Anthology Marianne Van Kerkhoven
“It seems to me that there is such a thing as a major and a minor dramaturgy, and although my preference is mainly for the minor, which means those things that can be grasped on a human scale, I would here like to talk about the major dramaturgy. Because it is necessary. Because I think that today it is extremely necessary. We could define the minor dramaturgy as that zone, that structural circle, which lies in and around a production. But a production comes alive through its interaction, through its audience, and through what is going on outside its own orbit. And around the production lies the theatre and around the theatre lies the city and around the city, as far as we can see, lies the whole world and even the sky and all its stars. The walls that link all these circles together are made of skin, they have pores, they breathe.” (Marianne Van Kerkhoven, 1994)
(c) Jochem Jurgens
The Flemish essayist and dramaturge Marianne Van Kerkhoven (1946-2013) was a highly influential figure in the field of performing arts in Europe during several decades. In 1970 she founded Het Trojaanse Paard, a company that became one of the standard-bearers of political theatre in Flanders. In the early 1980s Van Kerkhoven turned towards the so-called ‘Flemish wave’ in the performing arts and worked as a dramaturge with artists such as Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Jan Lauwers, Jan Ritsema, Josse De Pauw, Guy Cassiers, Peter Van Kraaij and many others. From 1985 on she worked as dramaturge for the Kaaitheater in Brussels. In recent years she was involved in the work of a new generation of artists including Rudi Meulemans, Kris Verdonck, Pieter De Buysser, Tine Van Aerschot, Marijs Boulogne and Hooman Sharifi.
Marianne Van Kerkhoven was a member of the editorial staff on the theatre magazine Etcetera from its appearance in 1983 until 2004. From 1991 to 1995 she was the editor in chief of the four-language journal Theaterschrift. She wrote countless reviews, essays and interviews on dance and theatre in these and other media and books, and lectured widely. In 2002 appeared a collection of her essays on theatre entitled Van het kijken en van het schrijven (Of looking and writing). Her last major writing project was a book in collaboration with Anoek Nuyens that documents the creation process of Kris Verdonck’s End through essays and interviews with all the collaborators: Listen to the Bloody Machine (2012). She received various awards for her work.
Anthology of writings (2015)
In collaboration with the Kaaitheater in Brussels, Sarma collects and discloses the writings of Marianne Van Kerkhoven throughout the year 2015 – the different installments and editorial choices are introduced below. Erwin Jans wrote an essay for this anthology that introduces Van Kerkhoven's writings about theatre.
The anthology was edited by Jeroen Peeters, with the assistance of Jasper Delbecke, Tom Engels and Elisabeth Hirner. Thanks to Guy Gypens, Esther Severi, Johan Wambacq and Lana Willems of the Kaaitheater. Production: Sarma. Coproduction: Kaaitheater.
Writings on political theatre (1979-89)
As the founder and member of the theatre company Het Trojaanse Paard, Marianne Van Kerkhoven was involved in the political theatre in Flanders. This theatre had an educational and emancipatory purpose, which was transmitted to the audience in a transparent manner through traditional forms. Operating mostly in an amateur context, this theatre was marginalised in the 1980ies when professional productional conditions challenged the formal nature of artistic work.
Although Van Kerkhoven had reservations about the legacy of the political theatre, her writings as a researcher at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel are crucial to understanding the development of the performing arts in Flanders. There is a history preceding the ‘Flemish wave’, and the political theatre did to some extent experiment with improvisation, with ‘emotional acting’ (in the feminist vein of ‘the personal is political’), with the status of character and dramaturgy, and so on. The anthology includes all the essays and commentaries Van Kerkhoven assembled herself for the book Op de voet gevolgd (Brussel: VUB Press, 1989). In an interview with Bart Meuleman, Van Kerkhoven shares insights in her personal trajectory as a playwright and performer, and in her convictions on the political theatre and its failure. An essay by Erwin Jans on the myth of the 1970s’ political theatre in Flanders frames the debate. (Update, September 2016: De Witte Raaf published an essay by Klaas Tindemans on the legacy of political theatre in Flanders, which discusses the VUB publications extensively.)
