Laughing dogs, a mousetrap and fireworks: Kris Verdonck’s ‘K, a Society’

‘Please don’t look for a connection between the scenes you’re about to see’. That’s what the guide tells you just before you start your tour. And then she takes you for a walk through the building, along nine (mostly video) installations by Belgian artist Kris Verdonck. All together they make up K, a Society, inspired on the writings of Franz Kafka.

K, a Society premiered at Theater der Welt (Essen) this summer. It went to Rotterdam afterwards and had its Belgian premiere just now, at Vooruit (Ghent). Don’t expect some sort of adaptation of Kafka’s writings, although Verdonck did use them as a starting point. ‘I tried to translate his system to all sorts of machineries, but I have lost that battle’, Verdonck recently admitted in an interview. He tends to find Kafka’s personages outdated, but still admires the legendary writer for his brilliant depiction of our insane society.

While walking along the installations, you’ll immediately notice that Verdonck knows how to come up with striking, beautiful images. A video of a businessman in a box that’s too narrow to be comfortable, another businessman floating on water, holding on to his briefcase in that almost empty swimming pool, fourteen whispering men and women, or that huge video screen with a camera going down along the side of a skyscraper. And then of course there is that playground with all those fluffy, barking (or laughing?) dogs and that box with fireworks. Eye candy, every single one of them. Almost each episode provides you with a new, pleasant surprise.

K, a Society did disappoint me though. Verdonck is flirting with both visual and performing arts. On the one hand some of his videos/installations aren’t strong enough to stand on their own as a work of art, and on the other hand, K, a Society could have done with a stronger, binding vision, tying all of this together. Of course, that guide tells you not to go and look for a connection, but in the end you do feel there’s something missing. Verdonck sure comes up with some great episodes for his ‘story’ but as a director he fails in putting forward a vision that succeeds in lifting K, a Society to a higher level.

Tour schedule here.

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