I/II/III/IIII est une installation théâtrale à l'origine crée en 2007. Quatre danseuses « identiques » sont suspendues à une grande « machine », telles des marionnettes. Ensemble, l’artiste de performance Kris Verdonck et les performeuses ont créé une chorégraphie : un solo, un duo, un trio et un pas de quatre.

Ils ont tenté de se libérer le plus possible de la machine, mais tôt ou tard celle-ci les mène quand même dans une direction qu’elle a déterminée. Les images qu’évoque I/II/III/IIII sont déroutantes, stratifiées et ambiguës: elles nous rappellent les palmipèdes blancs du Lac des Cygnes, mais elles font aussi penser à des carcasses animales, à des anges flottants, à des corps humains s’écroulant et à tout ce que l’on peut imaginer d’intermédiaire.

Le International Choreographic Arts Centre à Amsterdam (ICK) réunit des chorégraphes de renommées internationales aux Pays-Bas. Cette saison (2016 - 2017) le chorégraphe et artiste belge Kris Verdonck présente une adaptation de sa pièce I/II/III/IIII avec danseurs associés au ICK. Le spectacle est inclus au répertoire de ICK à la suite de quoi une tournée internationale est envisagée fin 2017.
His answer was that I must not imagine each limb as being individually positioned and moved by the operator in the various phases of the dance. Each movement, he told me, has its centre of gravity; it is enough to control this within the puppet. The limbs, which are only pendulums, then follow mechanically of their own accord, without further help. He added that this movement is very simple. When the centre of gravity is moved in a straight line, the limbs describe curves. Often shaken in a purely haphazard way, the puppet falls into a kind of rhythmic movement which resembles dance.

"On the Marionette Theatre", Heinrich von Kleist

I/II/III/IIII is a new theatrical installation by performance artist Kris Verdonck. Analogously to a puppet theatre, the stage is transformed into a cabinet for 'human marionettes': four 'identical' (female) dancers are suspended in a large 'machine'.
In the work of Kris Verdonck the 'actors', the characters appearing on stage or in the installations, are always 'in-between beings': figures that dwell in the twilight zone between man and machine. The work process of I/II/III/IIII was focused on finding ways in which the dancers could attain a maximum degree of freedom in relation to the machine. In directing the piece Kris Verdonck attempted to join the opposite forces of freedom and determination: how to give space to the dancers and simultaneously staying functional within the demands / the limits of the object? Because sooner or later the machine will send the performers in a direction it has determined for itself. So the research that was done in I/II/III/IIII - just like in Kleist's tale of the puppeteer and his puppet - consisted of getting to know the machine maximally and subordinating the process to the potential movements it is able to execute. What emerges in the end may very well be "a kind of rhythmic movement which resembles dance"...

I/II/III/IIII is set in an atmosphere of 'Unheimlichkeit' (the uncanny) which characterizes our life as modern human beings conditioned by technology.
'Unheimlichkeit' - the expression is taken from Freud - refers to a situation in which anything familiar to man disappears, in which he no longer knows what is happening to his mind and/or body. Only approximated by 'uncanny', the word 'unheimlich' is difficult to translate: strange, incomprehensible, mysterious, frightening, connected to supernatural forces. Literally un-heim-lich signifies: who doesn't have a home (heim) anymore, who doesn't belong anywhere.

Throughout the ages humankind has constantly been exploring the possibilities of creating a perfect, identical copy of himself and thereby unveiling the secret of the origins of life. Today this quest, of which the Golem, Frankenstein and a variety of mechanical puppets or robots all have been stages, finds its provisional end point in the development of the (until now) theoretical possibility of cloning a human being. This possibility of creating a being which is completely 'identical' to an already existing being, provides us with a new, hitherto unknown feeling of the uncanny: because the identical character of two beings signifies that they - each for themselves- are no longer unique. One who is completely similar to another can no longer claim a proper and inalienable identity, because he/she must share this identity with another.

