A mother, three sons and an absent father move around together with spinning tops in a wooden installation by the artist Lawrence Malstaf: in the new KVS production Nachtelijk Symposium, the director Mesut Arslan explores the boundaries of communication.
Linear versus circular
Arslan seeks out the difference between a linear and a circular life: ‘Linear is the static, the rational: thinking, planning, ordering, categorising, making deliberate choices. Circular means heart, instinct, emotions, the unconscious, and movement.’
‘People have evolved from circular to linear beings,’ according to Arslan. ‘It has to do with prosperity, always wanting to go further, the pursuit of progress. But our needs, instincts and emotions are in fact circular. Hunger, sleep, sex: these needs always recur. Prosperity does not help us satisfy them. Prosperity allows us to live more comfortably, but has also deprived us of the need to dream. Man has both the linear and the circular in him, but here in the West we have lost the balance. Belgium is right at the extreme of this linear thinking. Planning everything. Reason prevails.’
Lots of words are used in Nachtelijk Symposium, but little is actually said. Everything happens below the surface, between the lines and the words. ‘We in the West, and that includes me, have put our thinking in a straight line. We stick to a timeline, always straight ahead. In this way we shut out a lot of emotion and no longer follow our intuition. Text is linear. What churns around underneath is circular. I keep the text linear, but open up circular spaces around it,’ the director tells us.
The wooden set, the spinning tops, and the audience – who sit in a circle around the arena – break down this linear action. By using this installation with its spinning tops, Nachtelijk Symposium becomes much more than a matter of watching and listening: in this way the tragedy lapses into a daily ritual.
Hero versus anti-hero
We don’t hate Mondays, we hate capitalism.
Mesut Arslan: ‘The play revolves round the absent father, who holds his family in an iron grip, even though he only makes his appearance at the end of the story. This is not only Flemish, but universal. Anyone who reads the play will immediately think that the father is the worst person in the world. I see it differently. Hollywood films are about heroes and anti-heroes, but that’s not my subject. In the course of history, systems have harmed people more than people have harmed each other. I want to expose that in this production.’
Nachtelijk Symposium is the first KVS production by Mesut Arslan and is based on the play by the acclaimed stage director and playwright Eric De Volder (d. 2010). He is also the person behind Platform 0090 and is involved in the Kamyon production.
This article uses quotes taken from Tuur Devens’ interview for Akrostis (first quarter of 2017).
More Lawrence Malstaf: as from 20 April you can also see the exhibition Où sont les sons? Where are the sounds? at the CENTRALE for contemporary art, which includes work by the artist Lawrence Malstaf.