5 > 20:00 & 22:00

Theatre is a living and ephemeral art form. What if we were to reduce it to an extreme? What if drama’s effects could be made known by experiencing an installation-performance?

Kris Verdonck first studied drama then visual arts. Aernoudt jacobs is a musician and sound engineer. From the living to still life, they plunge the spectator into a timed journey through five installations, condensed from dramatic works where the ever-present living – sometimes a machine – is governed by another time that imprisons it, where space shuts off all opportunity for movement. Here theatre inverts itself, moves towards the suspended, halted present.


Kris Verdonck


Aernoudt Jacobs


Hans Valcke


Heike Langsdorf, Kaja Kolodziejczyk, Geert Vaes, Shila Anaraki, Anna Rispoli


Beursschouwburg, Kunstencentrum Belgie (Hasselt), HISK (Antwerpen), FYKE vzw (Brussel), KunstenFESTIVALdesArts


Beursschouwburg, KunstenFESTIVALdesArts

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Five ‘installations/performances’, situated between dramatic art and visual arts, together form a story: a story of panic and of fragility, of the mechanical and of life. Their starting point is a classical theatrical one in which each aspect is reduced to an extreme. Physically the human being is only present in part, either unconscious (asleep or in a trance) or merely represented by a machine, a sound or an image. The ensemble only reveals what is meant by it – the ‘heart of the story’ – through the spectator’s free associations.


An actress remains motionless for an hour in a display window filled with water. The distortion to her senses caused by the environment she is in makes her go into a trance. The sounds of her breathing and movement are amplified by microphones.


A grinding wheel with a big steel L hangs from the ceiling. When the disc starts to turn, the L twirls round uncontrolled. The motor races but still tries to find its equilibrium, still tries to function despite the strangeness of the situation. However the machine does not succeed. It starts to take on the appearance of a classical hero in distress, with movement making the situation become more and more unbearable.


Four sleeping people are on show, lying in transparent trunks and separate from one another. TO SLEEP is inspired by Radiohead’s song ‘How to disappear completely’ and deals with the desire to no longer exist.


The sound of a couple making love in a completely empty room is done with a maximum amount of sensuality, as if it is happening live. Adjustable microphones enable the most intimate sounds to be captured (rubbing, swallowing, breathing…) and perhaps enable the ‘secrets’ of the carnal act to be ‘revealed’.


A small, solitary, autonomous robot goes round and round in circles. The images and sounds its sends from 2 metres up are projected onto a large screen like a wall. It becomes a machine that begins to interact with the audience, reflecting its own perception of space.

Panic / Pressure

A common theme in installations, panic is the state in which man excels. A great many political acts appear in what Peter Sloterdijk calls ‘the panic culture’. ‘One of the attributes of Pan from Ancient Greece was being a god at midday when shadows are shortest. Overwhelmed by light, which was the manifestation of his divine presence, the world holds its breath. The modern notion of panic has forgotten this cohesion between presence, revelation and terror, merely remembering the kinetic motive of blind escape.’

Perception / Sound

Every installation/performance has its own means of communication. It may need the semiotics of a theatrical space or an exhibition space. The two spaces imply a very specific perception. Music and sound are perceived as much physically and emotionally as they are intellectually. With the help of psycho-acoustics, in ‘5’ Verdonck and Jacobs are examining how sound can also take on a physical and spatial dimension. They use real and concrete sounds that lend a contextual content to the sound landscape. It is a reconstruction, coming close to a reality that is possible and identifiable, on the edge of the unreal, between the real and the virtual.


Perhaps the most important convention for playing the game: having a beginning, a middle and an end. Here where a visual work is constructed for eternity, theatre is counting on transience.

The text

Dramatic or prose writing is always a starting point in an investigation about mechanics, the basis of a text or a language. A dramaturge uses specific theatrical codes. Language and images serve the stage. Paradoxical as it might appear, the use of several media allows for a very pure and very concentrated theatre. Three texts provide the dramatic source in ‘5’: Cataract by Rainald Goetz, Company by Beckett and Über das Marionettentheater by Heinrich Von Kleist.


To one on his back in the dark. This he can tell by the pressure on his hind parts and by how the dark changes when he shuts his eyes and again when he opens them again. Only a small part of what is said can be verified. As for example when he hears, You are on your back in the dark. Then he must acknowledge the truth of what is said.

(Samuel Beckett, Company)

do you hear that?
did you hear that?
if you stay still
you can hear your eyelids opening and shutting

in a soundproofed room
if you try to hear nothing
a high-pitched sound appears
that of your own nervous system
and a deep sound
that doesn’t seem to come from your blood circulating
the torment of total isolation

Rainald Goetz, Cataract

He replied that I shouldn’t imagine each limb being posed and drawn away separately by the operator during the different moments of the dance.

He said that each movement has its own centre of gravity, that it’s enough to direct it from inside the figure. The limbs, merely pendulums, follow in a mechanical way without anybody being involved. He added that this movement is very simple: that every time the centre of gravity is moved in a straight line, the limbs describe curves, and that when shaken completely at random the whole thing often starts moving in a rhythmical kind of way similar to dance.

Heinrich von Kleist, Über das Marionettentheater (On Puppet Theatre)

copresentation KunstenFESTIVALdesArts & Beursschouwburg, Brussels, May 2003

The Beursschouwburg works on the fringes of art and of everyday life. We like to direct our decisions towards artistic reasoning marked out by diversification: popular culture AND out-and-out art; languages, varied disciplines and genres, local and international, professional and amateur talent. One foot in the ‘artistic field’, the other outside of it.

If the programme remains capricious, the quest for original formats is surely the cause of it. We set out to look for new forms of performance, theatre or dance, of course, but far from classical and finely polished choreographic or theatrical ‘shows’. For example, Métamorphoses Nocturnes, the production by Ingrid von Wantoch Retowski, which was shown this season, explored the form of a performance - installation: a gallery of talking portraits and iconographic paintings, animated by video. GAME-BOYS by Superamas laid out a course which entangled theatre and dance, this itself being close to an installation. Davis Freeman confronted the audience with his own portrait in the ten small bedrooms of Too Shy to stare.

5 by Kris Verdonck and Aernoudt Jacobs marks a new stage in this quest. Five installations/performances leaning between dramatic art and the visual arts. These reduce and manipulate the classical codes of the two disciplines to the extreme: time is reconstructed until any beginning and any end is made indistinct; the space is constructed by means of sounds and music; the text and the language cross over into other media.

Shifting the emphasis to other ‘formats’ is a decision closely linked to the wish to have confidence in the ‘potential’ of an artist rather than in the production of art. There are many who make it known how much it would please them to abandon the usual means of production and presentation from time to time. Their questions and ambitions embrace very diverse forms: some search to redefine the stage, others question the relationship between the artist and the audience, and others still, take pleasure in erasing the boundaries between the disciplines or in revaluing the search by turning towards the processes of work on a small scale.

Today, these quests often give prominence to the visual arts as a source of inspiration, it is therefore natural that our artistic programme is today more and more focused on installations, video and multimedia.

In collaboration with other partners, the Beursschouwburg continues to explore this neglected area. A challenge that accompanies another of importance: our next (re)installation in the renovated building of the Auguste Orts.


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