Does this bring to an end our 'humanness'? Where does man end and where does machine, the artificial, begin? Are we even capable of dealing with 'the pure repetition or copy' of ourselves? Or is it in ultimately, as French philosopher Gilles Deleuze analyses, impossible to disconnect the notion of 'repetition' from the notion of 'difference'? Each repetition does introduce a difference in time and/or space. And one can only speak of 'difference' if there is repetition: for the notion of difference implies the comparing of one thing to another, so of at least two beings, things, phenomena etc. To talk about difference is to talk about duplication.

Through the possibility of unveiling the secret of the origins of life we enter the realm that used to be reserved only to god or gods, the realm of omnipotence, of total control and of perfection. This desire for omnipotence too is as ancient as human history. Nowadays we have the help of technology at our disposal but still we try to reach 'divine perfection' on our own, without technological help. In the perfectly synchronous movements performed by a coryphée of ballerinas in a classical ballet like 'Swan Lake', for instance. Or in the exact synchronous marching steps performed by a cohort of soldiers in the North Korean army. Or in synchronized swimming, the swimmers' legs having to disappear underwater at precisely the same moment...

What strikes us first in observing these phenomena, is the synchronicity of the movements and the uniformity of the persons. On closer examination small differences become visible. One ballerina being a fraction of a second slower than the others. One soldier's step seeming slightly heavier than that of the others...
Who is 'out of tune', who doesn't 'walk in line', gets noticed, visualizes a proper identity. These 'odd men out' undo uniformity, contaminate order and break through the perfect symmetry or the perfectly synchronous movement. By these exact means the 'human' regains its visibility within the perfectly oiled 'machine'. Can the 'human' be defined then, as 'making mistakes', as failing, stumbling and stuttering? Can one reduce the essential difference between man and robot to the fact that a human being can fail and a robot cannot?

For I/II/III/IIII, the dancers suspended in the machine collaborated in the developing of a choreography: in succession a solo, a duet, a trio and a pas-de-quatre. The images evoked in I/II/III/IIII are multi-layered and bewildering: classical ballet, puppet shows, 17th century theatre machinery, the marionette-like actors of Dadaist theatre at the start of the 20th century... A spectrum of associations ranging from floating angels to carcasses dragged along. The structure of the performance furthermore confronts us with the very primary, and therefore probably 'pure' emotional interpretations of the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 as Greek philosophers and scientists formulated them long ago. 1: the indivisible unity, the primal number, the monad, which also refers to solitude. 2: the first number with a beginning and an ending, the duo, the couple, the most common form of symmetry, the number of elegance and simplicity, of reflection and duplication. 3: the first number with a beginning, a middle and an ending, the number of the divine Trinity, the number of the degrees of comparison. But also the number that produces the first inconsistency and chaos. 4: the number of the square, Pythagoras's 'even-even' number, the number of harmony and justice, the number of the four elements, the four cardinal directions... But also the number that brings closure to the world through its perfection and thus refers more to death than to life...

I, II, III, IIII: the point, the line, the surface, the body...

Texte: Marianne Van Kerkhoven

Concept & mise en scène:
Kris Verdonck
Marianne Van Kerkhoven
Natascha Dejong, Kim Amankwaa, Helena Volkov & Sophia Dinkel
Stefaan Quix
Création lumières:
Luc Schaltin
Shampoo & Conditioner
ICK, A Two Dogs Company

Contribué à la création originale en 2007:
Annabelle Chambon, Claire Croizé, Alix Eynaudi, Gemma Higginbotham, Nikoleta Rafaelisova, Eveline Van Bauwel, Hendrik De Smedt, Serge Grootaert, Simon Salaert, Bart Verhaegen, Hans Luyten, Dirk Lauwers. En coproduction et avec le support de: Kaaitheater (BE), Kunstencentrum Vooruit (BE), Buda Kunstencentrum (BE), les autorités flamandes, la Commission de la communauté flamande

