Simple as ABC #3: The Wild Hunt

    21/05  | 20:30
    22/05  | 20:30
    24/05  | 19:00
    24/05  | 22:00
    25/05  | 19:00
    25/05  | 22:00
    27/05  | 19:00

€ 18 / € 15
1h30
EN/FR/GR/Arabic/Farsi > NL/FR, NL/EN

Subtitles differ per performance
NL/FR on 21, 22, 24/05 (19:00), 25/05 (22:00), 27/05
NL/EN on 24/05 (22:00), 25/05 (19:00)

A cloud of voices gathers in an imaginary museum. Their bodies are held up elsewhere, but here absent storytellers recount histories of hunting. Some of these voices are heard. Many are not. All are experts of a certain reality. Theatre-makers, journalists, politicians, law enforcement: we are all on the hunt for something. Sometimes it’s people. During an actorless audio performance, you will hear snippets of Arabic, English, Farsi, French and Greek collected from around the Mediterranean. Sampling from hours of recordings, Simple as ABC #3: The Wild Hunt pieces together a many-voiced portrait of today’s humanhunt. The Wild Hunt is the third instalment of Simple as ABC, a growing series on the Western migration management machine. It follows a theatrical audio essay about cutting edge detection technology and a documentary musical about the digitisation of the EU border.

Text: Said Reza Hosseini Adib, Samaneh Arian, Aristotle, Ghazi Ayari, Thomas Bellinck, Rihab Chaabane, Abir Farhat, Karima Ganji, Parisa Heidari, Chamseddine Marzoug, Vasilis Mathioudakis,  Mounir, Fatemeh Mousavi, Mohammad Javad Mousavi, Farouk Ouartani, Racist Violence Recording Network, Marwen Sammoud, Ervin Shehu, Yiouli Vitou
Artistic collaborator: Jeroen Van der Ven
Directing: Thomas Bellinck
Dramaturgy: Esther Severi
Interpreting: Said Reza Hosseini Adib, Yasmine Bhar, Hayfa Ghozzi, Rym Haddad, Pafsanias Karathanasis, Amal Rouissi, Georgia Spyropoulou, Aisha Zaied
Lighting design: Lucas Van Haesbroeck
Lighting technician: Marie Vandecasteele
Performance: Said Reza Hosseini Adib, Ghazi Ayari, Thomas Bellinck, Abir Farhat, Karima Ganji, Parisa Heidari, Chamseddine Marzoug, Mounir, Fatemeh Mousavi, Mohammad Javad Mousavi, Farouk Ouartani, Nikos Palaiologos, Orestis Seferoglou, Ervin Shehu, The 5th Grade of the 28th Elementary School of Athens, Yiouli Vitou
Production management: Celine van der Poel
Production: Dimitra Dernikou, Yalena Kleidara, Francesca Pinder, Sandra Raes Oklobdzija, Aisha Zaied
Pyrotechnics & set technician: Niels Antonissen
Research & production assistance: Kaat Balfoort, Hayfa Ghozzi, Pafsanias Karathanasis, Bilel Melki, Amal Rouissi, Georgia Spyropoulou, Laurien Versmissen
Scenography: Camille Lemonnier
Set: Niels Antonissen, Guy Cuypers, Daan Roosen, Toneelhuis Decoratelier, Tim Vanhentenryck, Marjan Verachtert
Sound design: Bart Celis
Sound editing: Lars Morren, Emiel Redant, Johannes Ringoot
Sound technician: Arthur De Vuyst
Stagecraft: Mathias Batsleer, Steven Bontinck, Ijf Boulet, Victor Dries, Johannes Rigoot, Diederik Suykens, Bert Van Dijck
Technical production management: Arthur De Vuyst
Transcription: Samia Amami, Sana Chamekh, Farideh Ghalandari, Amira Hamdi, Cyrine Ben Ismail, Yalena Kleidara
Translation & surtitles: Yasmine Akrimi, Amal Boualga, Vassilis Douvitsas, Mahdieh Fahimi, Farbod Fathinejad, Iannis Goerlandt, Welid Hmeissia, Haythem Khamri, Yalena Kleidara, Marwa Manai, Anna Muchin, Eleni Nasiou, Juliane Regler, Mona Silavi

