K, A SOCIETY

K, a Society (2010) is a ‘circuit performance’. It involves 10 installations and 1 guide.

Ten installations (BEETLE, FRIEZE, GOSSIP, MONSTER, MOUSE, PELLET, PRESYNCOPE, SYNCOPE, SHELL, THEY) are displayed at one or more locations: with film images, objects and ‘situations’. The only living person involved is a guide who leads the audience from the one place to the other.

K, a Society shows aspects of a society that is very similar to ours: it consists of a series of images in which trends that are found in our world are ‘translated’, blown up or brought to the surface. They are ‘de-pict-ions’ of characters we recognise from the real world. Characters who are also linked to the figures that populate Kris Verdonck’s earlier work.

The title K, a Society is a reference to the work of the Prague author Franz Kafka, which was the main inspiration for the project. This does not mean that stories and characters from Kafka’s work are told or portrayed literally. That is not what Kafka’s own work was about either. After repeated reading and working on his writings it is clear that his world is an enclosed and elusive bulwark and that, with the cast-iron logic of a nightmare, he is showing us a process from which there’s no way out. For K, a Society, the aim was rather to find ‘the breath of Kafka’s oeuvre’, the world and society as presented in his writings: an oppressive system in which nothing is honest or true and where nothing can be proven. A society where man is always in the dark about what is going to happen. A society that’s like a bad dream from which one doesn’t know when, how or whether one will ever wake up.
A second source of inspiration is the German expressionist film, with its figures skulking along a wall, their long shadows and enlarged grimaces.

The sinister nature of the world we live in, the tension between man and machine, and that between living creatures and dolls/dead matter, are themes already to be found in earlier projects by Kris Verdonck, as for example in the performances I/II/III/IIII and END, or in the clustered installations IN, DANCER #1 and ACTOR #1. In K, a Society, this theme is extended, developed, subdivided, interwoven etc.
"Oh plenty of hope, an infinite amount of hope, but not for us." Franz Kafka

1.
K, a Society is a project by the theatre-maker and artist Kris Verdonck and comprises a collection of ten ‘images’ arranged in a circuit. A few of them can be described as ‘installations’; but most of them are projected images. A guide takes the public from one to the other.
In END, a stage production Kris Verdonck created in 2008, he showed what the end of a world, or our world, might possibly look like: ten figures (human beings, machines or a cross between the two) wandered around in an apocalyptic landscape. In K, a Society, he turns his attention to society, to the way people relate to each other, and the way they organise their coexistence.
K, a Society shows aspects of a society that looks very much like our own: a series of images in which tendencies found in our world are ‘translated’, magnified or brought to the surface. They are depictions of personages we know and recognise from reality. Personages that are also related to the figures that inhabit Kris Verdonck’s earlier work.
The starting point for K, a Society was the work of the Prague author Franz Kafka (1883-1924). Other inspiring images were found in German expressionist films – figures with exaggerated grimaces stealing along walls and casting long shadows, in Das weisse Band by the Austrian film director Michael Haneke, in information and experiences connected to Rwandan society, in the mythical structure of the labyrinth, and so on.

2.
Kafka is usually associated with the image of the bureaucratic maze. The world he creates is a nightmare with a cast-iron logic; his characters wander around in it finding no way out, and above all without understanding why things are as they are.
Kafka does the same with his readers as with his characters: he lets them wait endlessly at the door, but they cannot, ever, enter. His oeuvre is like a circular wall, an inaccessible ellipse. To understand anything about his work, you have to distance yourself from it. If you then return and look again later, you see that the image/the wall has changed.
Distancing yourself, returning, looking again, distancing yourself, and so on, this is the movement that Kafka repeatedly forced us into during the process of creating K, a Society. Every image seems to have been fixed, unchanging, but when the viewer moves the image undergoes a change, a metamorphosis, a deformation. Kafka’s work is not so much about the stories or the characters as about the power of deformation, the breath of metamorphosis, and about humour.

