A Possibility of an Abstraction

    14/05  | 20:30
    15/05  | 15:00
    15/05  | 20:30

€ 16 / € 13
55 min

Dutch artist Germaine Kruip is a scenographer by training, who for 15 years now has been working on an oeuvre that shifts between sculpture, performance, and architecture. Her work draws on kinetic art: by playing with light, motion, and geometric motifs, she examines the meaning of form. With A Possibility of an Abstraction , Kruip turns the theatre into an atmospheric space. It is a great game of perception: shadows, reflections, architecture, and the stage star in a cinematic experience created in real time. In her quest for abstraction, Kruip aestheticizes the theatre. She borrows from the tradition of shadow theatre and the experimental ‘paracinema’ of American filmmaker Ken Jacobs, and sets a filmic effect in motion without the involvement of film, solely and exclusively through the manipulation of light. A Possibility of an Abstraction opens the doors of a meditative space at the edge of our perception. Impressive.

See also
Lecture Arjen Mulder
‘The aesthetics of disappearance’
15/05 – 16:30

Concept & creation
Germaine Kruip

Hahn Rowe

Bart Van Den Eynde

Lighting design
Germaine Kruip & Marc Dewit

Technical direction
Marc Dewit

Assistant lighting designer & stage
Chris Vanneste, Pierre Willems

Stage construction
Simon Callens

Studio assistant
Maxime Fauconnier

Ash Bulayev

Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Kaaitheater

Stichting Rehearsal/Germaine Kruip

Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Kaaitheater

This project is made possible through generous support of
Ammodo, Mondriaan Fund

The premiere of the work was commissioned and presented at EMPAC / Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY. Curator: Victoria Brooks. Original Lighting Designer: Laura Mroczkowski. The presentation at EMPAC was made possible through generous support by the Mondriaan Fund and Fonds Kwadraat

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A Possibility of an Abstraction

In his fine essay Over theatraliteit (About theatricality) from the bundle Figuren / Essays (1995), Bart Verschaffel uncouples ‘the theatrical’ from the 19th-century bourgeois definition of theatre as the art of fiction (constructed around a text). Verschaffel turns further back in time, to the Italian Renaissance and Baroque culture, and there finds a much broader definition. The capturing of a perspective is the essence of the theatrical: “Theatre-making is not about staging something but about determining the point from whence something must be seen, and creating of a spectacle a theatre performance that can be seen in a perfect manner. Theatre transforms the seeing as well as the spectacle. The scattered, ailing, fleeting, casual look is brought to one point, and idealised. The event, which fans out in all directions and has indistinct contours; the versatile things; the indeterminate, very sensible space, are all taken together and turned towards one point, one viewpoint.”

Germaine Kruip is active in various media. She initially stepped into the art world as a scenographer for the Dutch theatre company Mugmetdegoudentand. She has quickly set her own course, meanwhile building up an oeuvre of installations, architectural interventions, visual art performances, collages, mobiles, photographs, sculptures, and texts. A Possibility of an Abstraction marks her return to the theatre.

Each medium has its own conventions and material logic and creates a different perspective. Maybe it’s precisely through the use of very different formal perspectives that a great consistency is felt in Kruip’s work, albeit difficult to grasp analytically or unequivocally. The multiformity of time is important, the presence through absence, the haptic experience of architecture, the emptiness that makes visible, the operation of ordering principles. A sensitivity that in the first place is oriented on the creating of experiences.

In a recent solo exhibition at the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam, the removal of all artificial light was perhaps the most profound and meaningful intervention by the artist. It created a spectacular effect, especially at nightfall. The advancing, creeping shadows made time visible. The absence of exhibition lighting materialised the historic monument back to stone and wood, height and depth, to far and near, to sharp and barely visible. The building was no longer disclosed to the viewer; the viewer was handed over to the building.

In Over theatraliteit Verschaffel describes the regal gaze as the ordering, elucidating principle in Baroque theatre. The monarch had the ideal view of the stage. The audience looked at his gaze and looked at what he saw. His gaze not only ordered the view of the stage but the public space in the theatre as well, with proximity to the monarch being the centripetal, ordering principle. The modernistic black box has banished this hierarchical organisation, along with other secular references. An evolution parallel to that in visual art where the white cube has become the referential exhibition space of the 20th century. The black box and the white cube like to be neutral, free of any distractions from the outside world, and so give all the room to the emancipated gesture of the artist. In theatre light is one of the main constituents of this new, inverted hierarchy. The artwork on the stage is the benchmark; it’s illuminated and becomes the only valid, visible reality. The surrounding space (the house and the wings) disappears into the darkness. In A Possibility of an Abstraction, the light ignores this hierarchy and searchingly scans the entire architectural and cultural space that comprises the theatre. A Possibility of an Abstraction is a site specific performance.

The timeless neutrality of the modernist black box was obviously a utopia. Although the theatre doors are closed and the house lights extinguished, the world won’t be shut out. Via our heads, it sneaks inside the theatre. The lack of references is a utopia; the possibility of an abstraction is the impossibility of the abstraction. The Kaaitheater is an Art Deco building that has served as a Music Hall and as a carpet business. The stage is very wide and proportionally very shallow. The cables and the fly rail betray the technology; the peeling paint on the rear wall, the time; the illuminated arrows that must swiftly show us the exit in case of emergency and must never be extinguished, the materiality of our bodies. The world is not only present in the theatre in the pragmatic signs and traces of the past. We, the public, import the cultural history of watching. The voices in the audience that go quiet when the house lights dim. The unconscious acknowledgement that the protagonist enters from the left (pathway), and that whoever comes from the right (garden) forms a counterforce, i.e. for Western audiences that read from left to right. An illuminated, elongated rectangle on the rear wall has to evoke in the mind a film projection. And so on and so forth.

In Baroque theatre, the royal perspective determines the organisation on the stage and in the public space, states Verschaffel. The audience watched the gaze of the monarch and looked at what he saw: the stage and the positioning of the audience. In the darkness of the black box, these reflective and overlapping triangles of watching and being watched are erased by the darkness in the public space (and by its non-hierarchical organisation). When that darkness disappears, when during a performance we are confronted with our act of watching, that causes a shock. Even more than the seductive control of the perspective offered by the stage in comparison with the scattered view in an exhibition space, the power of this collectivity has lured Germaine Kruip back into theatre. We, the public, use our heads as a camera, our eyelids as the shutter, our pupils as the focus. We reflect on what we see. We see what we feel. Together we try to see what we see.

Bart Van den Eynde,
May 2016

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Germaine Kruip ’s (b. 1970) artworks often take the form of “architectural interventions.” Manipulating daylight with geometric, Kinetic sculptures, these interventions transform each site into a stage, with the audience as actors in a play of substantive absence. Kruip’s work has recently been exhibited at List Visual Arts Center at MIT, Boston, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Art Basel 41, Basel, among others.

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