The riding school of the revolution. An artistic research project about the relation between art and resistance on the basis of Pantagleize by Michel De Ghelderode

This project starts from problems, I experienced during my artistic work in the KVS (Royal Flemish Theatre) in Brussels, where I was working as a dramaturge and a member of the artistic staff between 2001 and 2013. My colleagues and me asked ourselves the following question: how to counter the negative effects of neoliberalism in a city like Brussels? And what kind of role art and artists could play in such a project? We found an answer for now in the powerful vision on  the city and citizenship, as it is formulated by Boudry et all, 2003 and Eric Corijn. As a consequence of these insights, we searched for ways to contribute with our city-theater to the development of inclusive, hybrid communities and connections between forms of “urban culture” and the official accepted arts. Even when I learned a lot from this project, from my point of view it was not critical enough toward the system of capitalism and liberal democracy.

What was needed to develop an alternative? To answer that question, I started artistic research on Pantagleize of Michel de Ghelderode (1929). This theatre-text can be considered as a parody on the different political and artistic “avant-gardes” of the period between the two world-wars. Together with master-students and two professor-colleagues of the RITCS-theater-school and in collaboration with KVS, I started a “transit-zone”, an artistic laboratory in which the drive for experimenting of young theatre-makers is combined with the experience of older artists. The work in the frame of this transit-zone led to a profound transformation of the original piece into a new piece, that is better suited to deal with contemporary problems of artistic and political engagement.

My research contains, apart from this artistic aspect also an autobiographical/historical aspect: the (re)construction of my trajectory between 1983 and 2013; of the different phases of my critics on the KVS-project from 2008 untill now (inspired by BAVO, Decreus, De Dijn and Žižek); of the interpretation of the original text starting from frames, I borrow from the interbellum (the anarchistic movement, Bachtin, Benjamin, Simmel, Sombart, Tönnies): of the interpretation of the new Pantagleize-version from contemporary perspectives like Sloterdijks co-immunism, the communism of Negri and Hardt and Žižek, the “commons” in the work of Achterhuis and Bauwens. To conclude, there is also a dramaturgical aspect: the creation of a dialogical space wherein the diverse points of views that were occuring in al these (re)constructions, are brought into debate. I examine, if they can offer elements for the rough design of an alternative aesthetics and politics, based on dissensus and not on consensus.

All this is supposed to result in a relative new universe.  I’ts about a theory and practice of democracy as (revolutionary) resistance that is trespassing the limits of legalism. It is characterised by the selforganisation of the masses, that only from a point of view outside seem to be uniform, but from inside exist in a heterogeneity of groups in a constant state of interaction. Democracy as resistance as I see it, is not happening inside  the institutions of the city or the state, also not out there, in society, but morely between state/city and society. To conclude, I show how the methods of artistic research as we developed it in the transit-zone and certains aspects of  the horse dressage-scene in the performance, can be seen as a first move for an aesthetics, that is suitable with this way of political thinking.