Searching for the bigger picture 05-03-2012
Searching for the bigger picture - Noorderzon in discussions with Berlin
Land's End, the latest performance by the Belgian theatre group BERLIN, has been enthusiastically acclaimed by the press and public in Paris, with rave reviews as a consequence. And because the performance will have its Dutch première at Noorderzon – at a special location – this has generated great expectations here as well.
BERLIN, with core members Bart Baele and Yves Degryse, has been working since 2003 with several consistently returning staff and co-producers in the artistic and academic sectors. As a result, a cycle of intriguing city portraits has been generated under the name ‘Holocene’ – the current geological era – with which they are still on a worldwide tour. With their new series ‘Horror Vacui (Fear of Emptiness), of which Land’s End is the second show, Baele and Degryse continue this trend. Noorderzon spoke with Bart Baele about BERLIN’s working methods and, of course, about Land’s End, which we are extremely curious about too!
What’s in a name?
National border through the living room
‘So we already knew that story. Then we were approached by the NEXT Festival, a cross-border festival in Kortrijk, Flanders, which also extends into northern France. We were asked if we could create something about that region, something analogous to our city portraits from the Holocene cycle. That was how we arrived at the idea of processing the story of the farmstead in a performance. We investigated whether or not the story of the farmstead was true and then you ultimately end up with the murder case: the ‘pancake murder’. This is a case in which a Belgian woman commissions a French man to murder her husband. After a month, both perpetrators are arrested and are held in custody – one in a Belgian prison, the other in a French one. The Belgian prosecutor presses for a confrontation. And then the legal squabble begins.’
‘The first phase of the research was very time consuming. We visited and interviewed all people concerned: the people from the farmstead, the previous and present owners, all the lawyers and public prosecutors that had anything to do with the murder case, etc. It was never our intention to enter into the private lives of the families involved in the murder case, that is of no real interest to us.’
At the same time, the performance deals with questions such as: What happens during this type of confrontation? What is life on the border like for the present-day residents of the farmstead? ‘All those kinds of aspects are covered: the absurdity of such a situation, the recognizability of the bureaucratic fuss and communication problems in general. In short, the big story behind a – in a certain sense – minor event.’
The imaginary line
‘In Holocene, we invade a city and attempt to depict it in its most expansive form. The research cannot be broad enough; everything is interesting. The Horror Vacui series has a completely different starting point: a very small story, a very specific thing. From that point of departure we enlarge our vision. If we begin with a story we are always aware of the fact that it should communicate even more, something universal. More than a murder and the border between Belgium and France. It is about the recognizability of a confrontation – regardless of which kind of confrontation it may be –, about the recognizability of trying to solve a problem and actually creating an even greater problem as a result. And, of course, of the difficulties that issue from an imaginary line.’
Land’s End consists of two parts. The first part is made up of seven installations, while the second is the farmstead and ultimately the confrontation. The intention is that the public should revisit the installations after the performance. So much more becomes evident in retrospect. ‘Yes, sure,’ Bart grins again, ‘then you certainly adopt a different view of things.’