II

Kaaitheater

7/05 > 18:00 & 23:00
8/05 > 18:00 & 20:30
10, 11, 12/05 > 19:00 & 21:30
1h30

In II, Kris Verdonck generates an encounter between theatre and the visual arts. The performance artist is creating a journey consisting of five pieces spread throughout the different spaces of the Kaaitheaterstudio's. Five stories telling of life and death. Some evoke the idea of the Apocalypse, others invite actors to move towards the verge of unconsciousness. Only the essence remains of any dramatic action: actors transform themselves into machines. They become a still life on the borderline between man and object, weakened and in a cold and eerie place.

With:

Carl Vermeersch, Sandy Williams, Karolina Wolkowiecka, Sanne Wutzke

Dramaturgy:

Marianne Van Kerkhoven

Technical Direction:

Raphaël Rubbens

Sound Engineer:

Bart Aga

Box:

Construction:

Plasma Magma

Voice:

Johan Leysen

Thanks to:

De Warande & Philips Lighting Turnhout, Ir. Leo Mariën, Danny Vandeput

Man :

With:

Sandy Williams

Construction:

Raphaël Rubbens

Light Design:

Luc Schaltin

Costumes:

Ann Weckx

Thanks to:

Jean-Luc Ducourt

Patent Human Energy:

With:

Karolina Wolkowiecka

Light Design:

Luc Schaltin

Costumes:

Ann Weckx

Thanks to:

Espeel Roeselare, Kathleen Mertens

Rain:

Construction:

Marc Depauw

Duet:

With:

Carl Vermeersch, Sanne Wutzke

Set Design:

Raphaël Rubbens, Hans Luyten

Construction:

Plasma Magma

Music:

Bart Aga

Light Design:

Luc Schaltin

Costumes:

Ann Weckx

Thanks to:

Hoger Instituut Dans / Hogeschool Antwerpen, Cathy Weybers

Production:

stilllab vzw

Coproduction:

Kaaitheater (Bruxelles/Brussel), Festival La Bâtie (Genève), KunstenFESTIVALdesArts

Executive producer:

Margarita Production

Supported by:

Ministerie van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap, Vlaamse Gemeenschapscommissie van het Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest

Thanks to:

iMAL, Toneelhuis, x-med-k

Presentation:

Kaaitheater, KunstenFESTIVALdesArts

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A five-part installation/performance by Kris Verdonck

Kris Verdonck studied different disciplines - visual arts, architecture and theatre - and that is something which is reflected in his work: his creations can be situated in the border area between plastic arts and theatre, between installation and performance, between dance and architecture.

Hanging in the air, as frozen...

In contemporary art, no other words are used (and misused) more often than "multidisciplinary" and "multimedial". What Kris Verdonck attempts with his work, is not that much to juxtapose different disciplines and media, but to broach their often opposite essences, looking for the moments and places where those contradictions collide. Like a surfer who remains on top of a wave, just for a second, at the point where climbing turns into descending, hanging in the air, as frozen, just for a second.

One of the basic paradoxes that Kris Verdonck literally "puts on the scene" time after time, is the technological representation and reproducibility on one hand, and on the other hand, the non-recurrence of the theatrical presentation, the "here and now" of the living performance, the degree of reality of what is shown and watched.

Today, art is one of those domains in society where people frenetically look for a new relationship with technology, which increasingly determines and steers our daily lives. In his work, Kris Verdonck does not simply want to "use" those new technologies and media in a theatrical context - which is far too often done in a trendy way nowadays. The problem of the increasing impact of technology on our daily lives becomes the subject itself of his practice. That impact goes much further than utility value and comfort: it touches the existential questions of humankind, the search for the meaning of life and of our world.

Dislodged from anything familiar

What relation can/wants/should mankind enter into with the machine, the robot, technology? Each time a human being interacts with a machine, he gives up part of his control over the situation/practice/event. That relationship of trust is a menace to his free will. Our dependence on the machine exists in many gradations: from not being able to live without our cell phone, to a life-and-death dependence of someone who is connected to a breathing machine. Whatever the gradation is, our dependence on the machine always contains a latent or visible form of panic. Panic as a situation where anything familiar is lost, where you have nothing to hold on to, where you do not know what is happening to your mind and/or body, where you are at the mercy of the unknown. That is where the atmosphere of "Unheimlichkeit" comes from, so characteristic for Kris Verdonck's work. The word "unheimlich" - it was Freud who brought this feeling to our attention - is hard to translate: strange, incomprehensible, mysterious, frightening, related to supernatural forces. "Unheimlich" literally means: no longer having a home, not belonging anywhere, dislodged from anything familiar.

In the course of history, the relationship between man and machine has more than once been compared to his relationship with God. The nucleus of the divine is: control over everything, omnipotence. Man as an imperfect, unpredictable, uncontrollable and mortal being longs for the domain of the perfect, the controllable, the immortal. Man longs for the mechanic: he wants to make or to be a robot in order to escape from his own imperfectness and mortality.

