff Castle. In the film processing borders by Ian Purnell and Philine Rinnert, a border stone became the protagonist of a world society that has long since moved away from national borders through the Internet. Fittingly, the finale: between the decorative stones of a garden farm and fog from the machine, Shlomi Moto Wagner played and sang compositions that he eavesdropped on rocks in the desert of Israel.


As part of Westfailure, Danish poet Mette Moestrup has collaborated with programmer Tea Palmelund to create a poem on the web: PEACE POEM

It is based on the text of the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, and users can choose from existing texts and add new ones. What kind of peace do we want today? How can a world without violence look like for all? is still available online.


© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson

The highlight of the project was the festival Westopia in September 2021:

For five days, the CfL, together with the international author collective foundintranslation and more than 80 authors, artists, and scholars, dedicated themselves to designs for an inclusive literary landscape.

Discussions, readings, lectures, performances, installations, workshops, walks and concerts alternated.

The program offered a wide variety of topics:

  • The authors Daniela Dröscher, George Demir, Heike Geißler, for example, presented the project Check your habitus, which gathers literary perspectives on origin, class, educational advancement and the shift between social worlds.
  • Ronya Othmann and Joana Tischkau spoke with Nefeli Kavouras about what sexism means for a society and for art, and why a #metoo has been missing from the German-language literary scene so far.
  • Jovana Reisinger spoke about corporeality and perception in her keynote.
  • In his keynote, the American writer Belo Miguel Cipriani dealt with the accessibility of literature and education also for people with disabilities.
  • In a two-day conference, representatives from cultural education and politics discussed how cultural promotion will change in a multilingual society and what instruments are needed to promote multilingualism and diversity differently.

Many of the festival's events were multilingual, and on September 4 the festival program could also be experienced in German sign language.

A part of the festival can be seen in the media library of our Digital Castle!

© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson
© CfL/Kim Wilfriedsson

Open Letter to the Literature Industry

At the conclusion of The White White West? foundintranslation wrote an open letter, which was published on 54books.

The letter summarizes many of the thoughts, wishes, visions, disappointments of the project and especially of the festival Westopia.

For example, foundintranslation calls for a renewal of funding structures that need to become more flexible in order to support artists in the right place; bolder event and mediation concepts that reflect many perspectives and literary forms and thus also reach new audiences; a more diverse cast of juries; visibility for literature written in languages other than German; less representation and barriers, more sense of community, dialogue and accessibility - for a multilingual, polyphonic and inclusive literary scene.

The letter was accompanied by one of Moritz Wienert's illustrations, which the artist had created for the Westopia festival.

The Open letter to the Literaturbetrieb can be read here.

Publication: From Westfailure to Westopia. Ein Reisejournal

The Reisejournal leads from Westfailure into the six untranslatable terms that also shaped the Westopia festival. It is a journey through texts, pictures and songs that were created in the project or accompanied it.

Edited by Jörg Albrecht (CfL) and Tomás Cohen, Annika Dorau, Hugh James and Nefeli Kavouras (foundintranslation).

With contributions by Jan Brandt, Belo Cipriani, Andrés Claro, Ariane von Graffenried, 올리비아 Hyunsin 金, Jovana Reisinger, Stefanie de Velasco, ZWEITZEUGEN e.V., among others.

Orders from January 24, 2022 via or bookstores.
Price: 20€ (if ordered via plus shipping).

Förderer The White White West?

The White White West? wurde gefördert durch die Kulturstiftung des Bundes, gefördert von der Beauftragten der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien, sowie durch die Kunststiftung NRW und das Ministerium für Kultur und Wissenschaft des Landes NRW.

Förderer/Partner Westfailure

Westfailure war außerdem eine Koproduktion von Burg Hülshoff – Center for Literature mit dem Westfälischen Kunstverein und wurde zusätzlich im Rahmen von europa:westfalen – literaturfestival [lila we:] 2021 gefördert durch das Ministerium für Kultur und Wissenschaft des Landes NRW, die LWL-Kulturstiftung und den Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe.

Ein erstes Laboratorium zur Vorbereitung des Westfailure-Projekts wurde 2020 gefördert im Programm »Global Village Ventures« vom Fonds Darstellende Künste aus Mitteln der Beauftragten der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien.