Open letter to all who consider art important

Dear Friends,

Just imagine: you are a young man, appointed as part-time organiser of the dance programme in a small cultural centre in the 1990s. You work 70 hours a week in the conviction that the visual arts should also have a place there. Over a period of 20 years you and your centre have built up a phenomenal reputation in the art world. In your mobile you have the private numbers of some of the world’s greatest artists, including Gerhard Richter, Daniel Buren, John Baldessari and many others. They are proud of the shows they put on in this small provincial cultural centre. You have given young artists the first opportunity to present their work before going on to international fame, including Koen van den Broek, Jan De Cock and Joëlle Tuerlinckx. Because you have a sixth sense; a nose for quality. Your name gets around and you are approached by several ‘real’ temples of art, but you obstinately continue working for your cultural centre. You even succeed in setting up a partnership on an equal footing with the legendary S.M.A.K.

And then one day you arrive in your office to find that all your art books have vanished. You find them in the toilets. You think “Hmm, rather a tasteless joke” and carry on working. A couple of days later you find that one of the artworks has been slightly damaged. A week later you arrive for your meeting with a group of important African artists. And what happens? You are ordered to hand over your keys and computer. You are asked to leave the centre. That’s it. Fired. On the spot. No reason given.

This really happened. On the outskirts of Brussels. In Strombeek-Bever.

We are of course talking about Luk Lambrecht. He is responsible for making a Flemish cultural centre internationally renowned for its superb, radical exhibitions while still serving tea and cakes on Sunday afternoon and carrying out jolly but important community work. It’s all possible. Nothing elitist about it. Daniel Buren is delighted to eat a vol-au-vent on the spot rather than demanding a pricey restaurant – in Hermann Maier Neustadt’s marvellously designed art cell in the middle of the restaurant that has been a small and peaceful oasis for years. Following his sacking, Luk received a letter informing him that this artwork would be destroyed if it was not promptly removed.

Chased out like a dog. Harassed. ‘Why’ is anybody’s guess. Was he too demanding? Had they had enough of those critical works of visual art? Was the selection too biased? Were the questions they raised too critical?

Luk is a self-willed man who does not make a commotion, who would be happy to pass his role on to new, young curators. But in this instance, the visual arts were simply put out with the rubbish. Flanders cannot just let go of this sort of man. We need him. Luk thinks and acts radically and there are few people who have achieved so much with so few resources. Or, as the late American artist John Baldessari once wrote to him in a book: “Luk, you are one of us.” ‘Us’ means those people who know that these lonely and defenceless artworks always make society better. I used to like visiting Strombeek cultural centre. Not anymore.


What's going on?

Corona has for the time being brought cultural life to a halt. But at Needcompany we have continued working. In July we presented The House of Our Fathers/Mothers of Inventions at MILL. We connected people together again following a period of isolation, but above all we provided more than 20 performing artists with work and were able to bring together 500 visitors.

Corona isn’t over yet and we remain convinced that more than ever we have to create work for actors and dancers, who are the worst affected in the cultural sector. So, this is what we shall continue to do in the months to come.

Jan Lauwers & Viviane De Muynck

Molly Bloom premieres at La Filature in Mulhouse on 4 November. In 1999, Jan Lauwers and Viviane De Muynck, that grande dame of the theatre, set up several ‘illegal’ readings of the last chapter of James Joyce’s Ulysses. They were so successful that Lauwers and De Muynck have now made a new version in French.

While writing this radical monologue, where not a single sacred cow was spared, Joyce must have thought that ‘behind every famous man there’s a woman watching in astonishment’. The inequality of women, #metoo, sexual freedom, all this is thrown caustically in our faces by the 74-year-old Viviane, who herself says this is her best part ever. The way she gives shape to Molly Bloom’s thoughts in a ‘less is more’ staging is an example to all young actors.

Grace Ellen Barkey

For the Coup de Ville art circuit in Sint-Niklaas, Grace Ellen Barkey created a site-specific installation called Bambi's Perspective. In the words of the curator, Stef Van Bellingen: “Grace seems to polarise beauty and reduce it to its essence between the opposite extremes of eternality and transience. The theme of the work is related to her ecological concerns and her reaction to them, which can perhaps be best summarised as ‘the desire to cherish’.” Can we still view nature with innocent eyes?

