Hello Everybody,

First I would like to say this: Viviane, congratulations on your career prize. You're the best actress in the world!

Something more on the subject of beauty:

- When we spend time in Madrid with Needcompany, I always go to the Prado to look at Rogier van der Weyden's Descent from the Cross. This time I was in the company of the other best actress in the world, Grace. This painting changes my life again and again. It is the most beautiful work that Western painting has ever produced. The humanisation of suffering. The mother who collapses when she sees her tortured son. It is an image for all times. What it seems to say is that weak people should not be allowed to suffer because they are not strong enough for it. That's why the many newcomers to our country are so strong. They are strong and are able to bear the suffering of their harsh journey; it even makes them stronger. I wonder whether the callousness we white people envelop ourselves in has any chance of success against so much strength. And there are a lot of them, warns the tremendous activist Rachida Aziz, even though no one is allowed to sleep next to her.

The Descent from the Cross is a political work and at the same time an ideological one. This distinction is very seldom made nowadays. It is ideological because it is a Christian image, probably commissioned by the Catholic church, and it is a political image because it takes a radical view of the society in which it was created. This can even be seen in the people's clothes: the cloak with gold thread woven into it on one of the rich Jews - weaving with gold thread had only just been invented.

These days you would have to paint this man in a driverless Tesla. Not every cloak has been well fastened, and some have been thrown over the shoulders in haste, while the people fall over each other. Christ's body is too heavy, the space they are standing in is too small. These were all political choices. It also occurred to me that ideological art without the politics is in bad taste and sometimes dangerous. We left the museum passing Goya's Pinturas negras on the way and Grace said that this series of paintings was actually meant as a joke and was not so dark and underground at all. Look, she said, he even painted the first selfie.

- Then we were in Ghent for the first concert by Cinemaximiliaan, a lively bunch from Molenbeek. Superb and funny and moving. In the spacious café at the Vooruit arts centre after the concert I heard, for the first time, more Arabic and Persian than Flemish spoken in a white institution. And together we spoke broken English. Fascinating. Broken English is the finest language in the world. When I am in Ghent, I always drop into the S.M.A.K. for a while. Hiwa K's bronze foundry. The imposing bell and the hunched old men who made it. This too is beauty in an extremely pure form. But, in an interview in the unsurpassed H ART magazine, Hiwa K says that he may quit. He feels that his tools as an artist are not sharp enough. He says that the world's problems have grown too big. That even beauty can no longer be used as a weapon. He says that love should be the new weapon. I love this man and I agree with him. Love. It is greater than happiness and stronger than beauty. The thing is to make your heart big enough to make room for all three. I hope that Hiwa K continues questioning beauty, gives rise to a great deal of love and again and again puts his happiness to the test. And in complete freedom.


Needcompany rounded off 2017 with a successful premiere and performances of War and Turpentine at Toneelhuis. As from March, this production will be touring at home and abroad. In Jan Lauwers’ stage adaptation of Stefan Hertmans' compelling epic, the leading role is taken by Viviane De Muynck.

A few days ago she received the prestigious prize for her General Cultural Achievement from Sven Gatz, the Minister of Culture. A commendable achievement that she can show off more than ever in her star part as Gabrielle in the stage production of War and Turpentine.

The English version will premiere in Seville and Mallorca in March, and will then be on the bill at the Malta Festival in Poland. The French version will be launched at the Festival de Marseille in June. In the autumn there will be an extensive tour of Flanders and elsewhere.

What Hertmans does with his poetic pen, Lauwers does with his eye for compelling theatre. While the suffering is going on, beauty is created. When the horror becomes too much, you can fill up on hope by watching the cheerful ballerina or an actor painting beautiful flowers. Lauwers lets his audience do what Hertmans' grandfather also did: escape into artistic beauty when reality becomes too raw. — Els Van Steenberghe, Knack

Maarten Seghers is currently putting the finishing touches to his latest performance, Concert by a Band Facing the Wrong Way, a pulsating mix of music and performance. He is joined by the Swiss drummer Nicolas Field and the Dutch guitarist Rombout Willems. It is the third part of a triptych in which Seghers continues his quest for the border area between entertainment and tragedy.

This production is a portrait of a bunch of decadent Western artists who run inexhaustibly straight ahead, unclear whether they are fleeing all the misery of the world that is not theirs, or dashing towards it. This performance is a bursting pressure cooker packed with boundless effort, which results in an exuberant optimism that has lost all direction.

The initial stages are to be seen at the Festival Artdanthé in Vanves (Paris) in April, when the second part of the triptych O or The Challenge Of This Particular Show Was To Have Words Ending In O will also be performed. Concert by a Band Facing the Wrong Way premieres at the Malta Festival and will then travel on to Spain, where the performance will be hosted by L'Auditori & Festival Grec de Barcelona.

In the meantime, the outlines of Jan Lauwers' first opera production are rolling out of the printer. Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea, conducted by William Christie, the eminence grise of baroque music, will premiere at the Salzburger Festspiele on 12 August.

Jan Lauwers is the director and stage designer, while the costumes are by Lemm&Barkey. A handful of world-famous soloists will be accompanied by the internationally renowned vocal and instrumental ensemble Les Arts Florissants, which Christie founded in 1979. This refined picture will be completed by the dancers of the Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance, together with our very own Sarah Lutz as a soloist.

The renowned Malta Festival in the Polish city of Poznań has invited Needcompany to be its curator in 2018. For this year's festival, which propagates the idiom a Leap of Faith, Needcompany, as well as presenting a selection of its own work, has been asked to invite about 10 international artists to make a fearless leap in the dark.

Poland's right-wing nationalist government cut the budget so drastically that the festival had its back to the wall. Michal Merczyński, the festival's director, asked Needcompany to give some meaning to the project in spite of everything.

The reduced programme, entitled Cured by Needcompany, includes Maarten Seghers' new production Concert by a Band Facing the Wrong Way, Lemm&Barkey's FOREVER, the English version of War and Turpentine, The Moon by MaisonDahlBonnema, 1095 by Kuiperskaai and Another One by Lobke Leirens and Maxim Storms. The festivities will be opened by Sven Gatz, the Minister of Culture.

On tour

Needcompany will start the 2018-19 season with a revival of the classic Isabella's room at the Almada International Theatre Festival in Lisbon. Viviane De Muynck plays the unforgettable Isabella and she and her superb fellow-performers will then spend a good year on the road for a memorable fifteenth season.

In March, The blind poet, Jan Lauwers' prize-winning production (2015 Barcelona Critics Prize and the 2017 Golden Mask Award in Sarajevo) will be on at the 'Stage Songs Review' festival in the Polish city of Wroclaw. The Southbank Centre chose this production to introduce Needcompany to London audiences after a gap of more than ten years, in the autumn.

Still on in Ostend until 15 April: The Raft. Art is (not) lonely an exhibition curated by Jan Fabre and Joanna De Vos. The works they selected include Glory Hole by OHNO COOPERATION.

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