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Meet the artist after the performance on 11/05
In a world fixated by statements, statistics and opinions, Sarah Vanhee – together with seven little beings between the ages of 8 and 11 – creates an open imagination space. “We are in this world and this world is in us”, they say in Unforetold. They find themselves in darkness, in a sparkling, resonating spot where they’re hidden and safe. As one body, they fire out questions not knowing what will come back, but they remain open and receptive at all times. They’re sensitive to the unpredicted and are uninhibited by time, routines, and obligations. Not biased, not strategic, but particular, involved, and urgent. Belgian artist Sarah Vanhee has already impressed audiences at the Kunstenfestivaldesarts with Lecture For Every One (2013), Untitled (2014), and Oblivion (2016). In Unforetold, the theatre stage is transformed into a beacon of imagination, light, darkness, and sound. In the dark everything is still possible.
Concept & direction
Luka Arlauskas, Warre Beyens, Finne Duym, Monica Keys, Sudenaz Kolukisa, Lily Van Camp & Timon Vanden Berghe
Alma Söderberg & Hendrik Willekens
Costumes & scenography
Lucas Van Haesbroek
Piet Depoortere & Maarten Van Trigt
Kunstenfestivaldesarts 2018 (Brussels); Théâtre Nanterre-Amandiers (Paris); HAU Hebbel Am Ufer (Berlin); BIT-Teatergarasjen (Bergen); SZENE Salzburg & le phénix, scène nationale Valenciennes, european creative hub
This project has been co-funded by
apap – Performing Europe 2020, co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.
Special thanks to
Manyone, Jakob Ampe, Britt Hatzius, Katja Dreyer, Christine De Smedt, Daniel Blanga-Gubbay, Judith Wielander, Tine Vanhee, Johny Vanhee, Marleen Deseure, Xiri Tara Noir, Anna Rispoli, Mylène Lauzon, Mette Edvardsen, Sarah Vanagt & Marika Ingels
“The unknown,” said Faxe’s soft voice in the forest, “the unforetold, the unproven, that is what life is based on. Ignorance is the ground of thought. Unproof is the ground of action. The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.” (1)
Unforetold is a piece (or maybe rather a place) that has been intuited more than directed. It started from my fascination with the great capacity of young children to relentlessly ask questions, regardless of whether they find answers. I like to think of asking questions as a magical act that evokes new possibilities, logics, worlds. All imagination can start with a ‘what if’ question. Thus asking questions becomes an act of evoking things and worlds which then, by coming into being, evoke questions again.
What if a bat would be asking questions when she sends out her highpitched frequencies and waits for the surrounding objects and surfaces to answer by resonating? The bat then doesn’t look for answers, she receives them.
Like bats, young children are great ‘receivers’.
I never addressed the children as ‘children’ (versus adults). I prefer to think of them as small beings – or small beginnings – with specific magical qualities, a deep intuitive intelligence and a great capability to learn. An attitude that allows the unforeseen, the unforetold to happen.
In this piece/place we evoked together, communality rather than individuality matters. The different aspects of the place are inhabited by a collective consciousness, a ‘hive mind’ (2), connecting all elements, including the small beings, in a dimension much broader than human.
When I like the theatre space, it’s when it opens rather than closes: it opens through its being enclosed. Today’s world predominantly thrives on statements, statistics and states rather than on questions, inquiries and queering. In today’s world it can feel very comforting to be able to enter such an enclosed, opening place.
The black box as a space of questions then acts as a ‘heterotopia’. (3) “These counterspaces (…) are well recognised by children. Certainly, it’s the bottom of the garden; it’s the Indian tent erected in the middle of the attic; or still, it’s on their parents’ bed where they discover the ocean, as they can swim between the covers, and the bed is also the sky, or they can bounce on the springs; it’s the forest as they can hide there; or still, it’s the night as they can become ghosts between the sheets and, finally, it’s the fear and delight of their parents coming home… The children’s inventive play produces a different space that at the same time mirrors what is around them. The space reflects and contests simultaneously.” (…) “Thus it is that the theatre brings onto the rectangle of the stage, one after the other, a whole series of places that are foreign to one another.”
I imagined this heterotopic space of questions as a dark space, for in darkness everything is still possible. The black box of the theatre as a space for radical imagination, a dark place full of potential.
‘Dark times’, ‘dark reality’, ‘dark feelings’, … Why is darkness predominantly considered as something negative? What about its genealogy? It became my suspicion that this denigration of darkness, versus the connotation of light with ‘seeing’, ‘clarity’ and ‘rationality’ is culturally and ideologically informed, following Enlightment thinking. There is something obsessive in the way Western society has given rise to a culture of 24/7 light.
