The 22nd Kunsten Festival des Arts in Brussels (May 5 – 27, 2017)
The Kunsten Festival des Arts is a performing arts festival known for its foremost program of experimental works in Europe. Artistic director Christophe Slagmuylder stands fast against the seemingly global trend toward “divisiveness, discrimination, protectionist foreign policy.” Fighting such backward trends and promising a truly cosmopolitan festival, the event will feature 39 works (25 of which are world-premiers).
The program features numerous works that focus on pressing issues seen in Europe, such as the influx of refugees. One example is from the International Institute of Political Murder led by director Milo Rau, who chose to focus on the Aegean Sea, where many attempted crossings are currently being made, for the final piece in the company’s European trilogy started in 2014. The new work, entitled Empire, brings together the desperate conditions of todays refugees with Greek tragedy. Also on the program is a dance piece entitled Displacement, in which Syrian choreographer Mithkal Alzghair will be telling his story of losing his home.
A further defining feature of this year’s festival is its large number of dance pieces. Eszter Salamon has created a festive ceremonial dance for the opening program that combines contemporary dance and dance and song from the Mapuche people of South America. Marcelo Evelyn, with a 30-plus year career as a choreographer, has created Dança Doente (Sick Dance), a piece confronting his own mortality inspired by the Butoh dance of Tatsumi Hijikata. Swedish choreographer Marten Spangberg, who presented an acclaimed 7-hour endurance dance piece at last year’s festival, will present a renewed version of the dance, titled Natten, The Series (Overnight, The Series).
This year’s festival will also feature a collaboration with the WIELS Contemporary Art Center: an exhibition between April 20 and August 13 entitled “The Absent Museum.” The exhibition will trace the course of the Belgian art scene, beginning with the Symbolist movement and leading up to the present day. Also at WIELS, performances will be given by Nàstio Mosquito (Belgium), Lili Reynaud Dewar (France), Otobong Nkanga (France/Belgium) and Carsten Höller.
Attending from Japan will be contemporary artist Tetsuya Umeda. His work Composite will involve citizens of Brussels of various ages repeating a nursery rhyme in a combined experience of physicality, song and movement.
The Kunsten Festival des Arts is a contemporary arts festival held every May in Brussels, Belgium, with a primary focus on the performing arts. Known for its avant-garde program, it is recognized as one of the “antenna” festivals of the international contemporary arts scene. With its own initiatives, the festival seeks to discover and support the production of works by young artists not only from Belgium but throughout Europe and also artists from developing countries that lack arts support systems. In addition to these many productions of young artists’ works, KFDA works to encourage the careers of these artists from a long-term standpoint by involving them in multi-year collaborative production efforts. At the same time, the festival produces new works with established artist from Belgium and the rest of Europe and provides the venues for their world premieres. As one of the epicenters creating new trends in the world’s performing arts, KFDA enjoys a strong brand equity. More than 50% of the KFDA program consists of works produced by KFDA or created through KFDA-led collaborative efforts, and half of these will be world premieres in any given year. The founder of KFDA, Frie Leysen, retired as artistic director after the 2006 festival, after which the post was taken over by her assistant artistic director, Christophe Slagmuylder. Collaborating with the Japan Foundation's PAJ grant program, the Saison Foundation and others, in recent years artists Toshiki Okada (chelfitsch), Zan Yamashita, Hiroaki Umeda, Shiro Maeda (Gotandadan) and Yudai Kamisato have attended from Japan. Find our interview with Christophe Slagmuylder here.
- Kunsten Festival des Arts