Miet Warlop: “I like to make the invisible visible”

Miet Warlop (Belgium) received the Young Theatre Award for her graduation work at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Gent; since then she has mainly developed performing arts works. She was chosen by Katie Mitchell to present her 2012 piece “Mystery Magnet” at the Stückemarkt, a colourful parade with living tables, pairs of trousers, and cardboard boxes. We chatted on the phone as she was in Paris presenting the piece a month ago.

Nathalie Frank: In the centre of “Mystery Magnet” there is a fat guy…
Miet Warlop: The “fatty” is the character who consumed the whole world. All the other things are happening for him, in his head. I wanted to make a very generous work, with a lot of ideas and problems and beauty. He consumed the world, like we consume art, seduction, desire, aggression…it is presented to him in a kind of flood of situations, ideas, and metaphors. In „Mystery Magnet“ there is a front and a backstage like there is the front and the back of your tongue, things you say out loud and things you hold for yourself, or the place where the production of an idea is made. In „Mystery Magnet“ we open the back-wall so the audience can have a glimpse into the place where we make the magic they are looking at when the wall is closed. In this sense I like to make the invisible visible.

NF: How did you develop the piece? Do you have the images in mind or do you create them in dialogue with the performers during the rehearsal?
MW: In a sense, I don’t really develop the piece with the performers. Of course, with the “fatty”, who is the reason why everybody is on stage, we talked a lot – about what it is, for him, to just sit there. He is a kind of sculpted body, a very thin guy in a very fat costume, we had to think about his journey and how he interprets all the things that are happening to him on stage.
A lot happens before the editing process. I only work for half days with the performers, the rest of the day we are working on costumes, objects and actions. I do kind of a shopping out of everything we tried out.

NF: Who are your performers?
MW: There are three dancers, two actors, my two assistants and me. It starts with me in my atelier, then I work with one assistant on the costumes and shaping the characters, after I work with another assistant for bricolage tricks on a large scale: together with him we developed the wall, which is actually a large special effect vehicle. On stage we are all together, completely involved – because half of the piece is doing stuff like something explodes or you have to push this button or that is flipping over… So there is a lot of work to do behind the wall.
I’m always performing in my pieces. I think it’s very important that I know my work from the inside, and I also believe in the energy of the group.. It’s part of the work. Together we run the stage. The fact that I cannot work on paper makes me draw with them in the space and so together we hold the brush.

NF: You studied visual arts – how did you come to the theatre?
MW: I’m trained as a visual artist. I graduated with 7 tableau vivants presented like billiard tables, rather sculpted moments than objects. This project became a success and they gave me a theatre price for it and that’s how I ended up in the theatre. At some point I decided that my moments and things, my objects and costumes need action because they have to transform, I need dynamics in the stillness like you have the diptych in painting.

NF: This year’s Stückemarkt focuses on “new models of authorship” – to what extend do you feel representative?
MW: I think I’m representative to some extend, and now somebody who just graduated can already react on, for example, my work with another proposal. My work is not so different from other things in development, we are part of a stream and I’m really grateful I can be a recognized pearl in that chain. At the same time I find it super that Katie Mitchell selected me for the reasons I like to be representative for… How she looks at it is exactly where I’m looking for. Because apparently people can also like your work for the wrong reasons.

Tip: “Mystery Magnet” is completely sold out but if you want to get an idea you can watch the video from the Göteborgs Dans & Teater festival 2012.

Exberliner is partner of the Theatertreffen-blog

Photo: Bea Borgers, Kunstenfestivaldesarts

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