Light makes it possible to see but is also violently exposing; darkness makes it possible to rest, to hide and to be hidden. In current times where privacy hardly remains, where street lanterns become surveillance tools, where the light of screens captures us incessantly, darkness has become increasingly precious.
Certain realities are possible only because they don’t catch light, they are not being seen. A shelter, a womb, a dark room, a mole’s network, a hole, a cave, … In those positive, enveloping dark spaces, we recourse to feeling, listening, imagining.
“How to shed darkness instead of shedding light?”, Hendrik asked.
The forgotten goddess of darkness is Nyx, the goddess of the night, one of the primordial gods who emerged at the dawn of creation. In Flemish Nyx sounds like ‘niks’, which means ‘nothing’. The goddess of nothing, at the beginning of all creation. She was depicted as a beautiful woman, dressed in black, surrounded by mist, and often in the company of some of her numerous children. Nyx lives in a cave beyond the ocean, in which she gives oracles.
The eternal darkness where Nyx lives is punctured only by the light of all kind of amazing bioluminescent beings. The reason why so many deep sea creatures emit light, is not to be able to see, but for reasons of attraction, defense, camouflage, warning communication, etc.
Deep down in the ocean we don’t only encounter beings but also objects that disappeared a long time ago, such as the wreck of the Titanic. In 1912 the ship that was deemed unsinkable, a symbol of wealth and progress, sank to the darkest depth of the ocean after having hit an iceberg.The orchestra continued to play at the nose of the ship as it was sinking. Composer Gavin Bryars made a music piece based on the imagination that the orchestra continued to play even when they were under water already, till the bottom of the ocean. The prolongation of the music into eternity comes about from a ‘scientific’ point of view: “Towards the end of his life, Marconi (the inventor of wireless telegraphy) became convinced that sounds once generated never die, they simply become fainter and fainter until we can no longer perceive them.” (4)
The small beings of Unforetold are excellent listeners who don’t need special equipment to hear the sounds from past or future or parallel worlds.
In this world, they speak their own language, they call it ‘Lutie Chaakaa’.
Everything in this piece/place is made in collaboration with the small beings. It comes from them, through listening, playing, imagining and being. Behind the piece there is a secret only they know and share.
Luka asked me whether there would be a story in the piece, a story people can understand. I hesitated and then said: “Probably, when people will listen and look at this piece, they will see many different stories.” She got silent and pensive. Then – to my relief – she said: “That’s great.”
Monica said: “What if we make one mistake in our piece? Would that be a catastrophe?” Timon said: “No, then you would just have to process that.”
Luka said: “This landscape makes me feel as if a lot of big soft blankets would fall on top of me.”
(1) Ursula K le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness
(2) ‘Hive mind’ as in group mind, according to Wikipedia. Such as in Village of the Damned, a SF movie from 1960 by Wolf Rilla
(3) “There are, probably in every culture, in every civilization, real places – places that do
exist and that are formed in the very founding of society – which are something like
counter-sites, in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within
the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted. Places of this
kind are outside of all places, even though it may be possible to indicate their location
in reality. Because these places are absolutely different from all the sites that they
reflect and speak about, I shall call them, by way of contrast to utopias, heterotopias.”
Michel Foucault in Les Espaces Autres, a lecture of 1984.
(4) http://www.gavinbryars.com/Pages/titanic_xebec.html. In fact, it was late Mark
Fisher’s last book Ghosts of my life that put me on track of Bryars’ work The Sinking
of the Titanic. In Ghosts of my life, M. Fisher writes extensively about the use of
crackle, as heard a.o. in the first 8 minutes of The Sinking of the Titanic: “(…) Crackle
makes us aware that we are listening to a time that is out of joint; it won't allow us to
fall into the illusion of presence.”
Sarah Vanhee’s (1980) artistic practice is linked to performance, visual art, film and literature. It uses different formats and is often (re)created in situ. Recent works include The Making of Justice, 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 Kunstenfestivaldesarts Brussel (BE), Theaterformen Hannover (DE), Next Festival/BUDA Kortrijk (BE), Saal Biennaal, Talinn (EE), Actoral Marseille (FR), Centre Pompidou Metz (FR), Printemps de Septembre Toulouse (FR), HAU Berlin (DE), Kaaitheater Brussels (BE), Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven (NL), Arnolfini Gallery Bristol (UK), Jihlava IDFF (CZ), Extra City Antwerp (BE), … 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.