Bosse Provoost

In Matisklo, Bosse Provoost and five other theatre producers seek the limits of the pronounceable and imaginable using Paul Celan’s poems, outrageous costumes and animated material. Celan, a survivor of the Holocaust, goes to the limits of poetry with his work. The performance is an eclectic but intense experience. Matisklo is an invitation to look at the black stars and you can do that for free this month, so we payed Bosse a visit to have a talk about his work in preparation to that!

Interview by Asli Ozyurek
Portraits shot by Tiny Geeroms in Ghent

Sometimes, you need to be responsive to the things that occur at a certain moment instead of wanting to solve everything in your head

Do you remember when you developed a love for theatre?

I started going to the workshops of the youth theatre in Kopergietery when I was eight years old but our family didn’t attend a lot of shows at the theatre. My parents are involved in the arts though. My mother is a visual artist, a sculptor, and my dad occupies himself with music and literature.

At the age of 17 you started going to school at KASK.

KASK is a school that suits me well because they focus on your artistry as a theatre producer. It doesn’t matter if you’re an actor, performer or a director. When I started the program I thought I wanted to become an actor, but the profile of the program gave me the opportunity to graduate as a director. The education to become an actor was essential for my creative skills though. An important thing I’ve learned during those years is that sometimes, you need to be responsive to the things that occur at a certain moment instead of wanting to solve everything in your head.

Now you’re working with Toneelhuis in Antwerp.

Some people of Toneelhuis saw Herbert, the performance I graduated with. It was held underneath a viaduct with actors walking from one pillar to another at sundown. After they attended this and another piece of mine, Moore Bacon, they invited me for P.U.L.S. (Project for Upcoming artists for the Large Stage). I’m very glad they did, because to be supported and be a full-time artist is rare for someone in the first years of his artistic development.  It’s a great opportunity to create something for the big stage as a young artist.

To be supported and be a full time artist is rare for someone in the first years of his artistic development

How does your work process look like? Is it always the same routine?

I don’t really have a fixed working method. I’ve worked often with physical improvisations, because in those cases we work with material that can be generated by actors, which is often a lot more complex than what I can think of myself.  In other cases I’m a very technical worker and I want to improve until I find a certain move or image. Most of the time, I try to answer one big (impossible) question or problem. For example: How do you communicate on a distance of 100 meters? How do you deform a naked body with light? What does ‘to die’ mean on stage? How do you communicate complex poetry towards an audience? Depending on the question, you need to find a new working method.

What or who inspires you the most?

I think I make performances in which light, space, set and actors are equal. Important avant-gardists in theatre or people that made scenographic designs like Gordon Craig had the idea that all of these elements exist next to each other and I think that’s very interesting. I also think silent movies are very intriguing and I love the angularity of animation.

You actually look at material that walks but with traces of a human being

Music and costumes are important elements in your performances. How do you pick the perfect soundtrack or wardrobe?

I’m always in search for possible strategies to structure scenic material in the theatre that aren’t narrative. I for example try to derive strategies for structuring from music, that are often organised according to more abstract principles. There are always certain theatrical elements in my work but it is never carried by a narrative. In my performance The Act of Dying we used music that was so emotionally loaded that it crushed everything. In that sense, the music is ‘problematic’ for theater and that problematic character ensures that we have to search for a specific formal language. So I find it interesting to look for friction, to make it difficult for myself to try something special. For my latest performance Matisklo I invited Max Pairon to bring in some of his costumes. He’s been developing costumes in which the person wearing it is swallowed up completely. You actually look at material that walks but with traces of a human being.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m working very closely with Ezra Veldhuis. She is a visual artist with whom I’ve been working on different projects for the last two years. My next project is also going to be with her. We’re inspired by one of Stan Brakhage’s films, The Text of Light. It’s a 65 minute film, filmed entirely through a crystal ashtray. Throughout the film there are no recognisable elements: there is light, colours and shifting abstract form. In our next performance, we want to use light as something material and discover how we can show it as a volume in space, from the idea that light is the fabric reality is made of.

Bosse is playing Matisklo on 24 February
at Bourlaschouwburg (Toneelhuis), Antwerp

This event is free for members. Join here.
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