3.
The world of K, a Society is populated by people, animals and things. No children. The people are lonely, even when not alone. They wait, talk, sing, while away the time, and have given up. The things are full of energy: will they make it? The animals move, laugh, struggle, die. Perhaps it is they who ‘of all Kafka’s creatures, are the ones most capable of reflection’ (Walter Benjamin).
The viewer sees images in which he might be able to live but where he would not feel at home: they are frozen or magnified, slowed down, distorted, stretched in time and space… The viewer himself has to adopt different positions: he is an I, a you and a he all at the same time, he has to look down on images or look up at them, he has to wait with them, experience the slowness or experience everything in a flash. These shifting viewpoints also make it possible for humour to creep in and establish itself in the images and their mutual relationships.

text: Marianne Van Kerkhoven
« In K, a Society, Verdonck constructs a multimedia realm with the sinister nature that is typical of Kafka’s literary world and which increasingly applies to our own society. The basic theme of the various installations is the social isolation in which many people end up as a result (paradoxically) of excessive communication technology. In these installations, Verdonck flits rapidly between social criticism, humour and impressive aesthetics. He shows himself to be a master at handling the film camera and sources of light and sound (from fire to electricity). (… ) While the beauty of the images is fascinating, their undertone is disturbing. Verdonck shows how technologisation can lead to a falsification of emotions and experience. »
Els Van Steenberghe on Knack.be, 21/07/2010
Concept & direction:
Kris Verdonck
Dramaturgy:
Marianne Van Kerkhoven (Kaaitheater)
With:
Tawny Andersen, Jonathan Burrows, Eurudike De Beul, Manah De Pauw, Hendrik De Smedt, Steve Dugardin, Alix Eynaudi, Thomas Hauert, Christoph Ragg, Jobst Schnibbe, Joeri Smet, Sylvain Spinoit, Wilfried Van den Brande, Damiaan Veens, Kris Verdonck, Mieke Versyp, actors and employees from Schauspiel Essen, a.o.
Camera and editing:
Vincent Pinckaers
Sound design:
Thomas Turine, Chris Segers & Stef Alsenoy
Light design:
Luc Schaltin (Kaaitheater)
Costumes:
Schauspiel Essen, Sofie Durnez
Technical direction:
Colin Legras / Luc Schaltin (Kaaitheater)
Construction:
Sylvain Spinoit & Steven Blum
Image processing:
Massimiliano Simbula
Pyro techniques:
Jean-François Pierlot, Ralf Brunner
Production manager:
Hendrik De Smedt
Production assistant:
Karolien De Bleser
Administrator:
Han De Meulemeester
Coproduction:
Theater der Welt 2010 DE, Transdigital INTERREG, Kunstencentrum Vooruit BE, Productiehuis Rotterdam / Rotterdamse Schouwburg NL, Kaaitheater BE
In partnership with:
Schauspiel Essen DE, Le manège.mons BE and Technocité BE in the frame of Transdigital
With the support of:
the Flemish Authorities, the Flemish Community Commission (VGC), the Brussels Capital Region
Thanks to:
Dirk Baert, Dries Leerschool, I-Movix, Marc Leunens, Heidi Janssens, RVP, Linde Besard, Tom Schoute and family, Marie-Jeanne Wyckmans, FM Brussel and EhB/Rits dep. radio

No animals were harmed during the creation of this production
  • 2011
  • 2010
26 > 27/02
BE Brussels Performatik [Kaaitheater]
23 > 26/06
NL Breda Chassé Theater
  • FRIEZE - © Luc Schaltin
  • BEETLE - © Ed Jansen
  • GOSSIP - © A Two Dogs Company
  • GOSSIP - © A Two Dogs Company
  • MONSTER - © Luc Schaltin
  • PRESYNCOPE - © A Two Dogs Company
  • SHELL - © Luc Schaltin
  • THEY - © Luc Schaltin
  • THEY - © Luc Schaltin
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