15/05 – 18:00
17/05 – 15:00 + 20:30
18/05 – 18:00
19/05 – 18:00
20/05 – 18:00
21/05 – 18:00
22/05 – 22:30
23/05 – 15:00 + 22:30
24/05 – 15:00 + 20:30

EXIT is the title of a performance and research project by Kris Verdonck and dancer and choreographer Alix Eynaudi, in collaboration with Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek). It starts with a question: in a traditional theatre set-up, using all the media at the theatre’s disposal, what influence can we have on the sensory perceptions of an audience? An audience comes to the theatre to undergo or experience something. What stimuli do our brains absorb in the course of everyday life, and how do they differ from those received during a performance? The audience enters the theatre in a state of openness and receptiveness. They sit, immobilised, in seats in the darkness of a heated theatre. Physically, they are forced to remain passive, and mentally, they are in an altered state of consciousness, a state of attentiveness different from that of every day (before and after the performance). These conditions can be manipulated, for example by making the darkness even more complete, by raising the temperature in the theatre, increasing the comfort of the seats, and so on. To what extent is an artist capable of manipulating the spectator’s consciousness (and subconscious) using theatrical means? Discover it in this extraordinary sensory piece!

Kris Verdonck & Alix Eynaudi

Alix Eynaudi, Boglárka Börcsök

Marianne Van Kerkhoven

Rutger Zuydervelt / Machinefabriek

Technical coordination
Jan Van Gijsel

Light design & technique
Luc Schaltin

An Breugelmans

Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Beursschouwburg

A Two Dogs Company

ÜBER LEBENSKUNST, an initiative project of the Federal Cultural Foundation in cooperation with Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin)

With the support of
Vlaamse Overheid, Vlaamse Gemeenschapscommissie

Thanks to
Dr. Jan Lehembre

Back to top

The search for rest

In 1880, French socialist politician and journalist Paul Lafargue, sonin- law of Karl Marx, wrote the satirical treatise Le droit à la paresse (The right to be lazy). If he were to return to our world today with its ever-increasing agitation, he would shake his head in astonishment. What value does our society attach to relaxation, rest, silence, sleep, and laziness? Are we not caught up more than ever in the relentlessness of production and consumption? What is more, the same capitalism that Lafargue battled against has found all sorts of ways of exploiting our rest, relaxation, and laziness. German author Heiner Müller wrote that what we really need in order to achieve a state of restfulness is a time that frei ist von Konsum (is free of consumption). There is a subversive element to the demand for this sort of time, since it erodes the inexorability of production and consumption.

This search for rest is at the heart of EXIT, a performance and a study by theatre-maker and artist Kris Verdonck and dancer and choreographer Alix Eynaudi, together with Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek), a creator of music and sound. On the basis of a traditional theatre set-up – a room full of spectators in front of a stage where something is being shown, the team wants to examine what influence the various media the theatre has at its disposal (lighting, sound, movement, language, visuals, set design, etc.) can have on the sensory perception and mental attitude of the audience. To what extent are artists capable of playing-on the spectator’s conscious or subconscious mind when employing these theatrical resources?

“To be or not to be, (…)
To die, to sleep, no more (…)
To sleep! Perchance to dream (…)”
William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III, Scene I

An audience comes to the theatre to ‘undergo’ or ‘experience’ something. What stimuli do our brains absorb in the course of everyday life, and how do these differ from those received during a performance? In theory, the audience enters the theatre in a state of openness and receptiveness. They sit, immobilised in seats, in the darkness of a temperature-controlled space. Physically they are forced to remain passive, and mentally – as a result of concentrating – they have to take-in what is being shown; they are in an ‘altered’ state of consciousness, a state of attentiveness different from that of daily life (before and after the performance). These conditions can be manipulated, for example, by making the darkness even more complete, by raising the air temperature in the theatre, increasing the comfort of the seats, and so on.

But what sorts of sensory stimuli produced on stage are able to induce sleep? We know from our experience of the cinema and television that sound can create tension, but can certain sounds also bring about complete relaxation? Are there particular types of light that can weaken our attention or even shut it down? Do narrative structures have a greater impact on our alertness than abstract forms (e.g. dance and music) in which repetition plays an important part? Do concrete conflicts, situations, and characters better hold our attention? Do we follow a line of dramatic development consciously, unconsciously, or subconsciously? And what about the language that we try to understand, but that can also have the effect of an incantation, bringing about a stupor or intoxication? In addition to generating all sorts of experiments within theatrical parameters, Kris Verdonck and Alix Eynaudi also involved the knowledge of scientists and parascientists in their working process: they contacted sleep specialists, brain researchers, hypnotists, etc.

