En passant

7/05 – 23:00

How do people gather? What is a horde, a crowd, a group? Can you be a spectator and a participant all at the same time? Aware that the way we experience ourselves and the world is relative, Dutch theatre maker Lotte van den Berg presents En passant, the opening event she has prepared with a variety of Brussels groups and clubs. More than 500 people will be on the move across the city, driven by need, chance or mere boredom. And so will you. ‘Sometimes it is important to take a step back, so you can look at yourself. Step back and consider. Observe and understand that the way you do things is only one of many ways. This is a frightening thought but also a liberating experience.’ On the basis of this idea, Lotte van den Berg and her OMSK company set things in motion in the streets of Brussels, a movement that will rumble on until the final weekend of the festival, when they will present Het verdwalen in kaart. A vision of a city, ‘en passant’.

Lotte van den Berg, Lotte Vaes, Koen van Oosterhout, Willem Weemhoff, Robijn Voshol, Rianne van Hassel

Performed by
Passers-by and inhabitants of Brussels

BBA Boksclub, Las Monkitas, Majoretteketet, Globe Aroma, CJP, Oudercomité De Klimpaal, Don Bosco Speelplein Halle, Comité des Spectateurs des Tanneurs, Les Mignonettes, Hobo/Kaputt, Brecht Eisler Koor, D°eFFeKt, Toneel is Spelen

Kunstenfestivaldesarts, KVS

OMSK (Dordrecht), Kunstenfestivaldesarts

Project coproduced by
NXTSTP, with the support of the Culture Programme of the European Union

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The Second World

In 2010, I, Lotte van den Berg, artistic director of OMSK, will travel from Dordrecht to Kinshasa and back, on a journey between two worlds: Europe and Africa, the Netherlands and the Congo. In the course of this journey, I will ponder man’s need to imagine a world other than the tangibly present. Man stands with his feet on the ground, walks around with his head in the clouds, fated to connect heaven and earth. We eat, defecate, fight and sleep, dreaming of heavenly glory and eternal happiness. Where do reality and imagination meet?

We all see the tree before us differently. No one can see the tree in its entirety: one sees part of the tree, this or that side, a facet. One thinks of pollution, firewood, etc. What we see is what we wish to see. We project images onto reality. We hold on to that which we hope to believe, that which we were taught to think. How do we imagine the life of another? And how are we to go about imagining another’s reality, another’s worldview, another’s perception?

As Westerners, we have a tendency to believe that the real and the unreal are irreconcilable. The distinction between reality and the imagination is soon made: of course one cannot fly on a nutshell, and there are no such things as witches, either. But since when has fantasy not been part of reality? Is it really that easy to tell the difference between what is and what is not? Is it not so that everything we imagine becomes part of the world we live in? One can say that belief and religion were created to make life easier, or that we produce illusions to make life bearable. But will we not then overlook the impact these images can have on life itself? Are the visible and invisible worlds not in fact indissolubly interconnected? Which came first: the idea or the thing, dreams or reality?

Kinshasans have a word for the parallel spirit world: “le deuxième monde.” This “second world” is only perceptible if one has four eyes. It is an influential world, a world in which everything ultimately has its origin, meaning and cause. It is where hope and fear are imagined, where history and the future meet. Is it possible for me to imagine this world? Where should I start if I want to get to know this world? Is it at all possible? Can I imagine a world in which miracles are more acceptable than projects and dreams are more important than facts?

There is a film about a man in a wheelchair who goes dancing in the virtual world of Second Life. While seated at his computer, he imagines himself dancing. “I have never danced so delightfully,” he remarks, beaming. Everyone will agree that this man did not go dancing, and yet he did dance. When I was driving on a brand-new motorway outside Groningen, the satnav system said I was driving through meadowland. When I reached home, I had the thrilling feeling that I had in fact driven along a cart track through the grass. What is real, and what not? Name me one thing which is not real. There is bound to be none.

What is the value of imagination? And how necessary is it to be able to imagine another world, another reality? I increasingly feel that the imagination is vitally important. New horizons are necessary if one wants to survive. One has to have dreams if one wants to look to the future. Without the power of the imagination, one would never manage to approach others. The imagination is an engine. The second world is a possibility.

