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Jérôme Bel

Maria Magdalena Kozłowska, Pankaj Tiwari, Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne, Frascati Producties

Jérôme Bel wrote an ‘auto-bio-choreo-graphy’ about his work as a choreographer and his involvement with the world around him. As he no longer travels himself because of climate concerns, his story will be told and adapted in Amsterdam by local artists Maria Magdalena Kozłowska and Pankaj Tiwari.


In 2019, choreographer Jérôme Bel decided that he would no longer travel by plane because of ecological concerns. He created the project ‘Sustainable Theatre’ together with theatre director Katie Mitchell and Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne: two shows touring in the form of scripts with the text and a set of rules for the performance; the pieces are performed in a sustainable way by a local cast and crew in each country.


For the Holland Festival, the Netherlands-based makers Maria Magdalena Kozłowska and Pankaj Tiwari will realise this exciting concept in a smart and original way. Using video displays, they will tell the story in which Bel connects his earlier choreographies with his encounters, decisions, doubts and involvement. They will also draw on their own experiences as makers and connect these with those of Jérôme Bel.


The artistic research of Bel’s thirty-year career addresses fundamental questions about vulnerability, otherness, power relations, marginalisation, justice, equality, liberation from consumerism, capitalism and the showbiz society. Aged 33, Bel answered a journalist who asked why he made his work: ‘To save the world.’


Jérôme Bel is the second Sustainable Theatre production of the Holland Festival in collaboration with Frascati Productions. The first production was A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction from Katie Mitchel in 2022.



Trigger warnings

This production includes flashing lights and lasers.


PROGRAMME BOOK

dates

Tue June 13 2023 8:30 PM

Wed June 14 2023 8:30 PM

Prices

  • default € 21
  • CJP/student/scholar € 12

information

  • English surtitles: Dutch

  • 2 hours 15 minutes

This show is part of the project 'Sustainable theatre?', conceived by Katie Mitchell, Jérôme Bel, Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne, with the collaboration of the Competence Centre in Sustainability of the University of Lausanne: two shows and a workshop touring in the form of scripts and recreated in each partner theatre with a local team.


World premiere of the show Jérôme Bel, performed and staged by Jérôme Bel, was produced by R.B. Jérôme Bel (assistant director: Maxime Kurvers; artistic advice and executive direction: Rebecca Lasselin; administration: Sandro Grando) in coproduction with Ménagerie de Verre (Paris), La Commune centre dramatique national d’Aubervilliers, Festival d’Automne à Paris, R.B. Jérôme Bel (Paris)


Images by Herman Sorgeloos, Marie-Hélène Rebois, Aldo Lee, Pierre Dupouey, Olivier Lemaire, Chloé Mossessian and produced by CND Centre national de la danse, R.B. Jérôme Bel, Paris National Opera/Telmondis in association with France 2, with the participation of Mezzo and of Centre national de la cinématographie, Theater Hora, French Institute Alliance Française – FIAF.


R.B Jérôme Bel is supported by the Direction régionale des affaires culturelles d'Ile-de-France, French Ministry for Culture.



Read more for Interview with Maria Magdalena Kozłowska and Pankaj Tiwari.

This show is part of the project 'Sustainable theatre?', conceived by Katie Mitchell, Jérôme Bel, Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne, with the collaboration of the Competence Centre in Sustainability of the University of Lausanne: two shows and a workshop touring in the form of scripts and recreated in each partner theatre with a local team.


World premiere of the show Jérôme Bel, performed and staged by Jérôme Bel, was produced by R.B. Jérôme Bel (assistant director: Maxime Kurvers; artistic advice and executive direction: Rebecca Lasselin; administration: Sandro Grando) in coproduction with Ménagerie de Verre (Paris), La Commune centre dramatique national d’Aubervilliers, Festival d’Automne à Paris, R.B. Jérôme Bel (Paris)


Images by Herman Sorgeloos, Marie-Hélène Rebois, Aldo Lee, Pierre Dupouey, Olivier Lemaire, Chloé Mossessian and produced by CND Centre national de la danse, R.B. Jérôme Bel, Paris National Opera/Telmondis in association with France 2, with the participation of Mezzo and of Centre national de la cinématographie, Theater Hora, French Institute Alliance Française – FIAF.


R.B Jérôme Bel is supported by the Direction régionale des affaires culturelles d'Ile-de-France, French Ministry for Culture.



Read more for Interview with Maria Magdalena Kozłowska and Pankaj Tiwari.

'We create a productive confusion’


With the theater piece Jérôme Bel, Maria Magdalena Kozłowska and Pankaj Tiwari tell the ‘autobio-choreo-graphy’ of pioneer choreographer Jérôme Bel, while at the same time drawing on their own experiences as young makers in the art field. The text and concept by Bel travels, to be performed by local performers in a sustainable way.

A conversation about their cooperation and the process of making this piece.