Kris Verdonck's actors, his characters, are situated in the eye of the storm of that longing. They are the transition between man and machine. They are nearly-cyborgs. But their tragedy consists precisely of this "nearly". They are intermediate creatures, in full transition and suffering from the fact that they are one nor the other.

Man = machine

"Can we really put futuristic, "disembodied" images on stage? Can we show characters whose function is taken by an object?" These are some of the questions that Kris Verdonck asks himself. In earlier installations they were approached from two directions: man becoming a machine, and the machine becoming a human being.

In Dancer # 1 a grinding disc displays an uncontrolled (and therefore human?) behaviour, due to energy excess. In a certain way, the thing obtains a soul: it becomes a dancer who dances himself to death - a machine that dies.

In In the actors remain inside an aquarium for one hour; the sound of their breath and their heartbeat is amplified. Their situation is similar to that of a "sunken" object. Some kind of hypnotic flush takes control of them, a longing not to be (active) anymore, to deliver themselves completely to the circumstances.

In Heart every 500 heartbeats a thread, connected to her body, smashes a woman against a wall. Her heartbeats are visible through an amplified ultrasound on a monitor. Obviously the tension makes it impossible for her to control her heartbeat. She has to deliver herself to the machine of her own heart, to the unpredictable sublime moment when the thread is jerked at and she is smashed against the wall. Etc.

The characters put on stage by Kris Verdonck are in a state of complete loneliness: they are left in perfect isolation, alone inside their heads. An uninterrupted flow of thoughts is produced. Parallel to that flow of thoughts, Kris Verdonck often uses text in his installations and performances, a fact that, once again, refers to a theatrical context. The texts are usually from lonely, unruly authors, e.g. Samuel Beckett, Rainald Goetz or Heiner Müller.

II

In II, a creation for the KunstenFESTIVALdesArts, Kris Verdonck brings together five "moments" or "situations" in the studios of the Kaaitheater: two installations (events without any human presence) and three performances (events with human presence).

Box is an installation: a cube of glass contains the strongest possible light source that can be concentrated on such a small surface. The project was developed in collaboration with engineers of Philips Lighting (Turnhout). The spectators are given protecting dark glasses and are led into the room. While they watch the light, they hear the voice of actor Johan Leysen, reading the apocalyptical texts from Heiner Müller Verkommenes Ufer and Landschaft mit Argonauten, in German. The light, that normally enables us to see, now makes us blind. It could be the flash of an nuclear explosion, an incessant, dazzling lightning, announcing the end of the world.

Man is a performance: a dancer is wearing some kind of helmet on his head, making it impossible for him to receive any visual impression. A small camera has been mounted on top of the helmet. Through a digital system called The vOICe, this man hears an incessant flow of sounds. The vOICe was developed by Dutch engineers to let blind people see. The visual impulses, registered by the camera, are converted into auditive data. The man has to decode these auditive data in order to move forward in the world. His "sensory deprivation" turns into a "nearly drowning" in an excessive quantity of unknown impulses in which he literally has to find his way.

In Patent Human Energy, a woman is lying on her back on a bed with long, iron bars, like a fakir. Above her, there are more bars. At the top ends of the bars, at the point where they touch the body, small microphones have been installed. They register all the signals (sound, temperature,...) emitted by the body, and translate them into impulses that we, the spectators, can perceive with our senses. The title Patent Human Energy refers to the patent with the same name that was registered by the American company Microsoft in June 2004. Microsoft patented a method with corresponding devices, all developed by them, to use the force and the impulses of the human body as some sort of keyboard through which certain devices, e.g. a cell phone or a watch, can obtain energy.

Rain is an installation. At irregular intervals, burning drops fall down from some twenty points in the ceiling of the space. They seem like little, blue lamps or glow-worms that fall down and extinguish. Just like in Box, this rain of fire refers to the image of the Apocalypse, where the world is put out of joint and "unheimliche" phenomena occur which man no longer has a grip on.

Finally, in Duet, two dancers hang in the air, attached to some kind of grab crane. The machine makes slow rotating movements. Due to the way how the man and the woman are attached to the machine, they have to embrace, support, help each other like two dancers in a classical pas de deux. Due to the rotation of the machine, the effect of gravity on the two bodies is subject to constant changes. The two human beings are attached to each other and depend on the machine to stay in balance.

These five installations/performances are set up at different spots in the studios of the Kaaitheater. With the help of a guide, the spectator follows a determined route inside the building. His/her senses are confused. He/she is e.g. deprived of his/her normal capacities by an excess of impressions (which can be visual, like in Box or auditive, like in Man). Sometimes he/she is actively involved in the event, sometimes he/she is only a spectator. In his "work", the spectator will be confronted with the alternating choices between "delivering him/herself" or "trying to observe/comprehend". He/she is invited to independently determine his/her own points of reference. In that sense II is definitely situated in a transit zone between theatre and plastic arts.

Marianne Van Kerkhoven

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