“He felt no tiredness, just occasional regret that he couldn’t walk on his head.”
Benjamin Verdonck (b. 1972) is an all-round artist who lives and works near Antwerp.
Both actor and writer, visual artist and theatre maker, his art practice recklessly resists genres or classification. From theatre pieces on stage to performances in public space, across objects and art installations, to miniature mobile theaters on the go, Verdonck displays a catching simplicity in his visual language, but not in his thinking. Concerned with and distracted by what goes on in our world, he plays the game of a child with the wrinkles of a philosopher.
Since twenty years, he combines on-stage collaborations with a steady yet agile visual art practice. His work is characterized by constant rethinking, rewriting, reworking propositions on how art could co-create reality, rather than reflecting on it. In his work, he touches our consciousness with elements of playful fantasy, makes language a material, and lets the space and the objects speak. Far from resolving, his work has the quality of a poetic blessing that pretends no cure. Often it reveals a conscious – even activist – endeavour to tackle local or global urgencies (e.g the ecological catastrophe, consumption and economics) from within his work.
In the search for new forms of ’tafeltoneel’ (table scenes, miniature theatre), Verdonck has recently been creating a series of table-sized mobile theaters. With few words but many strings, colours, geometric figures, opening doors and closing curtains, he rewires theatre to its most essential form, close and on a human scale. His magical showboxes have the potential to emerge anywhere in cities, indoors or outside, to disappear just as quickly. With Verdonck at once machinist and protagonist – they reveal an audiovisual poetry that is both puzzling and tangible.
Hoe het zou kunnen zijn (How it could be)
Conversation with Benjamin by 'Zwijgen is geen optie' (in Dutch)
Longread on ‘Wereldtournee in Antwerpen‘ (2021)
by Evelyne Coussens
Een gat prikken in de werkelijkheid. Over frictie en tegenspraak in het werk van Benjamin Verdonck (Nederlands)
Poking a Hole in Reality. On friction and contradiction in the work of Benjamin Verdonck (English, download)
Longread on the making of ‘de tijger eet de zebra en de vogel vliegt verschrikt weg‘ (2020)
by Edith Cassiers
“What Things Want” – On the making of Tiger and theatre in times of climate catastrophe
“Wat de dingen willen” – Over het maken van Tijger door Edith Cassiers (Nederlands)
“On the making of the tiger eats the zebra and the bird, alarmed, takes off and theatre in times of climate catastrophe. How does art become political? How do you reflect the silence of the non-existent public debate on the climate catastrophe? How do you present theatre in an ecological system that is increasingly and irreparably changing? How do you make work that is sustainable? Benjamin Verdonck is searching for answers. His political engagement has inspired a broad collection of performances, installations, actions and charters. The tiger eats the zebra and the bird, alarmed, takes off, ‘a peep show onto the whole wide world’, is both a continuation and a new phase of that engagement.“
by Edith Cassiers – February 2020
Longread on Benjamin’s body of work by Pieter ‘t Jonck in Toneelgruis #11 (2018)
(…) That is important: Benjamin Verdonck is interested in making people think outside the box. If Verdonck often references Jorges Luis Borges, Georges Perec or Jean Cocteau, it’s because these authors did not believe in ‘reality’ as an ‘inescapable fact’. Verdonck’s reality is never what it seems; what is there is not what it is. As a result, the work is hard to decipher or completely ‘understand’, despite its deep concern for the world and society. (…)
The Tinkerings of a Wanderer (English)
Het geknutsel van een dolende (Nederlands)
Longread on Bara/ke by Christel Stalpaert, Ghent University (2015)
Long biography (NL – ENG – FR)