Production: ROBIN
Co-production: Dream City / L’Art Rue (Tunis), De Grote Post (Ostend), Fast Forward Festival / Onassis Cultural Centre (Athens), Kaaitheater (Brussels), Kunstenfestivaldesarts (Brussels)
With the support of: KASK / School of Arts of University College Ghent, LabexMed / Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l'Homme (Marseille), The Flemish Community of Brussels, The Flemish Government
Concept inspired by Grégoire Chamayou’s Manhunts: A Philosophical History
Additional research interviews: The Asylum Service, The European Border and Coast Guard Agency, The Hellenic Police
Thanks to: Halima Aissa, Ifigeneia Anastasiadi, Dimitris Angelidis, Anonymous, Katia Arfara, Simon Baetens, Louise Bergez, Marc Bernardot, Moon Blaisse, Hassen Boubakri, Sana Bousbih, Dimitris Christopoulos, Ismael Cissé, Patrick De Coster, Johan Dehollander, Bert De Puydt, Omar Fassatoui, Apostolis Fotiadis, Jan Goossens, Hamma Weld Hamida, Louis Janssens, Lobna Jlassi, Ebia Joel, Wafa Kanzari, Khalid Koujili, KVS, Malek Lakhal, Mostfa Lakhdher, Lorena Lando, Leon Konda Ler, Mohsen Lihidheb, Mahdi Mabrouk, Jalel Mahmoudi, Ahmed Mansour, Brigitte Marin, Fatma Mathlouthi, Rosine Mbakam, Yonus Mohamed, Selma Ouissi, Kostis Papaioannou, Lefteris Papagiannakis, Clio Papapantoleon, Stéphanie Poussel, Fanny Robles, Eleni Spathana, Isabel Mohedano Sohm, Imed Soltani, Timo Sterckx, Loes Swaenepoel, Toneelhuis, Carine van Bruggen, Naomi Van Der Horst, An van. Dienderen, Eleonore Van Godtsenhoven et al.

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The borders of Europe

Excerpts from an interview with Thomas Bellinck, Milo Rau and Olivia Rutazibwa

One Europe, that was always the dream. In reality, there are dozens of Europes: the fortress, the EU with all its institutions, the colonial metropolis, our primeval myth of enlightenment and progress … Europe is a multifaceted story. Can artists and researchers help rewrite that story? Together directors Milo Rau and Thomas Bellinck and academic Olivia Rutazibwa explore the borders of Europe. ‘Let’s tear down the idea of the nation, and then we’re off.’

[…]

Olivia Rutazibwa teaches at the University of Portsmouth (on the EU, among other things). She once studied in Italy and for her doctorate she researched Western interventions in sub-Saharan Africa. Thomas Bellinck is just back from Spain, where he took part in a film project on labour migration and the horticultural industry. He will soon be heading off to Tunis and Athens for his forthcoming theatre creation Simple as ABC #3: The Wild Hunt. And Milo Rau, Swiss by birth and now commuting between Ghent and Cologne, recently visited Iraq for his planned Orestes in Mosul, after earlier work in Bucharest, Kigali, Bukavu and Moscow, among other places. The table is small, the mental map that this trio unfolds on it is large.

What does Europe stand for on that map? Rau, Bellinck and Rutazibwa speak with one voice. All three are equally critical of what this region is doing with itself and the rest of the world. […] Bellinck gave shape to his questions in 2013 already in Domo de Eŭropa Historio en Ekzilo, a dilapidated remembrance museum in 2050 for ‘life in the former European Union: the last years of the long peace’. Today he has turned his attention towards the border control of Europe. ‘How does Europe think and speak about itself? How does it determine who belongs and who doesn’t?’ As the years passed, Rutazibwa felt less and less at home in it. ‘Like every Fleming, I was spoon-fed the idea that Europe was a natural blessing: as the cradle of enlightened norms and values that we were the only ones to know, and with which we then had to help the rest of the world – certainly around Christmastime. But then in 1994 the genocide happened in Rwanda, where a million people died while the international community withdrew. Then something started to dawn.’ […] This is how Rau, Bellinck and Rutazibwa unravel Europe’s self-image together. They don’t advance the usual condemnations – European bureaucracy, neo-liberal lobbying, the shift to the right – but ask rather how an ambitious dream has degenerated into a technocratic practice whose legitimization alone is remini-scent of that original utopia. Can Europe still reinvent itself? To do so, it must first completely deconstruct itself and its deepest concepts, and this trio is happy to help do so, from our ideas about borders to our views of citizenship.

Is there a work of art that neatly sums up your image of Europe? Or a work that has given you a whole new perspective on Europe?

Olivia Rutazibwa: Europe on Trial comes to mind, an artistic tribunal I witnessed last summer in Amsterdam. Over the course of three hours, a whole series of researchers and opinion makers expressed their views on the European migration policy. But the most heart-rending part was when the refugees themselves testified about their experiences in asylum centres. It was heartbreaking. When I think of Europe, that is the image that comes to mind: a fortress that we have come to think of as perfectly normal, because it is sold to us every day as a logical and inevitable system. For me, that is the cruelty of Europe: you don’t even need malicious people any more to keep that system up and running.

