Therme Art Program

Culture of Live Events – Redesigning Common Rituals

Live events and gatherings in society date back to the very beginning of human existence. Often, they took the form of pilgrimages joined by shared belief, led by the aim of creating a sacred shared space or experience. Today, large-scale events are ubiquitous. In the economic sphere, live events are crucial to all life, with face-to-face interaction being inseparable from how we buy and sell. It might be said that all large events are cultural in one way or another: Their ritual and organised activity are deeply engrained in our culture, showing the ability to encourage transformative behaviour in both individuals and collectives.


With the worldwide unrest in June 2020, social power but also the destructive violence of this protest movement became apparent. In the streets, it became clear that our culture needs to provide adequate space for the voices and concerns of all parts of our society. Anthropological thinkers (Arnold van Gennep, Elias Canetti) described practices of transforming violent movements into cultural rituals; this talk aimed to include the possibility of such processes. Talking about live events today, the force and potential of such spontaneous gatherings could provoke new perspectives.

In addition to economic efficiency and the fun-factor of mass entertainment, we should explore the ritual function of live events, and examine how strategies can react sensitively to social currents. It is about creating moments where the individual can actively participate as one part of a greater whole. It is about forming spaces in which the voices of individuals are given common resonance, places of communication and co-production of our cultural future.


Es Devlin, artist and designer


Dr. Zoé Whitley, Director, Chisenhale Gallery

In light of Covid-19, we are also reminded of the crisis in our understanding of live events. A part of our everyday life, social and political activity, as well as our health, has been transformed. Football games, art fairs, clubs, theatres are all more than leisure-entertainment. They are all more than just a sum of individual experiences: they are important for the functioning of our community and wellbeing. Likewise, cultural events like art fairs are essential for the ability for culture to withstand this crisis and the next. And since we need to assume that the danger of viral infections won’t just disappear in a couple of months, there is a need to rethink the blueprint of such events.

This discussion looked at the transformation of community through countercultural and ritual processes that large events bring, now extended by the digital realm. In redesigning these mutual spaces of experience, we consider how audiences are engaged for participation and co-production. Even as the economy gains strength, things will shift, and it is presence of the audience that will be key to the success of the transformation.


Key Questions

1. How can we redesign the social experiences of mass events? And which concrete strategies are conceivable?

2. Contemporary art practice has always shown the ability to integrate social and political issues. How can this ability be expanded and popularised throughout other art disciplines?

3. How does the magic of being together become manifest?

4. Which artists are already offering ritualistic forms for architects and curators to take up?

5. How can virtual gatherings have a bigger and better social impact?

6. In light of Covid-19, how can we plan events for the immediate future?

7. How do we experience the importance and social function of live events in times of isolation?



Constantin Chiriac (President of the Sibiu International Theatre Festival and General Manager of the Radu Stanca National Theatre Sibiu)
Es Devlin (artist and designer)
Robert C. Hanea (Chairman and CEO, Therme Group)
John McGrath (Artistic Director and Chief Executive, Manchester International Festival and The Factory)
Franklin Sirmans (Director, PAMM Miami)
Zoé Whitley (Director, Chisenhale Gallery)


Marc Spiegler (Global Director, Art Basel)
Mikolaj Sekutowicz (CEO and Curator, Therme Art)


Wellbeing Culture Forum

The Wellbeing Culture Forum is a series of discussions in virtual environments catalysed by the present pandemic. Gathering experts from diverse fields, the series fosters the necessary collaboration and knowledge transfer to realise a vision of the city and its cultural activity in symbiosis with the natural world, generating a holistic approach towards the health of humanity. The series was initiated by Therme Art and curated by Mikolaj Sekutowicz, who is co-hosting each panel discussion together with various partners and partner institutions from the private and public sector.

The Wellbeing Culture Forum hosts diverse conversations about culture which are designed to create ‘insights for action’ culminating in the creation of a Wellbeing City Manifesto. This will be made freely available worldwide, for individuals and organisations to implement and influence positive cultural change.


In partnership with