Working Title Situation brings the audience into the performance


A Brussels performance festival serves as a try-out for artists with pieces in various stages of development, bringing spectators into the creative process

Situation definitely not normal

I’d like to tell you that Working Title Situation is a three-day festival of performances and installations emerging from an artists’ residency programme in Brussels. But it’s not that simple.

Some of the performances are rather like installations, and some of the installations involve performance. Sometimes the performance will just be for you, alone, and sometimes you will be part of the installation. And sometimes you will feel as if you are at a picnic.

Exploring hybrid and alternative formats is what Working Title Situation is all about. “There are a lot of different ways for artists to engage an audience,” explains Marnix Rummens of Workspacebrussels. “It can be interactive, it can be site-specific. It can be audio choreography, it can be some kind of workshop, or it can even be like a game.”

This opens up new ways to translate content and share it with people, whether in small groups or as individuals. “I think we don’t use our full potential to address the audience in all its diversity.”

Workspacebrussels supports young and emerging artists with an intensive residency programme, co-productions and coaching. It was founded by Kaaitheater and dance company Rosas as a way of using their spaces in-between seasons.

Later the Brigittines art centre joined the initiative, and support is also provided by Ultima Vez (the dance company of Wim Vandekeybus) and Beursschouwburg. Funding comes from the Flemish Community and the Brussels-Capital Region.

While the artists and performers work in seclusion for much of their residencies, Working Title Situation is a chance for them to share what they are doing with the outside world. Sometimes their work is finished, but often it is still under development, and the presentations are “try-outs”, or part of the creative process.

A mixed blessing

Rummens is aware that seeing unfinished work can be a mixed blessing. “I try to make a judgement that the work is presentable,” he says. “Even if it is unfinished or if it fails, it should still have a great story to tell.”

The first two days of Working Title Situation, at Kaaistudio’s, are pitched a little more towards the artistic community than the general public, although all are welcome. It’s here that you can see work that really pushes the limits, such as Rodrigo Sobarzo’s Prince of Networks

This is a very bold experiment. We don’t even know if it’s going to work

- Marnix Rummens

This is an installation performance that involves cultivating fruit flies and choreographing them with ultraviolet light. The artist describes this as a visual manifesto – probing new ecologies, blending the digital and the analogue. “This is a very bold experiment,” says Rummens. “We don’t even know if it is going to work, but I think the idea is so interesting.”

Then there is Nick Steur, whose performances involve balancing irregularly shaped stones on top of one another (pictured above). Usually he works by hand with small stones, but now he plans to scale-up, using machines to balance much larger pieces of rock. He will present a scale model that explores the feasibility of the task and talk to the audience about his plans.

“For me these are opportunities to bring the audience into the creation of the work and not just treat them as passive consumers; the audience can feel more included,” Rummens says. “And for the artists, it can be inspiring.”

In addition to these experiments there will be finished work, such as Bryan Campbell’s Marvellous. Casting himself as editor-in-chief of a glossy magazine, Campbell uses text, his voice and his body to explore how people position themselves relative to the media and its strategies of persuasion and seduction.

Working Title Situation moves to Brigittines for its third day, a Saturday, where the aim is to be more accessible. “I think it is possible to have good work that is original and fresh, but is open to a wider audience,” says Rummens. “In my mind, Saturday is family day.”

Storms in the kitchen

Gosie Vervloessem’s Recipes for Disaster is a good example, an on-going project to recreate natural disasters in a domestic setting. This might involve building volcanoes and creating storms in a kitchen, or generating enough static electricity to make lightning strike.

“It’s a cloud of thoughts and associations that are poetic, practical and experimental,” explains Rummens. “And it’s very funny, because she often fails or tries to do more than she can, so it is like an ode to the failed attempt.”

These are opportunities to bring the audience into the creation of the work

- Marnix Rummens

She will present her work during a picnic and also discuss plans for its future distribution using the Tupperware Party model. This touches on another theme that runs through Working Title Situation: how new formats can help artists work in a time of austerity.

Saturday will also feature a number of pieces that emphasise experience. Christian Bakalov, for example, is creating an architectural installation in the upper reaches of the Brigittines chapel, cutting into the darkness with phosphorescent trails and touches. “It’s another world that you enter,” says Rummens. “It’s a sensory experience.”

Meanwhile, Roel Heremans will try out an audio choreography in which eight spectator-participants are guided by a narrator’s voice on a personal trip through time and space. “He makes spaces from your memories – so virtual spaces – and blends them with the physical space you are in,” Rummens explains. “It raises questions about whether space exists only by itself, or if it is also informed by memories and associations. And it does this not in a discursive way, but through experience.”

Benjamin Vandewalle’s Peri-Sphere is entirely individual, a “one-on-one performative installation”. The performer invites each participant to lie in a mobile construction fitted with a periscope and a complex system of mirrors. “He can manipulate the mirrors and so manipulate your gaze, creating an out-of-body experience,” Rummens says. “He drives this car, like a camera, very slowly through the space and your gaze disconnects from your body. It is a very intense experience.”

Throughout the three days there will also be more static installations and exhibitions, along with musical and dance performances. Other attractions include late-night cinema, a pop-up shop, feedback sessions and a closing party.

18-19 June at Kaaistudio’s; 20 June at Brigittines

More performance this week

The Land of Nod
FC Bergman
FC Bergman’s Het land Nod (The Land of Nod) imagines the secret life of the cavernous Rubens Gallery in Antwerp’s Royal Museum of Fine Arts. The site-specific performance (though not held in the museum itself) fills an empty, echoing space with stories about art, the building and people who have sought solace and shelter there over the years. After opening in Antwerp last month, the performance transfers to C-mine in Genk before touring the Netherlands. (In Dutch) 20-22 June 20.15, C-mine 10, Genk

4.48 Psychosis
Jan Steen’s double-take on Sarah Kane’s disturbing monologue 4.48 Psychosis returns to Ghent for one night only. This stark exploration of clinical depression is performed twice – first by Lien Wildemeersch then by Benjamin Cools – the similarities and differences between the two versions deepening its impact. (In English) 27 June 20.00, Minardschouwburg, Korianderstraat 13, Ghent

The Extra People
Ant Hampton
British performance artist Ant Hampton’s new immersive performance The Extra People has a try-out in Ghent’s Vooruit. The 30 people in the audience become performers by following instructions relayed to them on headphones. Each part is different, but synchronised so that the participants interact to create a coherent piece. For this try-out, the instructions will be in English. A Dutch version follows in 2016. 23 June 18.00, Vooruit, Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat 23, Ghent