Thomas Bellinck: A book that really changed my view is Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree from 1992. It is the first of five novels by Tariq Ali about all sorts of confrontations between Europe and the Islamic world, in this case in Granada at the time of the Reconquista, the expulsion of the Muslims from Spain. The story starts with a large book burning of Islamic works and then follows a powerful family of Spanish Muslims who all choose different ways out: one chooses to be baptized a Christian, another enters the resistance, a third flees to North Africa. Ali describes it all beautifully: not only how the world of this family collapses completely, but also how at the same time Cortés sets off for America. For the first time I saw the link between the expulsion of Muslims from Europe and the start of the colonial expedition.

Does that history teach us something about today’s Europe?

TB Every year in southern Spain they still celebrate the Moros y Cristianos, an exotic re-enactment over several days of the Reconquista, including sabres and camels. The ‘Moors’ first land with ships on the coast, fireworks are lit as a symbol of Europe’s defence, and the boats are then pushed back into the sea, followed by some festive re-enactments of acts of violence. That image of the enemy ties in closely with all kinds of other depictions of North Africans today, which in the vernacular are still referred to derogatorily as moros. On the one hand, you can see how Andalusia elevates its Arab history to the level of kitsch almost to draw tourists to the Alhambra, and on the other hand, thousands of Moroccans are made to pick our fruit and vegetables illegally as moros. For me, that combination is typical of Europe: a highly selective retelling of history and an inhumane treatment of migrant workers made illegal.

[…]

All three of you define Europe on the basis of its border and migration policy. What are those walls of Fortress Europe supposed to protect precisely?

TB In fact, they’re generally not walls, that’s what’s so particular. It’s only in our heads that we still see walls that people climb over, but in Greece, for example, that border is very porous precisely and people are constantly moving across it. Frontex, the EU’s official border-control agency, has increasingly outsourced the European borders to the Sahara. The media continue to focus on the ‘border spectacle zone’ around the Mediterranean, but people are dying long before they reach the sea. That is what is so misleading about the ‘Fortress Europe’ metaphor. It suggests that borders are stable entities, but today they are created and monitored from skyscrapers in Poland or Tallinn, by underground data-storage systems and by the drones of the European Space Agency (ESA). The Sentinel programme of ESA provided satellites to monitor global warming, for instance, but they also proved to be perfect in the fight against ‘irregular’ migration. Or just think of all the money going into pilot projects such as Snoopy and Sniffer for cutting-edge technological research in border mana-gement, such as ‘the electronic nose’, which is to replace live dogs to sniff out concealed people.

OR The dehumanization is absolute.

TB Yes, people are now called ‘data subjects’. Identity is reduced to registered fingerprints, while your biographical data become secondary. At one point, Lesbos even introduced a ban on giving people a lift to register in Mytilini, the capital. Whoever transported an unregistered ‘data subject’ by car was committing a border crime, was guilty of moving the border, as it were. That’s how absurd it has got. The border is being increasingly incorporated. Look at how the definition of the word ‘illegal’ has shifted: from something you do to something you are. Many forms of violence are taking place on our borders.

[…]

Is Europe’s problem the idea of the sovereign nation state?

OR It’s also its white thinking. Because if all those people at our borders had been white tourists, then our nations would find a solu-tion together, wouldn’t they? Migration is not a logistical problem at all; it is about how urgent we think it is according to our ideas about who belongs in Europe and who does not. And those ideas have been shaped from childhood in such a way that coloured migra-tion should automatically be called a crisis. ‘Yes, but our borders!’ Who is preventing us from rethinking that idea of borders? I once did so on Moroccan radio. ‘Do you want to abolish all borders? That’s anarchy!’ And what, then, are thousands of people dying because they have to pay more than a plane ticket, because we decide who can enter and who cannot? It’s totally ludicrous in its cruelty. And that’s due to our white image of Europe and of ourselves.

TB And to the idea that all those who come to Europe won’t want to leave. The same fear took hold when Poland and Romania joined the EU. And yes, Romanians are now the fastest-growing group in Spain, but many say: ‘I’m just here to work, I don’t necessarily want to integrate’. They travel back and forth because they can. Just as we travel back and forth. That’s why I genuinely argue for open ferries between Africa and Europe. You’d be surprised how few people actually really want to settle in Europe. Why should they?

OR It’s really a colonial idea that settling down somewhere means that you’re going to put your roots, your family, all your ties with your country and your culture behind you, and that all those people want to be just like us. This is how Europe thinks; that they are a blank canvas and only start to live when we give them meaning. And so want to stay. But after ten years they go back.

