6 till 16 August 2020

Benjamin Verdonck

Benjamin Verdonck | BE

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Boulevard wholeheartedly connects with the city and its inhabitants, particularly now. We asked ten makers, whom we’ve trusted for years, to create something especially for ‘Powered by Boulevard’. These projects are made for and sometimes with specific groups from the city. Their progress can soon be followed online by everyone.

A man rides his cargo bike. For eleven days straight, through Den Bosch and its parishes. His freight? Feather light mini theatres and amazing dioramas. Every now and then he takes a break. On a square, a bridge or in a courtyard. For accidental encounters with those present and those who happen to pass by.

The miniature worlds Benjamin Verdonck [1972] creates are small and nimble. He is a theater maker, writer, avid collector and creator of images. During the lockdown in Antwerp his desire to go out into the world – as soon as the measures were eased ever so slightly – germinated. With his little boxes, as he calls them lovingly. About this wonderful bricolage, in which he combines craftsmanship and ingenuity: “This is handiwork, made out of paper, cardboard, pieces of rope, sticky tape and little curtains. Homemade, vulnerable. I have a whole series of them. I want to show them, to someone. Wherever. I tell stories, but stories about the stories as well.”

Open journey
He demonstrated his mastery on previous editions of Boulevard, with one more thing, Gilles leert lezen and Waldeinsamkeit. These are mobile miniatures, which almost hesitantly show themselves. He chose to create these small and nimble artworks well before Covid-19 forced theater makers to conjure up new ways to connect with their audiences. “A visionary choice”, he says drily. At any rate, he is happy he can hit the road once more, into the public space. “I look at this as an open journey. I’d rather have encounters in a park or on a square than in a Hema fitting room.”

Social engagement frequently resounds in his tabletop theaters. The world yanks and plucks at him, which by no means leaves him cold. The past months, in which the pandemic discovered Belgium and ripped through it – the country has more than 10,000 casualties already – have strengthened Benjamin’s conviction that humanity embraces its own downfall. “But not in the future; the catastrophe has already taken place. For ten years I’ve seen the signs and how we ignore the ecological disaster that is upon us. We are capable of changing things around – but we just don’t do it. I think that many people see Covid-19 as a mild crisis. Altogether not yet severe enough.”

Hesitant happiness
Nonetheless he resists the lure of the dark side. The box-maker: “The one that belongs to Pandora probably needs to be opened a little bit further, if we really want to change the systems. But discouragement doesn’t serve me at all. I enjoy creating work in which I demonstrate other options.” And so he combines struggle and hesitant happiness in his work. On the one hand he quotes the German revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg: “In the middle of history, in the middle of progress, in the middle of the fight, we learn how we must fight.” On the other hand he stays away from the weight of missions. He shrugs ever so slightly: “I don’t have a message, I’m just curious.”

For those who won’t have the joy of crossing paths with Benjamin Verdonck, consolation is near. He is going to document his wanderings, which will appear on www.festivalboulevard.nl.

Location Locatie: Benjamin Verdonck
Running time Doorlopend
Theaterfestival Boulevard thanks:
  • Gemeente 's-Hertogenbosch
  • Den Bosch Partners
  • Provincie Noord-Brabant
  • Fonds Podiumkunsten
  • VSBfonds
  • Fonds21
  • Vriendenloterij Fonds
  • Creative Europe Programme (EU)
  • Gieskes-Strijbis Fonds
  • Dioraphte
  • VandenEnde Foundation
  • Fonds ZOZ
  • Jeugdfonds Sport & Cultuur
  • Jan van Hoof Galerie
  • Apap
  • Feminist Futures
  • Performing Gender