Interview: Exchange across borders with Wouter Krokaert

Text by Lies Mensink

Photo by Marc Coudrais


For our October 10x10 program on International Exchange we invited international artists and professionals to share their work in a new context and to exchange with us and each other. With COVID-19 cases rising, physically exchanging across borders no longer seems feasible. As an Internationally oriented production house we continue to search for alternative ways. We asked each artist who was supposed to perform during the 10x10 October program to share thoughts on international exchange in these trying times. Today we speak with Wouter Krokaert. 

 

We invited wpZimmer and Workspacebrussels to each bring two distinctive artists to our 10x10 October program. Wouter Krokaert was curated by Workspacebrussels and supposed to present his Composities in het Wilde Weg. For Krokaert everything started from his need to draw. During his studies as a graphic designer Krokaert discovered contemporary dance: ‘For me being on stage as a performer is also a way of drawing, physically in space.’ 

 

What were you supposed to show in Veem House for Performance?

 

‘I was going to show Composities in het Wilde Weg which I translate as “savage compositions”. There is something contradictory in the title because it suggests a composition at random. Yet everything I do is very much decided, each element is put in a specific spot. In making a composition I do not use symmetry, or repetitive rhythms. I study the shapes of plants and the way things come together in nature, the rhythm present in it: spaces where coincidences are very present.’

 

‘I use the theatre as a space where things are very much composed and pre-decided. How can we stay connected with this seemingly randomness of nature? This balance between coincidence and decisiveness I use.’

 

‘At the start of the performance there are human bodies on stage, on a rectangular sheet of paper. We make compositions using just these bodies and little by little the image becomes more complex. I start adding objects, and colours. There is always this tension: is this becoming too much or do we go on? When do you decide if something is finished? In my work in general I balance between this almost nothing and already too much.’

 

Why is international exchange important?

 

‘I can’t imagine my life without it. I can’t imagine it without all these films I saw, the books I read, the music I listened to. I think in Brussels the art scene in any way is very international. People I worked with throughout my career and that were based in Belgium were often not from there originally. I started with Meg Stuart for instance who is American but has worked in Brussels for a long time. And I’ve been working for ten years on a project with Mette Edvardsen who is originally from Norway.’

 

How can we keep enabling exchange?

 

‘There are a lot of people who think that what we are doing right now -talking through zoom- is a solution. It may be a solution to a certain degree. We can still exchange things, but something is lost. The work you do with people in a studio or classroom you can’t do through a screen. There is no physical nearness, there can be no physical contact... The way people act, react, the fact you can look each other in the eyes. It is just not the same when you see someone on a screen.’ 

 

‘In performance the real presence of a body is very important, and that is complicated. You could translate a book or read it, watch a film, listen to music that comes from the other side of the world, but you can’t show a performance on video. You have to see it live. There is no way to bring the work somewhere else if you cannot bring the people with it – I think. We can still share things, but not the core of a performance: not the human presence.’ 

 

Is there something you would like to share?

I would like to share the musical piece Rhapsody No. 1 by E.Petrovics, performed by Antal Szalaï, the sound I use in Composities in het Wilde Weg is inspired by this piece. In the performance I use sound to give space to coincidence. It is an extra layer that influences what is seen. Click here to listen to it.


Click here for a visual impression of Composities in het Wilde Weg.