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Everything must go

Dries Verhoeven

Is stealing and looting the future? Dries Verhoeven’s latest ‘living installation’ explores shoplifting. Late-capitalist man tries to survive in a system that has lost its shine, without any prospect of an alternative. Everything must go, but in favour of what?

In an age when we like to make a display of our virtuous behaviour, Verhoeven focusses on the socially undesirable. For how virtuous are we really when we think we are unobserved, at the self-checkout for instance? Verhoeven spoke with more or less well-off people  who occasionally ‘forget’ to pay for things every, with thieves in detention and those who consider theft as a form of resistance. He invited these shoplifters and self-proclaimed Robin Hoods to do some soul-searching, which resulted in a grim depiction of the darkest depths of our moral actions. Everything must go is premiering at the Holland Festival. 


dates

7 - 16 June: walk-in every 30 minutes

Prices

  • default € 15
  • CJP/student/scholar € 11

language & duration

  • English

  • 1 hour

Civil disobedience?

Shoplifting has been on the increase since self-checkouts were introduced. For Dries Verhoeven this was reason to look into the moral fictions of our late-capitalist society. It turned out that underlying that innocent decision to let that one piece of ginger slip into your shopper unscanned, a societal change is underway, a shift in what as a society we consider right and permissible. 


In the middle of the gallery there is a replica of a supermarket entrance. We, the visitors, can walk round the installation or peer into the hall from behind the products on the shelves and watch unassuming consumers. Our position is not unlike that of a security officer keeping an eye on suspicious subjects.

Civil disobedience?

Shoplifting has been on the increase since self-checkouts were introduced. For Dries Verhoeven this was reason to look into the moral fictions of our late-capitalist society. It turned out that underlying that innocent decision to let that one piece of ginger slip into your shopper unscanned, a societal change is underway, a shift in what as a society we consider right and permissible. 


In the middle of the gallery there is a replica of a supermarket entrance. We, the visitors, can walk round the installation or peer into the hall from behind the products on the shelves and watch unassuming consumers. Our position is not unlike that of a security officer keeping an eye on suspicious subjects.

But is a shoplifter even a criminal at all, or might he also be our salvation from a system that has run its course? Are shoplifters symptomatic of a rapacious world, or are their actions a defensible form of civil disobedience? As is typical of his work, Verhoeven does not give a straightforward answer. With radical ‘living installations’, he invites us to dissect seemingly trivial aspects of our environment. The longer we look, the more complex the situation tends to become. Discomfort and contradiction are never far away.


Verhoeven: ‘Ever since the church disappeared as a moral authority, our ideas of right and wrong have become a lot more ambiguous. We measure ourselves against those in power, whose own actions may be dubious, and operate in an economic system that mainly benefits the rich. But a growing number of people considers it a harmless act of underhanded acquisition. They can be cynical and willing to look out for themselves, but also outspoken ideologues motivated and determined to strike a final blow to big-chain stores. But this shift is not occurring in plain view. There may be a small group of millennials sharing tips and tricks on TikTok, but most shoplifters do not flaunt their actions publically. Their modus operandi is to feign innocence, in line with how all of us try to present ourselves as virtuous today. We are law-abiding and socially conscious in public, but when we think we are unwatched we can be just as opportunistic as the system we find ourselves in. I find it utterly fascinating, this contraction between who we claim to be and who we really are.’


Everything Must Go
is the next episode in a series of works Verhoeven made about the irrational and devious sides of people. In Ceci n'est pas…(2013), in the middle of the street, he put our society’s denial mechanisms on full display. The funhouse Phobiarama (Holland Festival 2017) focussed on our fear receptors, while Happiness (2019) and The NarcoSexuals (2022) saw Verhoeven explore the rising interest in antidepressants, drugs and sexual excess. This latter production became an audience favourite at the last Flemish and Dutch Theatre Festival, where it was nominated for the VSCD Mime Award.

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  • © Studio Dries Verhoeven

  • <p>Alles moet weg</p>

    © Studio Dries Verhoeven

  • <p>Alles moet weg</p>

    © Studio Dries Verhoeven

  • <p>Alles moet weg</p>

    © Studio Dries Verhoeven

  • © Victoria Ushkanova

credits

concept Dries Verhoeven performance Isadora Tomasi dramaturgy Hellan Godee, Miguel A Melgares assistence Casper Wortmann technology Roel Evenhuis, Peer Thielen production Ellen van Bunnik (’n More), Studio Dries Verhoeven, Lise van den Hout ('n More)