Civilized life, you know, is based on a huge number of illusions in which we all collaborate willingly.The trouble is we forget after a while that they are illusions and we are deeply shocked when reality is torn down around us.
(J.G. Ballard)

Kris Verdonck makes in ISOS reference to the world and characters depicted in the apocalyptic science-fiction novels by James Graham Ballard (GB, 1930-2009). Ballard portrays in his Magic Realistic stories and autobiographical works, intelligent and visionary descriptions of a future world which increasingly resembles our contemporary neoliberal society. ISOS consists of 3D videos shown in nine view-boxes where virtual sculptures perform in the strained socio-political situation that is called suburbia. The audio-visual installation acts as a short film edited in the viewer's imagination.

Kris Verdonck (BE, 1974) explores in his work the boundaries between visual arts and theatre, installation and performance, dance and architecture. Verdonck's artistic practice deals with the confusion of human kind in an estranged world, due to technological development. Man and machine are set in a post-apocalyptic world where the tension between living species and dead matter creates an atmosphere of Unheimlichkeitor eeriness. One of the leitmotivs through Verdonck's oeuvre is the ‘current state of the world’ - with its environmental problems, ecological disasters and wars.


ISOS takes the world and characters from the apocalyptic science-fiction novels of James Graham Ballard as a starting point. The English writer J.G. Ballard (1930-2009) wrote magic realistic stories and autobiographical works, but is known primarily for his intelligent, visionary descriptions of a future world that resembles today’s neoliberal society more and more. Crash is probably his most widely-known novel as a result of the scandal caused by David Cronenbergh’s 1973 film version. In Millennium People (2003) Ballard describes the terrorist acts of the well-off middle-class residents of a London neighbourhood. When journalist Wouter Van Driessche of De Standaard looked for the root causes of the London riots in August 2011, he wrote: “The looters were not only the disadvantaged youth, they came from all segments of our society. (...) This has nothing to do with social inequality or segregation. It is about something much more diffuse—a kind of nihilistic boredom and a deep blurring of moral standards. To understand these riots, one does not have to read Karl Marx, but rather JG Ballard.”

For ISOS, one of the most important elements in Ballard’s oeuvre is the aggression masked by the standardisation, regularity and security of suburbia and, by extension, the Western world. We encounter Ballard’s obsession with the middle class in another guise in today’s (international) politics. Two ‘middle class characters’, a man and a woman, will appear in different apocalyptic situations. Their relationship is defined by a mutual abuse of power; they are not victims, but are responsible for their own environment. They embody the apocalypse. Their twisted relationship and psyches reflect the “Unheimlich” quality of a completely unlivable outside world.


It could be said that 3D images imply a different film idiom. Hollywood has already realised that the latest 3D bubble was no more than a hype. The BBC has halted its 3D broadcasts. It is possible that as a medium, stereography (the technical term for 3D) is so different that it does not work in the classic viewing set-up of TV and cinema. In many recent 3D films, while there is depth in the landscapes, the characters still look like cardboard cut-outs. These facts encourage us to use and explore 3D even more. In this project, a different approach is taken to stereography, more as an independent medium than a spectacular box of tricks for the cinema. There is a link with the ‘badly made’ early science fiction typified by the work of George Méliès, which is, rather, an alienating viewing experience for the contemporary viewer. By far-reaching, high technological stereograpy, Kris Verdonck wants to make Ballards’ futuristic dream come true. A ruptured utopie in 3D.


The boxes have peepholes at the top through which the viewer observes the strange little people at the bottom of the box, as if they were under a microscope. All scenes are shot from an omniscient bird’s eye/God’s eye perspective which creates an “objective” view of reality. The situation is reminiscent of the Eadweard Muybridge experiments– a scientific point of view where the drama is absent. There is no more than the recording of a ‘real’ situation. Muybridge’s technique finds its way into ISOS through the grid of white lines against which the scenes are set, as if in a laboratory setting.

In Kris Verdonck’s video work, architecture often plays a major role. The frame of the film image and the “walls” (i.e. of the boxes) coincide. The characters are aware of their limitations in this claustrophobic setting. The dioramas are transformed into moving sculptures. Through the process of registration, the subjects in the boxes become sculptures.


ISOS means ‘equal’ in Greek. Shipping containers and their industrial standardisation may well be one of the most important inventions of the twentieth century. In ISOS, the whole world is standardised, and the middle class and the regular life of the suburbs provide the norm. In this light, the grid on the inside of the exhibition box is an imperative measure. The content is adapted to the measurements – animals, machines, objects, people, stereography – and all are defined by the same standard. People seem only like insects, a burning sparkler as big as a tree; the revolution on television.

Concept & direction: Kris Verdonck
Dramaturgy: Marianne Van Kerkhoven, Kristof Van Baarle
Performers: Tawny Andersen, Hendrik De Smedt
Technical coordinator: Jan Van Gijsel
Stereography: Niko Himschoot
Director of photography: Vincent Pinckaers
Sound design & electronic composition: Peter Van Hoesen
Sound Effects: Céline Bernard
Production viewing boxes: Damien Gernay
Electronics: Vincent Malstaf, Felix Luque
Costumes: An Breugelmans
Jujitsu fighters: Justin Candeloro, Joshua Fairfield
Production: A Two Dogs Company
With the support of: EMPAC Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (US), KC Nona (BE), Kaaitheater (BE), Pianofabriek (BE), Het Zuidelijk Toneel (NL), the Flemish Authorities and the Flemish Community Commission (VGC).

"The theatre maker, Kris Verdonck invites to discover in a series of big vertical boxes, small intimate scenes filmed in a studio specialised in 3D. The effect is astonishing."

Jean-Marie Wynants on ISOS in Le Soir.
  • 2018
  • 2016
  • 2015
28/01 > 06/02
NL Rotterdam International Film Festival Rotterdam
25/03 > 10/04
FR Paris La Villette
15 > 24/04
BE Brussels Atelier Coppens
06 > 28/05
BE Brussels Kaaitheater
16 > 17/09
FR Montpellier Humain Trop Humain
04 > 12/11
CH Geneva Geneva International Film Festival Tous Écrans
  • - © A Two Dogs Company
  • - © Anna Scholiers
  • - © Anna Scholiers
  • - © Anna Scholiers
  • - © Anna Scholiers
  • - © Anna Scholiers
  • - © Anna Scholiers
  • - © Anna Scholiers
  • - © A Two Dogs Company
  • - © A Two Dogs Company
  • - © A Two Dogs Company
  • - © A Two Dogs Company
  • - © A Two Dogs Company
  • - © A Two Dogs Company
  • - © Anna Scholiers
  • - © Anna Scholiers