How to make an audience lose all grip? By spinning them around (‘Birdwatching’, Benjamin Vandewalle & Erki De Vries)


Hold on a second: who’s moving? Is that dancer moving? Or are we? No, wait: we are not moving at all, and that dancer isn’t either, but the walls around us are. Nothing is what it seems to be, in Birdwatching, a performance by choreographer Benjamin Vandewalle and visual artist Erki De Vries, for an audience of just 15 people. They are all seated in a small booth on wheels that can be moved around. But all the walls the decor is composed of can be moved too. Throughout their performance Vandewalle & De Vries try to mess with your perspective on things and your sense of orientation. So: don’t watch it on a full stomach. Birdwatching, at Kaaistudio’s (Brussels) was the inofficial kick-off for Working Title Platform: four days of performances and much more at Bronks, Brigittines & Kaaistudio’s.

Unfortunately, it’s a bumpy ride. Which means that you’re continually reminded of the fact that your seat is moving: being pushed around on the floor of that theatre. And if you keep on looking at the ceiling above you, you can definitely stay aware of where you are and what is happening. But otherwise? After 40 minutes I left my seat feeling giddy, as I had really tried to stay focused on those white walls in front of me and those two dancers, appearing and disappearing.

Vandewalle & De Vries do succeed in what they’ve set out to do: make you lose all sense of direction and orientation, by moving the audience around and continually taking that decor in front of your eyes apart and reassembling it. At a certain moment it’s quite creepy: all the walls are moving and you are moving, but you really have the impression that that  dancer is the only one spinning around.

Personally I thought the continuous drone of the sound scape and the high level of it was difficult to bear. But I can understand they wanted a layer of sound to ‘disconnect’ you from everything around you, to make you lose all grip. And the performance certainly still has its weaker moments too. But nevertheless: well-done. It really took me a couple of minutes to recover from it. But maybe that’s just because I usually try to avoid rollercoasters.

You’ll find a couple of Vimeo clips here.

‘Birdwatching’ was created in 2009. Vandewalle will present his new performance ‘One/Zero’ during ‘Working Title Platform 3’, this Saturday & Sunday (Kaaitheaterstudio’s, Brussels). Do drop by at ‘The reflecting pool’ too, a temporary exhibition linked to the work of Vandewalle & De Vries at Kaaistudio’s, with works of art by Bill Viola, Wim Delvoye, Jan De Cock, Lawrence Malstaf and a few others (7-10.30 PM).






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