IETM Zurich Plenary Meeting 2008

06 November 2008 to 09 November 2008

Where there is communication, there is misunderstanding – one of the world’s most common phenomena. Our truths, our decisions, our opinions are often based on misunderstandings. The dialogue of cultures is particularly prone to it. It might be that the idea of intercultural understanding itself is, in itself the greatest of all misunderstandings. Yet, at the same time, arts and culture provide us with the instruments to deal with ambiguity, multiple significance and metaphors. Creating many senses and obscure meanings is indeed the essence of arts and culture that urges us on to more clarity. 

It is no coincidence that the idea of discussing misunderstandings as a valuable process of creating sense, was shaped in Switzerland. This small country might even have been founded on a misunderstanding. In his essay «Fortunate Babel» (2006), Etienne Barilier, Swiss philosopher, expounds on the essence of Swiss multilinguism: “We understand each other because we do not understand.” Common sense – this being our quick interpretation – embraces the idea of a profound misunderstanding. Such an approach fosters pragmatism and cooperation, says Barilier. This example of an historically, very meaningful misunderstanding was taken as a starting point for a multi-facetted approach to the phenomenon of misunderstanding.

IETM Zurich tackled the theme "Misunderstanding", through different working groups, meeting groups, infocells, one learning session and a plenary session. 

In total, 510 participants from 52 countries attended the meeting. According to the the participants' feedback, the meeting was a success, both on a content level as well as regarding the organisation and the facilities. 

The artistic programme consisted of a selection of 13 performances from Swiss artists put together by a team of Swiss curators. Besides this selection, the venues provided additional insight into their role as production centres of Switzerland’s theatre and dance scenes, rounding off the perception of Zurich as a theatrical location. The participants could also enjoy 8 different Artistic City Trips, accompanied by artists who presented the city under poetic and artistic angles.