For over two decades Marianne Van Kerkhoven was a member of the editorial team of Etcetera, Flemish magazine for the performing arts, for which she wrote a large number of reviews, essays and interviews. As the magazine sought to chronicle and support the artistic field in Flanders, it also provides an insight in the development of Van Kerkhoven’s writing. In the 1980s her turning away from the political theatre (‘vormingstheater’) and towards the ‘Flemish wave’ and international tendencies makes clear where Van Kerkhoven came to situate innovation and political awareness in the performing arts: in the experimentation with the productional conditions and working method, and also with interdisciplinarity, fragmentation and complexity. Her dramaturgical point of view resonates particularly in an attention for the ‘material’ – the point where form and content meet and a creation process has a life of its own.
Many essays discuss cultural policy in Flanders and Europe with a clear institutional critique: Van Kerkhoven’s resistance to bureaucracy and professionalism that tend to overwhelm the autonomy of the artistic creation process are today more topical than ever. And then there is Van Kerkhoven’s influential discussion of the ‘major dramaturgy’, the ways in which the performing arts are tied to the world. Often these writings and lectures are performative in nature: rather than analysing artistic work, Van Kerkhoven would insist on talking about events in the world, or about labour or feminist issues. These writings have sometimes lost their performative power as they are linked to a specific context and moment in time; yet right now they provide a glimpse of the writing of history. The anthology provides a large selection of essays, dialogues with artists and some interviews that function well outside of their original context. The complete writings for Etcetera are available here.
Between 1990 and 1995 Marianne Van Kerkhoven was editor in chief of Theaterschrift, a journal published twice a year in four languages (English, French, German, Dutch) by Kaaitheater (Brussels), Felix (Amsterdam), Hebbeltheater (Berlin), Theater am Turm (Frankfurt) and Wiener Festwochen (Vienna). The issues that occupied her in Etcetera are here brought onto an international plan. Theaterschrift sought to write the history of experimental theatre throughout Europe, mostly by giving the artists themselves a voice in interviews and essays.
Van Kerkhoven formulated the aim of the journal as follows: “All of the artists in question are individuals: what they have to say is reflected first of all in their creative work, and not in manifests or movements, not in schools or institutes, and for the time being also not in theoretical articles by them nor in whatever other way of ‘articulating’ their practice. (…) The Theaterschrift can play a role in this type of consolidation, even if it would only have the modest task of ‘accurately registering what these artists have to say about their work and about the world’.”
The issues of Theaterschrift came with an overarching theme that indicates the artistic interests in a globalizing world (before the Internet): Beyond Indifference, The Written Space, Border Violations, The Inner Side of Silence, On Dramaturgy, The Actor, Memory, Theatre and Music, City/Art/Cultural Identity. Sarma makes the whole series available as annotated PDFs, with Van Kerkhoven’s introduction and a table of contents. This also includes two early issues that came out only in Dutch (Over acteren; De teksten haar varianten); the second series of Theaterschrift (1997-98): The Return of the Classics?, Time, Spirituality: A Utopia?; and the extra issue (1998) Intensification: on contemporary Portuguese performance. Some of the issues are still available in print.
‘Focus’ and 'Reservoir' artist portraits (2001-08)
Between 2001 and 2008 Marianne Van Kerkhoven wrote a series of artist portraits for the bi-monthly Kaaitheater bulletin, which were made available in three languages (Dutch, English, French). It concerns artists whose work was produced and/or presented at Kaaitheater and with whom Van Kerkhoven often had a close connection. They include the theatre makers Dood Paard, Josse De Pauw, Dito’Dito, Jan Lauwers & Needcompany, Guy Cassiers, Rudi Meulemans & De Parade, Tg STAN, Peter van Kraaij, Jan Ritsema, Gerardjan Rijnders, Jan Decorte and Stef Lernous, musicians Alain Franco, Frank Pay and Eric Sleichim, as well as choreographers Xavier Le Roy, Meg Stuart, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Charlotte Vanden Eynde, Raimund Hoghe, Jérôme Bel, Thomas Hauert, Kate McIntosh and Jonathan Burrows.