Open until 11 October.

Maarten Seghers & Victor Afung Lauwers

In 2021, Needcompany will be presenting Billy's Violence, a new production on which Jan Lauwers is collaborating with Nao Albet, Grace Ellen Barkey, Gonzalo Cunill, Irene Escolar, Romy Louise Lauwers, Maarten Seghers and Juan Navarro. Victor Afung Lauwers is currently writing the script, which is based on thirteen tragedies by Shakespeare. Maarten Seghers is also hard at work; he is interpreting Victor’s work for the music he will compose. Rehearsals start in December!

Mohamed Toukabri & Maimouna Latifa Khamessi

Mohamed Toukabri is unable to resume work on The Power (of) The Fragile, a co-production with Needcompany. The performance is a duet with his mother, Maimouna Latifa Khamessi, but due to a Belgian entry ban she cannot travel from Tunisia. This production is consequently on hold until further notice.

Lobke Leirens & Maxim Storms

Leirens & Storms are valiantly continuing their work on Folks&Fools - a Needcompany co-production - a piece dealing with the notion of the scapegoat. They will be picking up the threads again in November, with rehearsals at MILL.

What's happening @ MILL

EXPLO: Simon Lenski, George van Dam, Grace Ellen Barkey, Dirk Braeckman, Emma van der Put

On the weekend of 13 & 14 November it will be open day at MILL, our homebase in Molenbeek. First-class musicians George van Dam and Simon Lenski will be presenting their version of the Goldberg Variations and we shall be looking ahead in a preview of Night, a new piece by Grace Ellen Barkey. We shall also be looking back, in an exhibition of Dirk Braeckman’s photos of The House of Our Fathers (taken at Herrenhausen, Hannover, in 2013) together with new video work by Emma van der Put based on her physical presence at The House of Our Fathers/Mothers of Inventions (MILL, 2020). Save the date.

In addition, we also welcome 2m3 to MILL as our guests. This is a small, unsubsidised organisation in Molenbeek which has for years been organising a single performance each month in a room measuring 2 cubic metres. They invite a different and unique performing artist each time. Their work was put at risk by the Corona measures. Needcompany is glad to be able to support and host this project at MILL.


We aim to make MILL more than ever a place for encounter, creation and freedom. A lively and open place. Which is why we are launching   , a new Needcompany initiative for which 10,000 euro is being made available. We are looking for performing artists who have the nerve to think in a timeless and non-result-oriented way.

The purpose is to enter into new relations and explore virgin territory. Through this open call we are appealing to artists who have never previously collaborated with Needcompany to put in an application. The scheme remains open for two months. Early in 2021 we shall announce who will be resident in our  .


PIE - Probabilities of Independent Events will be coming to Brussels at the end of the year. This production – specially developed for December Dance 2019 in Bruges – is a celebration of life and coincidence, but also an occasion for Grace Ellen Barkey to communicate her knowledge and experience to 14 students from the Royal Conservatoire in Antwerp. Rombout Willems will provide the music and Sung-Im Her will assist with the choreography. At BOZAR on 29 & 30 December.

Apart from this, in October Grace Ellen Barkey would normally have been travelling to Zug in Switzerland to create a new version of PIE – Probabilities of Independent Events with local students. Because of Covid-19, this project (in association with Casino Theater in Zug) has been postponed until next year.

4-5-6 NovemberMolly Bloom (La Filature, Mulhouse) PREMIÈRE
4-5-6 NovemberFOREVER (Théâtre Garonne, Toulouse)
13-14 NovemberEXPLO (MILL, Molenbeek)
17-18 NovemberMolly Bloom (Festival de Otoño, Madrid)
21-22-23 NovemberMolly Bloom (Temporada Alta, Girona)
23-24 NovemberAll the good (Toneelhuis, Antwerp)
29-30 DecemberProbabilities of Independent Events (Bozar, Brussels)

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