SOMETHING (out of nothing) & BOGUS I-III
What is humankind’s place in a world in which ecological disaster and technology are fundamentally questioning that very place? Kris Verdonck’s new show explores our physical and psychic state of being in light of an approaching extinction. The combination of an unrelenting pursuit of profit with technological developments has reduced humankind to a throw-away object. The next step is to make the landscape in which we live uninhabitable. What remains once the social, economic and ecological elimination has been achieved? The dancers who were three-dimensional in SOMETHING (out of nothing) are often no more than silhouettes or shadows. They are the ghosts that are the consequence of the destructive dynamic between humankind and the landscape, which in the performance is given shape by large inflatable sculptures, noise cellist Leila Bordreuil and a robot drum. In parallel with the performance, Verdonck’s installation series BOGUS I-III will be on display at Kanal – Centre Pompidou: three variations on performative objects that together form an
uncanny, end-of-time landscape.
Attention, the performance will only be presented in English.
Exhibition: BOGUS I-III
10.05–23.05 Kanal – Centre Pompidou
Tickets for the exhibition are for sale at Kanal – Centre Pompidou
With a ticket for the performance you have access to the exhibition at Kanal – Centre Pompidou on the same day. Opening hours:
22.05: 12:00 > 18:00
23.05: 12:00 > 22:00
Concept: Kris Verdonck
Dramaturgy: Kristof van Baarle
Dancers: Mark Lorimer, Ula Sickle, Sophia Dinkel, Edward Lloyd
Cello & music composition: Leila Bordreuil
Costumes: Eefje Wijnings
Costume assistant: Karolien Nuyttens
Light design: Jan Van Gijsel
Set design: Kris Verdonck, Eefje Wijnings
Software & electronics: Vincent Malstaf
Technical coordination: Jan Van Gijsel
Technical assistance: Maarten Heijdra, Hugo van der Veldt
Presentation: Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Kaaitheater, Kanal – Centre Pompidou
Production: A Two Dogs Company / ICK Amsterdam
Coproduction: Spring Festival, Kaaitheater
With the support of: Tax Shelter of the Belgian Federal Government
SOMETHING (out of nothing)
Beauty was here long before we were and will be long after. (Robert Bringhurst and Ian Zwicky, Learning how to die)
Throughout history humankind hasn’t changed fundamentally, it’s the landscape that is changing. One generation influences its environment and then it is up to the next generation to undergo the consequences of these changes, for better or worse. And so on. (Jean Paul Van Bendegem)
Yesterday determines today, irrevocably. The decisions and choices of yesterday determine our actions of today and tomorrow. Heiner Müller used to call this ‘ghosts from the future’: an intangible knot between what was and what will be.
The past century has had a comprehensive impact on the landscape. There no longer something in this world that is not subjected to human (technological) manipulation. This influence appears to be detrimental to life on earth as we know it. What is then the place of the human in a world in which ecological catastrophe and technology are fundamentally challenging this position?
This question lies at the base of the new project by Kris Verdonck/A Two Dogs Company in collaboration with ICK Amsterdam: SOMETHING (out of nothing).
The work of Kris Verdonck examines time and again the relation between the human and technology. In this performance, he focusses on the ecological impact of that relation. SOMETHING (out of nothing) explores the physical and mental state of being in the face of an impendent extinction. Plants and animals already find themselves in the sixth mass extinction and for the human animal, the end is becoming an increasingly tangible reality. The combination of a merciless desire for profit and growth with technological developments, has reduced the human to a disposable object. Making the landscape in which we live inhabitable is the next step. What remains after social, economic and ecological elimination? The dancers and machines wandering around in SOMETHING, are oftentimes not more than silhouettes, shadows, living sculptures. They are the ghosts that are the consequence of the destructive dynamics between humanity and the landscape. This landscape is no longer natural: it consists of organically growing and shrinking inflatable sculptures, automated and indifferent to human presence. The performers (Sophia Dinkel, Ula Sickle, Mark Lorimer and Edward Lloyd) move like spectres in an environment that is increasingly ‘haunted’ by technologies and catastrophes. They are looking for a possibility to escape from the cycle of cause and effect, and are at the same time crushed by it.