Dispersed writings and translations
Next to Etcetera and Theaterschrift, Van Kerkhoven also published various essays in books, and in magazines such as Ballett International, DWB, Nouvelles de danse, The Drama Review, Toneel Theatraal. It often concerns translations or reworked versions of essays and lectures that appeared elsewhere. A selection of these writings will be made available on Sarma, with an emphasis on essays and lectures after 2000 that address an international context, and supplemented with English translations of key texts that only appeared in Dutch.
After Van Kerkhoven’s death in September 2013, the Belgian national television made several video interviews with Van Kerkhoven available on its webpage – click here.
Creative Commons notice
The texts of Marianne Van Kerkhoven can be freely copied and redistributed, according to the terms of the Creative Commons licence Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivs 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).
De teksten van Marianne Van Kerkhoven zijn vrij herbruikbaar, overeenkomstig de bepalingen van de Creative Commons-licentie Naamsvermelding – Niet commercieel – Geen afgeleide werken 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).
Research project: dramaturgical practice
In September 2015 the Anthology Marianne Van Kerkhoven will be presented at the Theaterfestival in Brussels. In a second phase, Sarma and Kaaitheater will engage in a research project that seeks to unfold Van Kerkhoven’s dramaturgical practice by way of interviews with artists, documents and framing essays. Although Van Kerkhoven embodied and defended the ‘new dramaturgy’ that emerged in the performing arts during the past decades, her own dramaturgical practice has remained paradoxically enough invisible. It was her conviction that the dramaturge’s contribution should dissolve into the work and thus remain invisible in the result. Her embodied knowledge as a dramaturge and collaborator was passed on to artists, assistants and interns over the years, but written accounts of this transmission and practice are scarce. In Listen to the Bloody Machine Van Kerkhoven aimed to document an entire creation process by interviewing all the parties involved; all, but not the dramaturge… How did she work in the studio? How did she speak with artists in that collaborative context? These questions are at the heart of a research project that will eventually lead to a book.
|Marianne Van Kerkhoven||A la recherche du personnage perdu (1981)||Op de voet gevolgd||1990|
|Marianne Van Kerkhoven||Vorming en globaal maatschappelijk kader (1979)||Op de voet gevolgd||1990|
|Marianne Van Kerkhoven||Improvisatie en emotionaliteit in het politieke theater (1979)||Op de voet gevolgd||1990|
|Marianne Van Kerkhoven||Van nu tot het einde van het bewustzijn||Etcetera||1996|
|Marianne Van Kerkhoven||Van de kleine en de grote dramaturgie||Etcetera||1999|
|Marianne Van Kerkhoven, Miel Vanattenhoven||Wat denkt een vrouw die beneveld voor zich uit zit te staren||Etcetera||2002|
|Marianne Van Kerkhoven||Werkverslag. Hoofdstuk 1: Nuanceren||Etcetera||2002|
|Marianne Van Kerkhoven, Sara de Bosschere||Dialoog||Etcetera||2003|
|Marianne Van Kerkhoven, Willy Thomas||Dialoog (3)||Etcetera||2003|
|Marianne Van Kerkhoven, Sara de Bosschere||Dialoog (2)||Etcetera||2003|
|Pieter De Buysser, Marianne Van Kerkhoven||Het 'buiten' verbeelden||Etcetera||2004|
|Marianne Van Kerkhoven||Theaterschrift 10. City / Art / Cultural Identity||Theaterschrift||1995|
|Marianne Van Kerkhoven||Theaterschrift 5 & 6. On Dramaturgy||Theaterschrift||1994|
|Robbert van Heuven||‘Dramaturgie is de bezielde structuur van de voorstelling’||www.robbertvanheuven.nl||2005|
|Marianne Van Kerkhoven||The Ongoing Moment (Fr.)||Sarma||2009|
|Marianne Van Kerkhoven||The ongoing moment (Eng.)||Sarma||2009|
|Marianne Van Kerkhoven||Hij doet wat hij niet laten kan (1986)||Op de voet gevolgd||1990|
|Marianne Van Kerkhoven||De beide emmers in de put waarvan er altijd maar een vol kan zijn  (1982)||Op de voet gevolgd||1990|
|Bart Meuleman||Interview Marianne Van Kerkhoven||De Witte Raaf||2006|
|Marianne Van Kerkhoven||Kleine rondedans der structuren||Etcetera||1989|