I myself have great faith in reality. I find strength in the sounds which surround me, the things I can see and touch. A tangible environment gives me something I can hold onto. And yet everything that surrounds me reveals what cannot be seen. The gently swaying branches on a tree reveal the wind. The ticking sound of my fingers on the keyboard of my computer makes the silence audible. I like things because they point to the empty space they leave behind. I like the tangible, because it renders an intangible world perceptible.

Dordrecht Brussels Kinshasa

Between early June and late September 2010, I will travel to one of the world’s fastest growing cities, the New York City of the African continent, Kinshasa. It is here, in a suburb of the city, that we will set up a small workshop. Our container will be located next to the bicycle repair shop and behind the petrol station, and this is where we will begin our workshop. For four months we will test the powers of our imagination and explore the Congolese’s second world. We will use different means to express what we hear, see and discover. A large satellite dish on our roof – I am connected – will serve to maintain contact with Dordrecht and the Netherlands. Many artists in Dordrecht – and some of the town’s inhabitants, too – wonder how important, powerful and necessary a second, imagined world is in the Netherlands. Is there a growing lack of imagination and spirituality in our wealthy Europe, or does it reveal itself in another, perhaps a digital form? The ongoing long-distance exchange between Kinshasa and Dordrecht once again shows both how important and difficult it is to imagine a world from which one is absent.

Before travelling to Kinshasa, we will make a stopover in Brussels. En passant forms the first step of our journey. How far apart are experience and observation? If one looks down at the earth from an aeroplane, a house is no longer a building in which to live, but a piece in a larger whole. That one house links a road to a meadow, the meadow links a lake to a path, and so on. The higher one flies, the more roads disappear: a path becomes a road, a road becomes a flowing river. A bird’s-eye view offers an overview, structure and distance. But all that disappears once one is back with one’s feet on the ground. What was once a surveyable surface is now a wall blocking one’s way. Structure has made way for chaos, distance for the personal. Are these perspectives reconcilable? How is one to perceive one’s environment if one can only see it from up close? What is it like to live without any perspective? Together with a group of inhabitants from Brussels, we will explore and show both perspectives.

My father is a very religious man. For a long time I thought I had to believe in his God to be able to understand him. Until I realised that I can appreciate his belief at its true value without having to profess it myself. I can believe that he believes. I do not have to adopt his perspective to be able to stand next to him. It is precisely because our views of the world are so different that we make the valuable effort of trying to understand one another. The fact that we will probably never share the same views is less important.

We often believe we have to understand life in order to live our lives. But it is not so. We are already alive, and understand nothing. We often think we can only be with other people when we have gotten to know them, when we understand and cherish them. But it is not so. We are already together. To pretend one understands others only leads to simplification. Perhaps much could be gained from our lack of understanding, or from honest estrangement. Perhaps it is not a bad thing at all that we all see a different tree.

Lotte van den Berg

March 2010

** The performance De Tweede Wereld, created by Lotte van den Berg and OMSK in Kinshasa in 2010, will be coproduced and presented by the Kunstenfestivaldesarts in May 2011.

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Lotte van den Berg (°1975)’s fascination for the theatre goes back all the way to her childhood days thanks to her father, theatre maker Jozef van den Berg. She studied theatre direction in Amsterdam and began setting up performances in Flanders as well as in the Netherlands even before she graduated. Between 2005 and 2009 Lotte van den Berg worked for the Antwerp Toneelhuis, where she took her first steps in production for large theatre venues. For the Antwerp Toneelhuis she directed Stillen (2006) and Winterverblijf (2007) and other productions. In 2009 she left the Toneelhuis to settle down in Dordrecht in the Netherlands, where she established OMSK, her own structure in collaboration with a number of artists and performers. With OMSK Lotte van den Berg developed an ambitious long-range plan that is to take her, for instance, to Brussels and Kinshasa. In 2009 she created OMSK’s first production: Het verdwalen in kaart.

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