By Evelien Lindeboom


You two met at DAS Graduate School of the Academy of Theatre and Dance. You both came here from abroad. Can you tell a bit about your background and what made you come to Amsterdam?

Maria: ‘I was born in Zielona Góra, Western Poland, where I was part of a youth theatre group ever since I was 12. I moved to Warsaw when I was 18 and I started working in performing arts and made some video works. I’ve always seen myself as an interdisciplinary artist, on the verge of theatre, performance art and music. The human voice has always been central to my practice. I feel that it has both physical and symbolic qualities. Besides working with professional singers, I started working with choirs of people that are not professionals. I came to DAS in the Netherlands seeking a place where there was already a context and facilitation of the interdisciplinary and experimental way of thinking about theater, music and performing arts.’


Pankaj: ‘Where I come from, a city on the border of India and Nepal, there was no space for art, especially for those that are not upper-class. So, I only got involved in theater after I went to study science at the university in 2009 and there turned out to be a very active theater community. The only way for me to continue exploring theater, was by continuing my studies at university, so that’s why I did six masters, until I came to Europe in 2019. From acting and directing, I moved to performance art. At DAS I realized I also have potential to curate: I like cooperating and I am good at building structures.’


You’ve made other projects together in the past years, what brought you together?

M&P: ‘We first started working together during the pandemic, when we were forced to take our work into public spaces. Our first bigger scale collaboration was Opera to the people, where we decided to perform a sound piece from a boat. This was ‘safe’, corona wise, but less ‘safe’ in terms of the expectations of the audience. We both find it very interesting to think about spectatorship and the effects of bringing spectacle in public space. When does it stop being art and pop into other practices? To look for those borders, means to create a productive confusion. We don’t see confusion as a bad thing, it’s often the starting point of a conversation.


We come from different parts of the world, and it feels like we carry some luggage of experience and perspective with us, that we recognized in one another. We formed what we call The Academy of New Rituals. How far can we go with building realities and how can the structures that we carry from our ancestors be of use today? Our work is often a reaction to something we perceive as an existing tension or a juxtaposition in society. We find artistic answers to reality or social phenomena that almost feel like riddles. Such ‘answers’ can be an angle that we didn’t see before, or an unexpected connection between things, or between art and science. ‘


When did you first hear about Jérôme Bel and what did that mean to you?

Maria: ‘I have been familiar with the work of Jérôme Bel for a long time: when I collaborated with dancers and choreographers in Poland, they were fascinated with Bel, because he brought this wind of speculation about what dance is and how a body on stage is perceived. He questions the relationship between the audience and the bodies on stage, for example by casting nonprofessional dancers. He was the first to show that every body can be a dancing body. Very liberating!


Personally, I admire his sense of humor. He plays with the expectations of the audience by opposing the way people look, to how they dance. This is very close to how I see humor in art: it’s not just about making people laugh, but about how we negotiate what we find understandable and what stays obscure. Humor is always on the verge of what we know and don’t know: things that seem familiar combined with a strong element of surprise cause us to laugh. This is a very deep artistic philosophy, and it creates meaningful art practice.’


Pankaj: ‘The first thing I learned about Jérôme Bel, was about how he was promoting the idea that people shouldn’t travel by plane, because of the environment. When I came to Europe, this discussion about flying was going on. At first the topic made me feel angry, because when people look at things this way, they forget the different realities worldwide around flying. For me personally, flying was very liberating. I was the first in my family to fly, and now I felt judged for it. It inspired me to make the project Paper plane, that consists of fifteen thousand paper planes. It’s about the dream that flying represents to so many people.


Now I have come to understand the discussion better. It’s not so much about flying across the world to a better life, but against the mentality of flying back and forth needlessly. What I find particularly interesting about this discussion, though, are the real underlying issues, like climate justice. Ninety-five percent of pollution is caused by corporate companies, instead of individuals. How can we include that fact into this conversation, and get past individual feelings of guilt?


If I take this a step further, I see the same issues occur in the art world; most art fits into the market structure, it is sponsored and funded by festivals and companies, and so they prevent us from addressing the real issues. I aim to make art that doesn’t fit into the market structure and doesn’t talk about the subjects that big companies want the discourse to be. As artists we cannot change the world, but we can give direction to the conversation. That’s why we aim to create discourse, instead of following it.’


What was your first impression when reading this ‘Auto-bio-choreo-graphy’ that tells Jérôme Bels’ career?

M&P: ‘We wondered immediately: how will this sound like coming from our mouths? It is written for one person and yet we were asked to do it together. Also: we are not dancers or actors, but independent artists. Imagining how we would channel his work and words, has a comical effect. It is very charged: an eastern European woman and Indian man become this famous French choreographer on stage. Our bodies as carriers of this monolog, propose a certain tension. The audience can clearly see that we don’t fit into this physical and social reality we are representing. The contrast is very big. Theater is always about representation and embodiment, but in this case it’s spicy because it’s this autobiography of an artist that often does biographies of other artists, and here we are embodying him.’


