. sacer

The meaning of the term sacer in Ancient Roman religion is not fully congruent with the meaning it took after Christianisation, and which was adopted into English as sacred. In early Roman religion sacer, denotes anything “set apart” from common society and encompasses both the sense of “hallowed” and that of “cursed”. In his main work “Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life” (1998), philosopher Giorgio Agamben analyses an obscure figure of Roman law that poses some fundamental questions to the nature of law and power in our present times. Under the Roman Empire, a man who committed a certain kind of crime was banned from society and all of his rights as a citizen were revoked. He thus became a “homo sacer” (sacred man). In consequence, he could be killed by anybody, while his life on the other hand was deemed “sacred”, so he could not be sacrificed in a ritual ceremony.

SACER is a performative street parade , where the notion of marginality (the sacred men) is used as a connecting element. A group of local and international artists, both professional and amateurs, are challenged to connect the architecture of the neighbourhood with ‘being an outcast’. What is it that puts us out of the ordinary? What does it mean to be together in the margin? And shouldn’t we be celebrating this position? This street performance project is a long term investigation across microcosms of small communities around Europe, which are being faced with radical transformations in its cultural and socio-political frames. With this work, I would also like to push the boundaries of artistic work beyond what is called social-artistic enterprises.

Excellence in the ouvre trespasses the borders of mere social collaborations, looking for consistent and rigorous poetics for the public space that do not diminish or overlook artistic quality over social interactions. SACER aims at the transformation of a milieu. It presupposes the practice of theatre as interference, as a factor upsetting the usual daily dynamics and relationships, bringing about a constellation of unexpected collaborative bonds.

It is a total use of a theatre’s know-how concerning expressive communication, nonverbal information, contact and the building of relationships, physical presence and decisional skill, participation and group dynamics, tacit knowledge and its transmission, ideoplastic processes (the capacity to transform thoughts and feelings into disciplined actions and reactions), artistic and practical targeting, intracultural collaboration, planning, realisation, management and networking.

SACER had its first edition in Geel in 2016. The project was commissioned by the CC de Werft to open the cultural season 17/18. During this process, I coordinated 150 artists gathered through a mapping of the city and its activities. Second edition happened in Gent, as part of an artistic residency at De Koer.

SACER is a cooperation, a collaboration, a celebration.

Geel, 2016
Geel, 2016
Geel, 2016
Geel, 2016

During the creation of this performance, song operates as the performative and organizing principle for an itinerant behaviour. The vocal exchange of the process highlights such behaviour through affects that vibrate public spaces. This results in the crafting of sound as a connective agent, a medium for intimate sharing which discloses a performative attitude that resonates with the notion of ‘radical empathy’.

Being out of time or tune (in music) relates to what is called ‘participatory discrepancies’: nuances in repetition and rhythm that invite us to bodily participate. These nuances are often described using movement metaphors such as pushing, pulling, leaning, falling, etc., revealing the tensions and dynamics of a score where one is invited to actively engage. SACER explores technical tools and poetic translations to sonic discrepancies as embodied strategies in public spaces. The song as mode of acting then becomes a geography of intimacy: a meeting point, diffuse, yet pointed; a private space that requires something, an outside. For Sacer the promise of parade functions as such an outside. Because it aims to opens up the carefully built architecture of sonic affects – a constant flux, the continuous and contentious reorganisation of margins – to the city landscape.


What might the opacities and vibrancies, the multiplicity of global entanglement and its soundings, suggest or enable in terms of contemporary struggle? Can one craft a means of empowerment by way of sonic thought, a listening from below, in order to nurture the power of the unseen or the not-yet-apparent? Might sound be deployed as a weapon by way of particular tonalities and collective vibrations, a listening activism, and the force of volume, to support a culture of radical care and compassion?

I had the determined wish to create i very good singing performance for the streets of brugse poort, i was determined to train myself and a choir to excel in this task. And so I formed my choir, began to obsessivelly study about choir techniques, poliphony….and slowly I began to realise that these techniques wouldn’t be excelled as i expected, but above all, that the accidents with the techniques, when it merged with the bodies of the singers ended up bringing out their own meanings to the artistic work I was creating. The accidents shaped the project both in practice as in concept. 

Being out of tune, in dissonance, in discompass, were slowly forming actions and images and relations with the architecture of the public space.  The question for someone that works professionally with performance then becomes, how to remain faithful to these technical accidents? How to feed them and shape them into non accidental matters? How to give purpose for them to exist?

Through this fascination, being out of tune fell in love with the marginal figure. There was suddenly a very concrete way of speaking about it, a way we could almost hold in our hands and carry together throughout the parade. 

Gent, 2018
Gent, 2018
Gent, 2018
Gent, 2018
Gent, 2018
Gent, 2018