Oblivion

La Raffinerie
  • 07/05 | 20:00
  • 08/05 | 18:00
  • 10/05 | 20:00
  • 13/05 | 20:00
  • 14/05 | 18:00
  • 15/05 | 20:00
  • 16/05 | 20:00

€ 16 / € 13
2h 30min
EN > NL / FR

Meet the artist after the performance on 8/05

Imagine a place where you are reconnected to everything you have discarded, deleted, or thrown away. Objects, thoughts, and relationships that you had rid yourself of and have since forgotten, they are all back. They are yours; you care about them. You turn everything round again, revalue, reinvest... Everything is worth something. Sarah Vanhee is a Belgian performer, creator, and author who has already made an impression at the Kunstenfestivaldesarts with strong site-specific projects such as Lecture For Every One (2013) and Untitled (2014). For her latest piece, Oblivion, Vanhee has kept all that she would otherwise have thrown away during a full year of working and living, and makes a performance with it. Taking an ontological perspective, she looks at how we deal with things that would otherwise end up in the rubbish bin or fall into oblivion. When does your trash stop being your trash? Oblivion is a slow celebration of things unhidden. True and moving.

See also
Absent Images

Concept & performance
Sarah Vanhee

Sound
Alma Söderberg, Hendrik Willekens

Outside eyes
Mette Edvardsen, Berno Odo Polzer

Voice coach
Jakob Ampe

Production assistant
Linda Sepp

Interviews
Claire Frament, Audrey Vandecauter

Translation
Isabelle Grynberg (FR), Marika Ingels & Sarah Vanhee (NL)

Executive production
CAMPO (Gent)

Thanks to
Manyone, Pianofabriek Kunstenwerkplaats, Kaaitheater

Presentation
Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Charleroi Danses / La Raffinerie

Co-production
Kunstenfestivaldesarts, CAMPO (Gent), HAU Hebbel am Ufer (Berlin), Göteborgs Dans & Teater Festival, Noorderzon Performing Arts Festival (Groningen)

Supported by
Vlaamse Overheid

This project is co-produced by
NXTSTP, with the support of the Culture Programme of the European Union

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Waste can be really beautiful

Imagine that for a whole year you keep everything that you would otherwise throw away, from spam to yoghurt pots. Artist Sarah Vanhee did this. “Totally unworkable, but that’s just what makes it so interesting.”

The dustbin, the delete button, the toilet: all the tools that we rid ourselves of on a daily basis have been issued a completely different status by Sarah Vanhee. All storable waste went into boxes; each bad idea was archived; all versions of texts were stored. But of having her home raided by a disinfection team, Vanhee was less fond. Which is why she only took pictures of organic waste and kept a diary of her bowel eliminations.

“Especially away from home, there were some embarrassing situations: photographing the food scraps in restaurants, sitting with a bag of rubbish on the bus. Suddenly I began to feel a secret kinship with people searching through dustbins on the street. We throw everything away so thoughtlessly that it was seven months before I realised: oh, I must also hang onto glass. Or: those bits of raspberries stuck in the colander are also waste! It really became a kind of addiction.”

That particularly proved true when Vanhee concluded her year of collection mania earlier this month. “It does not feel liberating at all, but actually heavy. I even feel physically ill. I really miss that moment of consciously keeping something; that you do not have to choose what has value and what does not, that you give all things a chance as they are. I even one had a serious talk with a yoghurt pot. It’s very touching how many memories then emerge. Now it feels like I am throwing away whole relationships each time.”

Vanhee unpacks her plunder and her insights in Oblivion, the first performance in Dutch theatre history with a ‘waste manager’ amongst the credits. Linda Sepp has stored all the objects and digital waste from one year in chronological order. “She was simultaneously my collector and archivist. After the show, she packs everything back into boxes and thus determines how I will unpack them again, how the performance will sound – depending on where the bottles are.”

Hygiene propaganda

This experiment can sound so absurd, so rich are all the associations it generates. Vanhee herself has learned how to deal differently with control. “If you no longer throw anything out, you obtain a continuous stream over which you are no longer master. Whoever embraces that will realise that control is a fake feeling. Maybe we have nothing new needed at all anymore? That’s a hugely disturbing insight, because we are not programmed that way. We build our whole identity on shoving things aside and acquiring new stuff, not on our memory. We live with a huge imbalance between what lies behind us and what lies before us.”

In books like History of Shit and Waste and Want, Vanhee delved into the social history of waste. She came to realise there was a time when housewives threw nothing away, and even made soap and candles out of their hair. She learned that meanwhile waste is big business, one of the US’s major export sectors.

“The throwaway society is an invention of the 1950s and 60s. The idea that a machine (which would necessarily breakdown sooner each time) was needed for everything was accompanied by a whole hygiene propaganda campaign that warned people of the unseen little monsters that surround us. Did you know that in train stations there used to be one metal cup that everyone could drink water out of? How did we suddenly come up with disposable plastic cups?”

Pleasantly over-satisfied

It’s not so much the moral issue that interests Vanhee but the eco-philosophical: how do we deal with things? “If you postpone the moment of throwing-away itself, you can see how everything is connected with everything. We believe that our waste is gone if we toss it into the dustbin, as we simplify everything by making it invisible. But somewhere in India, it ends up as a mountain that people scavenge in. If we were more aware of geopolitical relations, then the severe panic about the stream of refugees would be less superficial.”

For Oblivion, it will take Vanhee nearly three hours to set up her ‘discardings’ in the theatre. “I hope the visitors will feel pleasantly oversatisfied, like the old-fashioned experience of having eaten a long and delicious meal, but on an intellectual and sensual level. Maybe that’s still my biggest surprise: the pure beauty of the landscape of rubbish that I unfold on stage. All that waste is really beautiful.”

Wouter Hillaert
De Standaard/DS2, article announcing the premiere, 12 November 2015

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Sarah Vanhee ’s (1980) artistic practice is linked to performance, visual art and literature. It uses different formats and is often (re)created in situ. Recent works include Oblivion, I Screamed and I Screamed and I Screamed , Untitled, Lecture For Every One, Turning Turning (a choreography of thoughts) . Her work has been presented in various contexts such as De Appel arts centre (Amsterdam), iDans (Istanbul), Centre Pompidou (Metz), Kunstenfestivaldesarts (Brussels), Impulstanzfestival (Vienna), Van Abbe Museum (Eindhoven), Printemps de Septembre (Toulouse), La Ferme du Buisson (Noisiel), CAMPO (Ghent), Arnolfini Gallery (Bristol), Contour (Mechelen), Théatre de La Cité (Paris), HAU (Berlin) etc. She is the co-author of Untranslatables and author of The Miraculous Life of Claire C and TT . She wrote several texts for specialized press and art-related publications. Since 2009 Sarah Vanhee works in close collaboration with CAMPO, that produced several of her works. She is a member of Manyone.

Sarah Vanhee at the Kunstenfestivaldesarts
2013: Lecture For Every One
2014: Untitled (Vorst/Forest)

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