Berlinde De Bruyckere

– Nicht Schlafen 2016 – 2023

Alain Platel & Mirjam Devriendt

– Why we fight? | Creative documentary (2022, 98’)

Visual artist Berlinde De Bruyckere has expanded her working area to the performing arts, among others in close collaboration with photographer Mirjam Devriendt and director Alain Platel. One case in point is the documentary ‘Why We Fight?’ (2022) by Devriendt and Platel. The film is inspired on a scene from the dance performance ‘Nicht Schlafen’ that Platel made in 2016 with his dance company les ballets C de la B, for which De Bruyckere designed the scenography. Among others, the performance asks the question why there is so much senseless and random violence. This led to discussions with the dancers that were confronting but also purifying and sometimes upsetting. In the documentary the question is asked again to a number of people and subsequently opened to an audience.

Within the scope of LANDSCAPES | Feel Flanders Fields the festival shows the installation ‘Nicht Schlafen, 2016-2023’. The set Berlinde De Bruyckere designed for the dance performance consists of a large canvas that looks like a weathered blanket and a horse sculpture, and it is accompanied by the soundtrack of the performance. The documentary is screened in a separate space.

Horses are a recurring theme within De Bruyckere’s work. She was an artist in residence in the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres for the whole of 1999, giving her access to all kinds of archived material. What struck her most was the image of horses with bloated bellies left behind on the battlefield or in the city. She linked the innocence of this animal that was used as a war machine with the countless soldiers who perished on the battlefields of the Great War, but also with those who were orphaned or widowed. Thus the horse was turned into a metaphor for death and gigantic, indescribable loss.

Both in the installation and the documentary the horse also symbolises vulnerability and incomprehensible and needless aggression. De Bruyckere explains that people like to touch and stroke her horse sculptures, as if to make up for some small part of the injustice these innocent animals suffered but probably also to express our impotence in the face of a form of aggression that is so typical of man. In De Bruyckere’s images the skin is always a key element. It literally constitutes the membrane that separates numbness from sensitivity.

The war in Ukraine demonstrates how the horror from WWI is still perpetuated today. Both the installation and the film are more topical than ever. The setting of the work in a former WWI headquarters is beyond symbolic.

Berlinde De Bruyckere (1964, BE)

In her sculptures Berlinde De Brucykere shows us the body and life in all its vulnerability. Her installations of horse bodies and bodies evoke a sense of comfort and caress, but also of fear and violence. For more than twenty years, she has been working on a vocabulary all her own, within which a refined, melancholic approach to man and society has gradually unfolded, always with the hopeful and consoling idea in itself of change, metamorphosis or even healing.

Alain Platel (1956, BE)

Alain Platel is one of Belgium’s most renowned choreographers today. Originally trained as an orthopedagogue, he is a self-taught director. In 1984 he co-founded the dance company ‘Les ballets C de la B’. A selection of his pieces are: C(H)OEURS (2012, at the request of Gerard Mortier) , Gardenia (2010, together with Frank Van Laecke), Out Of Context – for Pina (2010), Nicht Schlafen (2016) and Requiem pour L (2018).

Mirjam Devriendt (1961, BE)

In collaboration with award-winning artist Berlinde De Bruyckere, photographer and visual artist Mirjam Devriendt has created numerous video installations for opera and exhibitions, including for De Munt, Holland Festival, Muziektheater Transparant and B’Rock Orchestra.

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