Is the defensive response in Europe, from Frontex to our ‘crisis’ discourse, a response to a Europe in decline? Or is this ‘Decline of the West’ also a myth?

OR I like to compare it to the #MeToo question: it’s just about privileges. If white men find it unfair that new quotas will give them fewer opportunities, I can understand that on an individual level. But as artists and researchers, we have a responsibility to show the wonderful opportunities that this whole process offers. And combating patriarchal relations for the inclusion of the other half of humanity is something beautiful. That’s how I would sell it: it’s about the redistribution of global power relations.

TB Privileges are indeed the core, if you want to characterize today’s Europe. That was also the response of a European policy adviser in one of the most honest discussions I have ever had about our European border policy. Usually it is only about the how-question. But as soon as you move on to the why-question, such people get very angry. And he snapped back something like: ‘Migration management is not about remedying inequality, but about dealing as well as possible with the consequences of maintaining inequality.’ His openness blew me over.

If we pursue this idea of the artists’ respon-sibility, has it not come rather late in the day with regard to Europe? It is only recently that the theatre has paid explicit attention to Europe or the EU. Perhaps artists were too slow to work on an alternative representation of Europe?

Milo Rau: That is above all an institutional problem: there is no European theatre system as there are city theatres and national thea-tres today. These city theatres once came into being together with the bourgeois idea of the nation, and that helped create the Europe we see today. So an actor can be a god in Switzerland, but a nobody in Spain. Above these national traditions, there is a much more international performance circuit and a global circus of festivals, but they only reach the cultural elites.

OR My impression is that there is a lot of art with a European perspective. However, we often interpret them as universal and no longer as European, because the West has exterminated or driven back many other knowledge cultures – from the Reconquista to the burning of witches. This is also striking in the academic world: from Mumbai to Cape Town, you see the same Westernized universities, which more or less teach the same things. Did you know that the entire canon of the social and human sciences comes from only five countries? These are the US, the UK, France, Germany and Italy: 12 per cent of the world. And if you know that we only read the men from those countries, that number falls to 6 per cent. So we give meaning to the rest of the world through their eyes.

MR And Russia’s not one of them? Structu-ralism, semiotics?

OR Literature may be a bit broader, but as a student I never had to read a single Russian myself. And, of course, those five countries gathered knowledge from elsewhere, but by the time it is included in the canon, it has often been Westernized already. Euro-centrism, with all its norms and values, is deeply embedded in everything we think and do.

But art about Europe? Why is it only now becoming an inspiring theme?

TB I think there has always been art about Europe, but it was often propaganda, such as Rem Koolhaas’s 2002 European barcode flag, or his exhibition The Image of Europe on the Schumanplein. Perhaps a kind of identity crisis was needed first: when we Europeans awoke after 2008 in a world in which the rest of the world had been living for centuries. That does something to your self-image. In my case it led to a new kind of introspection, while much of the documentary art I grew up with was mainly about constructed ‘others’, about elsewhere. That too is a form of Eurocentrism: a lack of self-ethnography.

[…]

By Wouter Hillaert, 1 March 2019
The complete interview is available in issue 38 of rekto:verso or at rektoverso.be

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In 2009 Thomas Bellinck (°Recklinghausen, 1983) graduates as a theatre director from the RITS, the Brussels school for audio-visual and dramatic arts. Before training as a theatre director Thomas studies Germanic Philology at the University of Leuven.  In 2010, together with actor and former fellow student Jeroen Van der Ven, he establishes the theatre company Steigeisen. Under the flag of Steigeisen and often in collaboration with the Royal Flemish Theatre, the two create a.o. Lethal Inc.; De Onkreukelbare and Memento Park. In 2011, Lethal Inc., a PowerPoint performance about the quest for humane execution methods, is selected for Het Theaterfestival 2011. In 2015, together with writer and theatre maker Pieter De Buysser, Bellinck establishes the Brussels-based, artist-run production society ROBIN. The same year, Thomas starts working on Simple as ABC, a series of performances and installations scrutinising the apparatus of European ‘mobility management’. Within the framework of artist Jozef Wouters’ scenery workshop project Infini 1-15 (KVS), Thomas creates Simple as ABC #1: Man vs Machine, a theatrical essay about cutting edge detection technology. In 2016, Thomas is appointed doctoral researcher in the arts at KASK/School of Arts (HoGent), where he becomes a founding member of The School of Speculative Documentary. 2017 sees the première of Simple as ABC #2: Keep Calm & Validate premieres, a documentary musical about the digitisation of migration management, based on interviews with officers, officials and consultants working for different EU agencies and institutions. From 2018 onwards, Thomas is working on Simple as ABC #3: The Wild Hunt in Athens, Brussels, Marseille, Ostend and Tunis. 

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