Kris Verdonck: “Sleeping is about quality time, quality of living, learning, understanding, evolving. However, sleep is absolutely underestimated is the capitalistic / Fordism-like times we are living in: sleep is looked at as a complete waste of time. Sleep in the way I see it now, is something anarchistic, not in a destructive way, but dangerously constructive. During the research stage, we discovered that there are two different kinds of sleep / dreaming: There is the ‘deep sleep’, where pertinent information absorbed during the day is stored and put in a place where we can find it when needed. The second type is the ‘light sleep’ or REM sleep. During this period, we make associations and connections in order to understand things and develop an opinion about them. So in our sleep, the brain renders information at all levels. If we want to understand the world that surrounds us, sleep is essential. To be able to take good decisions in our lives, we have to ‘sleep on it’ Our way of living and the way society is organized does not permit us to take time to sleep, and thus, to make the right decisions. Without sleep, our ideas and knowledge become superficial, like mass-produced products, and are therefore easily overruled. Our ideas become less dangerous. So in this sense, time really becomes a resource. It’s a beautiful contradiction: by doing nothing we are more productive and our knowledge is more profound. We become less fragile. Taking the time to sleep well increases the quality of our lives and of our ideas.”

Back to top

Kris Verdonck (b. 1974) studied visual arts, architecture, and theatre – this is evident in his work. His creations are positioned in the transit zone between visual arts and theatre, between installation and performance, between dance and architecture. As a theatre maker and visual artist, he has produced a wide variety of projects. Amongst other things, he has directed theatre productions and made various installations, such as 5 (2003), Catching Whales is Easy (2004), and II (2005). The first of his works, STILLS, was commissioned by La Notte Bianca in Rome, and consisted of gigantic projections. In 2007, Verdonck created the theatrical installation I/II/III/IIII, and in 2008, END premiered at the Kunstenfestivaldesarts. He often presents combinations of different installations/performances called VARIATIONS. VARIATION IV was shown during the Festival d’Avignon in 2008. In 2010, he finished the ‘circuit performance’ ACTOR #1, which showed three variations on the theme of: from chaos to order. K, a Society is a series of installations inspired by the work of Franz Kafka that premiered at Theater der Welt in Germany in 2010. The following year, Verdonck presented two research projects: TALK, which set out to explore language, and EXIT, created with Alix Eynaudi, which aimed to tackle theatre as a medium. In the same year, his first solo exhibition was held at the Z33 House for Contemporary Art, together with a new work called EXOTE. In 2012, he created M, a reflection, a theatre production with texts by Heiner Müller, with actor Johan Leysen and his digital double on stage. H, an incident, a musical theatre performance for the big stage, is based on the life and work of Daniil Harms; it premiered in May 2013 during the Kunstenfestivaldesarts. In October 2014, UNTITLED, a new solo creation for Spanish dancer and performer Marc Iglesias, went into premiere at the Kaaitheater. At the end of this year, ISOS, a 3D video installation based on the world and characters from the apocalyptic science-fiction novels of J.G. Ballard, is due to be completed.

Alix Eynaudi (b. 1976) was trained as a ballet dancer in the Opéra of Paris. She worked in various ballet companies before entering P.A.R.T.S. when the school first opened. In 1996 she joined Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s company Rosas, where she worked for seven years, taking part in the creation of six pieces: Just Before, Drumming, I said I, In real Time, Rain, April me, as well as to the retake of repertory pieces such as Woud, Achterland, and Fase. Since 2005 Alix Eynaudi has been creating her own pieces: Crystalll, in collaboration with Alice Chauchat (2005); Supernaturel (2007); Komposition (2008) in collaboration with Anne Juren, Marianne Baillot and Agata Maszkiewicz; The Visitants (2008) and Long Long Short Long Short (2009), both in collaboration with Agata Maszkiewicz; EXIT (2011), in collaboration with Kris Verdonck; Monique (2012), in collaboration with Mark Lorimer. She is currently preparing a new piece, Edelweiss, which will premiere in October 2015. Besides creating her own work, Eynaudi continues to develop projects with other artists, both as a collaborator and a performer. She took part in projects as a performer with the collective Superamas, Kris Verdonck, and Anne Juren, and she is currently touring with Boris Charmatz for his new piece manger. Alix Eynaudi’s artistic practice also involves teaching workshops at a.o. P.A.R.T.S. (Brussels) and ImpulsTanz (Vienna).

Back to top