What makes the contrast so big?

M&P: ‘We are in different places in time and in our career. Bel is established and summarizes his career, where we feel we are still constructing our position as artists. The way he sees himself is also representative of an older generation. In his prime, the possibilities of art seemed endless. We are more humble in that sense. He also used very different language than we would use now, such as ‘disabled theatre’ – this sounds disrespectful today. So, there is a lot of interesting tensions we found, that we like to play with. In the performance a game of identity and representation unfolds that brings up lots of interesting questions, such as: who is representing whom, and on what terms? What are the roles of Jérôme Bel, of the festival, of us, of the audience: we give a lot of thoughts to all those entanglements.’


Is this question of identity the main theme of the performance?

M&P: ‘Equally important is of course the topic of sustainability. We feel the need to take part in this conversation and raise our voices, to point out certain elements of this conversation that we feel are not vocalized loud enough yet. It is about sustainability in general, but also very specifically in the art field. It feels very urgent to take part in this conversation now, about what our field can and should become. Not just by using words, but by really facing the new challenges and needs. We really care and want to be meaningful in a practical way: what resources will the next generations have, and how do the rules of the field function? Are we able, for example, to help young artists to earn enough without having to travel?’


The idea of this piece is that it should be performed by local performers and it should be done in a sustainable way. Can you tell something about how you are staging it, and what are the biggest challenges for you?

M&P: ‘Our practice is already very sustainable, so in that sense we fit right into this concept. We are not allowed to buy any tools or costumes, but we can use what is available and that is enough. The biggest challenge is that we are together on the stage when it’s written as a monologue. As said, this is something we play with. And we have invited a third ‘performer’ on stage: the light design by Nick Verstand.

We follow the rules and the text Jérôme Bel gave us very strictly, and at the same time we really perform it in our way. By giving it intonation and musicality, we will reveal meanings that are not explicit. That’s how we really make this piece our own.’

Read less
  • Maria Magdalena Kozłowska, director

    © Eva Roefs

  • Pankaj Tiwari, director

    © Pankaj Tiwari

  • Jérôme Bel, choreographer

    © Herman Sorgeloos

  • © Eva Roefs

  • © Eva Roefs

  • © Eva Roefs

  • © Eva Roefs

  • © Ada Nieuwendijk

  • © Ada Nieuwendijk

  • © Ada Nieuwendijk

  • © Ada Nieuwendijk

credits

text Jérôme Bel video Jérôme Bel direction Maria Magdalena Kozłowska, Pankaj Tiwari dramaturgy, direction Miguel A Melgares lights Nick Verstand performers Maria Magdalena Kozłowska, Pankaj Tiwari, Frederic Seguette, Claire Haenni, Gisèle Pelozuelo, Yseult Roch, Olga de Soto, Peter Vandenbempt, Sonja Augart, Simone Verde, Esther Snelder, Nicole Beutler, Eva Meyer Keller, Germana Civera, Benoît Izard, Ion Munduate, Cuqui Jerez, Juan Dominguez, Carine Charaire, Hester Van Hasselt, Dina Ed Dik, Amaia Urra, Carlos Pez, Henrique Neves, Johannes Sundrup, Véronique Doisneau, Damian Bright, Matthias Brücker, Remo Beuggert, Julia Häusermann, Tiziana Pagliaro, Miranda Hossle, Peter Keller, Gianni Blumer, Matthias Grandjean, Sara Hess, Lorraine Meier, Simone Truong, Akira Lee, Aldo Lee, Houda Daoudi, Cédric Andrieux, Chiara Gallerani, Taous Abbas, Stéphanie Gomes, Marie-Yolette Jura, Nicolas Garsault, Vassia Chavaroche, Magali Saby, Ryo Bel, Sheila Atala, Diola Djiba, Michèle Bargues, La Bourette, Catherine Gallant production Holland Festival, Frascati Producties coproduction Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne, R.B. Jérôme Bel (Parijs) STAGES - Sustainable Theatre Alliance for a Green Environmental Shift: Dramaten Stockholm, National Theater & Concert Hall, Taipei, NTGent, Piccolo Teatro di Milano – Teatro d’Europa, Teatro Nacional D. Maria II, Théâtre de Liège, Lithuanian National Drama Theatre, National Theatre of Croatia Zagreb, Slovene National Theatre Maribor, Trafo, MC93 — maison de la culture de Seine-Saint-Denis Bobigny with the support of Europese Unie thanks to Caroline Barneaud, Daphné Biiga Nwanak, Jolente De Keersmaeker, Zoé De Sousa, Florian Gaité, Chiara Gallerani, Danielle Lainé, Xavier Le Roy, Marie-José Malis, Frederic Seguette, Christophe Wavelet

This performance is made possible by