The choreography is inspired by two types of ghosts stemming from the field of ecology. A species is considered to be ‘ecologically extinct’ when its impact on the environment has become so minimal that its role in the ecological chain is played out. For its environment, it is no longer of any importance whether this species continues to exist or not. It are animals and plants that have lost their function. An ‘ecolo-gical anachronism’ is a second situation, in which plants or trees still produce fruit that is no longer eaten. The animal species with which they have grown to collaborate to disseminate their seeds, are no longer there. The loss of biodiversity caused by human agency has led specialists to speak of empty forests and empty savannas. The figures in SOMETHING (out of nothing) find themselves in the same paradoxical state of being eliminated yet still active. They are literally Unheimlich: without a house, out of place, out of time.
There is a long tradition of spirits, living and death entities in theater. However, two historical forms of theater literally stage ghostly entities: the real ghosts in the traditional Nô theater in Japan and the spectres of memory and of objectivated actors in Samuel Beckett’s work. Kris Verdonck digs in both traditions to discover the real nature of contemporary ghosts. This work is one of the stages of the research he’s been doing for several years on what both theater genres have in common. Amongst the formal elements, they both share this condition where everything ‘is past’. All that is left are memories and repetitions. How can the theres-holds between presence and absence be perfor-med? As with Becket and Nô theater, all means in SOMETHING (out of nothing) aim at creating an environment where the absurd and the hallucination of a world beyond the end can unfold.
Going on after the end
SOMETHING (out of nothing) consists of three parts. Each part is accompanied by a voice over (Tawny Andersen). Descriptions of destruction, of landscapes after the human, stories of attempts to make amends to the catastrophe, a poem: the voice speaks from a haunted position as well. A noise soundscape (by cello player Leila Bourdreuil and an automated drum) adds to the tension between presence and absence, and together with the voice over and the inflatables, gives shape to the lands-cape and time after the human.
What does it mean to live after the end, like a ghost that is alienated from its environment? The figures on stage vainly look for meaning in a world beyond a human scale, without a point of reference. After denial and resistance there is – as in a mourning process – acceptance. Even although it no longer matters, they do something for the act of doing it. Beyond all drama, beyond any development, in the margins, a jump, sliding around a bit, making an insignificant gesture, in attempt to chase the ghosts: that is probably what Beckett meant when he wrote: Where I am, I don’t know, I’ll never know, in the silence you don’t know, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on. (Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable)
Kristof van BaarleBack to top
Kris Verdonck (born 1974) studied visual arts, architecture and theatre and this training is evident in his work. His creations are positioned in the transit zone between visual arts and theatre, between installation and performance, between dance and architecture. As a theatre maker and visual artist, he can look back over a wide variety of projects, a.o. 5 (2003), Catching Whales Is Easy (2004), II (2005). Verdonck often presents combinations of different installations/performances as VARIATIONS. The development of his work is marked by projects such as: UNTITLED (2014) (a dance solo in which the performer who is thrown into theatre in a limited way as if by a mechanical construction), ISOS (2015) (a 3D video-installation based on the world and characters from the apocalyptic science-fiction novels of J.G. Ballard), IN VOID (2016) (an installation circuit about human absence), BOSCH BEACH (2016) (an opera in which the false paradise of the resorts and the Bosch-like hell on earth merge seamlessly together) and the big stage production Conversations (at the end of the world) (2017). At the 2019 Kunstenfestivaldesarts, the performance SOMETHING (out of nothing) will premiere. In this choreographic work, four dancers share the stage with noise cello player Leila Bordreuil a voice over and several large inflatable sculptures. SOMETHING (out of nothing) is a work that brings museal and theatrical presentations together in a reflection on the fragility of human absence and presence. Therefore, parallel to the stage work, the installation circuit BOGUS I-III will be presented at KANAL – Centre Pompidou.
Kristof van Baarle is a dramaturge and researcher. In 2018 he obtained his PhD in the arts at the University of Ghent, entitled From the cyborg to the apparatus. Figures of posthumanism in the philosophy of Giorgio Agamben and the contemporary performing arts of Kris Verdonck. In 2018-2019 he teaches at the University of Ghent and the University of Antwerp, where he also works as a PhD-assistant on further research. As a dramaturge, Kristof is firmly attached to Kris Verdonck/A Two Dogs Company, and has worked / works with Michiel Vandevelde, Heike Langsdorf, Thomas Ryckewaert and Alexander Vantournhout.Back to top