Block Autumn 2007 - The Glamour of Violence

7 September 2007 to 23 November 2007
The semester starten on 1 September 2007 and ended on
29 February 2008

Boris Gerrets (NL) visual artist, filmmaker, editor
Participating artists:
Ivo Dimchev (BG) ;Steven de Jong (NL); Kaisu Koski (FI); Cille Lansade (DK/F); Linda Molenaar (NL); José Manuel Mora Ortiz aka Chico (E); Esther Mugambi (AUS); Stephanie Pan (USA); Jochen Stechmann (D)

Violence confronts us with death, death confronts us with life, and life in turn confronts us with the idea of our own being, what it means to be human.

As a phenomenon, the glamour of violence exploits the hidden instincts, fantasies, dreams and nightmares that reside in the substrata of our consciousness – deep existential feelings, many of which are too monstrous in their cruelty to be openly expressed. Perhaps they are remnants of an earlier time in our evolutionary process, like a kind of mental appendix to our consciousness. Perhaps they are inherently part of our survival and reproductive instincts – I don’t know. I am neither a psychologist nor a behavioural scientist. But what I do know is that the only time we can even remotely try to understand this repressed world of dark feelings is when we project them into the space of art, which – I would argue – is in itself a gesture of compassion.

However, it would be far too simple to see art as merely a parallel mental ‘fantasy’ world, a safe area for the sublimation of negative psychic energy into more positive channels. Art, too, is of this world, existing right in the midst of the turbulence of ideological and religious interpretations of what constitutes reality – and what is admissible to it. I am not even talking about outright censorship. I am talking about what we allow ourselves to conceive, inside our minds.

Emerging from the many perspectives on violence and the many ethical, philosophical and behavioural concerns is one quintessential question; it is a question we dread to ask:Is violence the thing that makes us human?

The Block in transit - from Minsk to Warsaw

The first week of the Block took place on location. It was our plan to do a workshop with the Free Theatre of Minsk, a Belarusian independent theatre company that works with underground performances in private houses to protest against ‘Europe’s last dictatorship’...

Police Special Forces stormed the performance of a play by the underground theatre group The Free Theatre of Minsk in Belarus on Wednesday 22 August and arrested 50 people. Members of the theatre were about to begin a performance at a private house in a Minsk suburb when armed officers entered the building and detained everyone present. The actors, performers and spectators were taken by bus to a police station, but released three hours later.

Among the arrested spectators were mentor Boris Gerrets  and production manager Mark Jansen, who were preparing a workshop with The Free Theatre of Minsk and the Block participants. Subsequently, one day before the scheduled departure to Belarus, at all visas for DasArts for a stay in Minsk were denied.

For this reason the entire group of DasArts participants, mentor and staff members went by train to Warsaw. Originally this was never meant to be the destination, but because the Free Theatre Group was under heavy scrutiny by the local KGB, Warsaw was the closest destination in Europe to Minsk. Nikolai Khalezin, Vladimir Shcherban, Oleg Shafranov and Natalia Kolyada, members of the Free Theatre of Minsk, joined the DasArtists in Warsaw, where they worked together for a week.