« De prime abord, c'est une sorte de guignol, un théâtre de marionnettes avec des personnes vivantes. Ou peut-être un ballet idéal ? En effet, lorsqu'on voit dans le premier mouvement une danseuse flotter au-dessus de la scène, elle semble incarner dans sa coquette robe noire la grâce en apesanteur que le ballet cherche à atteindre. Particulièrement quand la machine lui fait toucher le sol du bout des orteils puis la hisse en l'air vers une improbable pirouette parfaite. Mais un peu plus tard, le triomphe tourne en défaite: la machine la traîne par terre telle une marionnette désarticulée. Le ballet, espace de dressage, tire aussi les personnes dans tous les sens. [...] Devant la sinistre image finale, on ne peut que frémir. Sens dessus dessous et accroché à une palanche, ce beau corps ressemble soudain à une carcasse. Ce 'cyborg' évoque à nouveau de bien étranges associations. »
Pieter T'Jonck dans De Morgen, 21/11/2007

« L'exercice d'équilibre entre le contrôle humain et la soumission machinale est maintenu jusqu'au bout. C'est cela justement qui rend I/II/III/IIII si intrigant. Tout comme la vision de ces quatre danseuses qui se crèvent au travail, sans vous permettre de la compassion. La beauté éblouit et en effet, rend aveugle. »
Daniëlle de Regt dans De Standaard, 27/11/2007

« Certains spectacles sont intemporels ; I/II/III/IIII en fait partie. Les cygnes de l'homme de théâtre et plasticien Kris Verdonck sont de retour après dix ans. Cette fois-ci, ce sont les danseuses d'ICK qui se retrouvent accrochées à sa machine, telles des marionnettes. Le spectacle méditatif n'a rien perdu de son sens, bien au contraire. Si en 2007, l'expérience forçait avant tout le respect, à présent la multiplicité de niveaux politiques dans I/II/III/IIII s'impose également. »
Moos van den Broek dans Theaterkrant, 08/05/2017

« La cadence méditative de la chorégraphie et de la composition musicale crée l'espace nécessaire pour que surgissent des questions. Que signifie, en fait, l'aspiration constante des ballets romantiques à défier la pesanteur et à dédoubler les cygnes ? À quel point est-il douloureux de danser dans les harnais de Verdonck et quel plaisir apporte la sensation du « vol » ? Pourquoi voyons-nous uniquement des femmes, alors qu'elles sont mises en mouvement par des « machinistes » masculins ? La constellation ingénieuse de Verdonck nous ramène ainsi sur la terre ferme, où circulent des moutons clonés et des robots dansants, et où, quand nous cherchons le chemin, des applis sur smartphone reprennent la main sur notre pouvoir d'orientation. »
Jacq. Algra dans Parool, 08/05/2017

« Mais il y a aussi le mouvement et le (dés-)équilibre de la poutre mobile à laquelle sont livrées les danseuses, qui les oblige à un jeu d'ensemble intelligent avec la machine et qui, à certains instants, fait naître l'ordre, alors qu'à d'autres moments est créé le désordre. Cette ingénieuse installation théâtrale invite à un tel effort d'observation et de réflexion qu'on aurait envie de la voir quatre fois de suite dans son ensemble. »
Francine van der Wiel dans NRC Handelsblad, 08/05/2017
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16 > 17/11
BE Gent Kunstencentrum Vooruit
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12 > 13/01
CH Zürich Theaterhaus Gessnerallee
26 > 27/02
BE Brussels Kaaitheater
22 > 23/05
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SE Göteborg Göteborg Dance & Theatre festival
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NL Amsterdam De Meervaart
NL Amsterdam De Meervaart
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NL Wageningen Junushoff
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NL Maastricht Theater aan het Vrijthof
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TW Taichung City National Taichung Theater
  • I/II/III/IIII - © Alwin Poiana
  • I/II/III/IIII - © Giannina Urmeneta Ottiker
  • I/II/III/IIII - © Giannina Urmeneta Ottiker
  • I/II/III/IIII - © Hendrik De Smedt
  • I/II/III/IIII - © Hendrik De Smedt