The first residency in Heerlen.
Written by Saskia de Haas
This is the beginning of a story. This is not a myth, nor a fairytale. This is a story about a collaboration between European artist from different countries.
In a weekend, at the end of April, two artist travelled to Heerlen. Eric Minh Cuong Castaing, a French choreographer and Livia Coloji, an illustrator from Romania. They travelled to Heerlen for the collaboration with Lieke Benders, theater director and artistic director of Hoge Fronten / Lieke Benders, and actor Bart Bijnens from Toneelgroep Maastricht.
I will give you an insight of the working progress of this first residency.
It all started at “Mijn Streek”. “Mijn Streek” can both mean my region and mining region – which this region is known off – but it is also the name of the brasserie were we all met. With all I don’t only mean the four selected artists. I was there too as a writer, sitting next to Jolle Roelofs, a composer.
While looking at the menu, we all got fascinated by a translation application. With this app, you can make a picture of something, and then the app tells you in every language possible, what that something is. I was a girl and a face. I guess we almost don’t have to look for ourselves anymore.
After a good night rest and a nice breakfast, we started our day in the stillness laboratory of Hoge Fronten in Cloister Wittem. In this stillness laboratory Lieke Benders investigates stillness for four years. Stillness needs time.
With silence I mean the lack of sound, with stillness the state of being still. Silence can lead to stillness. Sometimes when I write silence, I also mean stillness. In Dutch there is only one word for both stillness and silence: stilte. In stilte you have the possibility to change habits. In stilte you can give attention. In stilte you can connect in other ways.
Our second day started with a conversation with a monk, Father Martin Werry of Abbey Sint Benedictusberg at Mamelis. He told us about his life in stillness, and how he experiences time differently. Where we divide our days in three parts, based on our meals, he and his brothers divide their days in eight parts, based on the prayers. He doesn’t experience time slowly, as I would expect. On the contrary, his time goes by very quickly, he said. He thinks quick too.
As a monk, it is his life purpose to find stillness. You can’t find stillness in two days or two weeks. You need a life time. For him stillness is the possibility to listen. Stillness is not the emptiness, but the fullness of a space.
He told us about the silence after the music. When the music stops, the room is filled with silence. It is a shame people often break the silence with a applause. He thinks the society is afraid of silence. In our society silence is something dangerous and scary. In silence people think, people reflect, people consider. He thinks the society doesn’t want people to consider and think, they want people to buy.
When the monk visits the city, he notices too much noise. Not only in sound, but also in sight. He thinks most people don’t see and hear this noise anymore. They are used to it. He thinks because of the silence he lives in, his senses are more developed.
At twelve o’clock we attend a sext, a prayer. After the prayer the monks leave the church and leave us behind in great silence. I did not dare to break the silence, so I stayed in the church until everyone was gone.
The third day we started with a workshop for two local blind persons. Roger, a middle aged man who works at the townhall and as a radio presenter for a local radio station, and Anna, a retired woman who wrote and illustrate 98 books.
Roger was born blind, but in his first years he did see some light and colors. He saw green and red and blue. Now he only sees darkness. His fingers, his ears and nose replaced his eyes. Anna is blind for twenty years. She came together with her dog. Her dog is her everything.
After a short introduction Eric started the workshop on the floor, with some small movements. They had to describe what they felt. Like the temperature, the space between bodies, the shapes. The workshop was quite impressive for the participants and for us.
In the evening we went to the theater in Kerkrade to see a dance performance of a Dutch company. When the lights went out, and the performance was over, people instantly applauded, so silence couldn’t fall.
The fourth day we started with visiting the exhibition of Basquiat in Schunck. After visiting the exhibition, we went to the theater to have lunch and to prepare the workshop for deaf people. Almost a half hour in advance of the workshop, I went to the entrance of the theater to pick up the workshop participants. Two people were already waiting in the hall. The first moments were inconvenient. I didn’t quite knew how to communicate since the interpreter wasn’t there yet. I tried to articulate very well and talked with my eyes and hands a lot. I think they understood. After a long ten minutes, waiting silently together, the interpreter arrived. The silence was broken. Hands moved loudly.
During the workshop Eric started to do some movements as a warming up for the body. They had to copy each other. They did some playfully exercises, like throwing an imaginary ball to each other. After the movements, all the participants moved to the piano with Jolle. Jolle wanted to work with sounds. With the vibrations of sounds. When he started to play the piano, all the participants were touching the piano with their hands to feel the vibrations. They were able to feel the music. Not hear, but literally feel.
The deaf participants were not silent at all. On the contrary, they made a lot of noise. They were breathing very loudly, they sighed very rowdy and they talked with a lot of sounds.
The fifth day we started in the dark and in silence in the theater of Heerlen. We closed the curtains and we turned off the lights. While we were standing somewhere on the stage, Anna, the blind woman, walked around with her dog. We couldn’t see anything, but we could hear everything. We heard the sound of her footsteps and the ticking of her dogs paws. Anna is really fast with her dog. She trust her dog more than her own daughter. It is like a blind trust, so she jokes. We had to surrender to the dark too. It was very beautiful. In the dark everything becomes something more.