Picture: Frederic Pauwels
Brussels, Kaaitheater, 18 December 2019
Gerd Van Looy is the Ictus' general director since 2013.

So ok

— no anniversary without a speech

But being an Ictus rookie with only 5 years in service – I thought it was up to someone else to say something sense full and deep and interesting. Someone that ‘was there when it happened’
So just some days after his ‘adieu’ from Kaaitheater Guy Gypens accepted to speak here again. Afterwards I will tell something more about our earwigs, obsessions and paranoia of today – as that is something I know more about –
But for now, I’m happy Guy will give us horizon, perspective, timeline or whatever interesting and flattering information ha wants to share on an anniversary.

[Dank Guy – Ictus zou niet zijn wat het is zonder de vele samenwerkingen, maar natuurlijk in het bijzonder en sinds het ontstaan – het is belangrijk om de juiste namen te vermelden: Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, Hugo De Greef, Thierry De Mey, Lucas Pairon, George-Eli Octors, Wm Vandekeybus, en natuurlijk Guy Gypens himself eerst vanuit Rosas en nadien het Kaaitheater waar we tot op vandaag kind aan huis zijn – niet alleen met ons eigen werk, of dat van Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, maar ook door de vele samenwerkingen met Wim Vandekeybus, Maud Le Pladec, Noé Soulier, Joris Lacoste, Julie Pfleiderer, Collegium Vocale, om er maar enkelen te noemen]

But let me say something about where we are today, or where we think we are - and even say something – as far as possible these days – about the future.

When I arrived at Ictus in 2015 I needed some time to understand and to accept the structural excitement that reigned in the offices and through the many projects – first it was not immediately clear to me – I thought it would be temporary – as if there was a transition going on. I thought I had to calm down – find a strategy, do something, but apparently this was Ictus, in a way. Apparently, it has always been like that. This tumultuous energy seemed not really to be a problem because Ictus was moving fast, and, maybe not every day, but certainly every week a project appeared that was impossible to refuse, that challenged the artistic team, out of pure affection for the one that stood on our doorstep, or because we were intrigued by a new idea, a new toy, a new game –

In all what happened, there was never a clear plan, but afterwards we could grasp the red thread, the logic of our enthusiasm, and we tried to define where we were heading to, to grasp and formulate what we had done. So today it’s good to formulate this – at this occasion of an anniversary, a retrospective and prospective view is part of the protocol.

First of all: Let’s say something on ‘us’ - Ictus as a group of musicians – (not the playground of a composer, a conductor, 1 omnipotent artistic leader). Ictus was grown out of the power of friendship (fair enough, we could call it a mafioso man club too) – but Ictus has always kept a haze of collectiveness, of differentiation of tasks and responsibilities - it has never been a collection of the ‘best musicians, under the baton of’ - but of people with a certain complicity, people that ‘breathe’ together - as you will hear in the breathcore during today’s concert.

In this collectiveness the ethical question of how to make this all work became yet another guarantee for structural instability. The ‘power of friendship’ is not the easiest base for developing an artistic practice, matching democracy with the artistic process is certainly within the tradition of the classical music, and the historical context of the last decennia a good formula for an adventurous, unpredictable but passionate journey full of suspense.

Because de challenges are multiple: How to deal with the fact your all playing 19th century instruments if you describe yourself as some kind of rockband? How to deal with the fact that the only women is (Oh cliché!) the harp player when you’re on the doorstep of 21st century and claim to be a progressive and edgy music group? How to deal with an average age closer to the sixties if you call yourself ‘contemporary’? These are the questions that are tackling us as a group, as an ensemble today.

With this in mind let’s look shortly to where we (think) we are in the world of music, were different evolutions are tickling us – and since some months we focus here on 3 key words:

The Score, for us today it’s merely a heterogeneous combo of - yes - notes on a stave, but also abundant notices, technical riders, strings of code, digital sounds, theatrical requirements, sets of rules, or a light score…
– it can be so much. And by consequence it can be written in so many ways – by so many - from the romantic composer in his garden house to the dancer who’s movement is registered translated or transformed in a score and replayed (to refer to our collaboration with Noé Soulier). There are too many examples to give. And this idea of notification opens all these questions of authorship, co-creation, repertoire, participation etc. Maybe our dedication and interest to a score is after all our bond with the classical western music tradition? As it keeps the door open for the possibilities of exchange and interpretation and thus repertoire…

By consequence it changed what a musician should or could be, let’s call it the de-specialization of the musician – with excellent skills after years of training on the instrument – the musician today engages in so much more and different situations ‘on stage’ - It’s about affinity and understanding and participation and engaging. Not only about merely executing. It’s maybe illustrated in today’s evening, curated by Michael Schmid, our long-term flute player, who announced some months ago that he wanted to stop playing the flute. And to illustrate what I think Ictus is about, we answered him that he could play want he wanted, as long as he stays with Ictus.

Finally: dramaturgy, the use of space, the relation with the audience, the function of a concert. Ictus would not be Ictus if – to despair of many programmers, production- and technical teams, not every concert would be re-invented, whether it is last minute or carefully planned – the urge to reshape, to adapt, seems to be stronger than any business plan.
From our friends choreographers and stage directors and from performing arts in general we learned that music is after all also a performing art. And so, we want to create, every time again, a meaningful experience with music and not just demonstrate the composer’s newest work, some tendencies or styles. We embrace the idea that the concert is just one possible function of music – and that other choices in space and time, can lead to many other experiences. It’s this practice we could realize in a venue like Kaaitheater who’s importance cannot be underestimated. In confronting us with audiences that read with different backgrounds and experiences Ictus could develop to what it is today hanging around somewhere between the classical music scene, the music tout court and the performing arts.

After 25 years it feels fortunately as if everything still has to be done – and so let’s start just today. To say that we are happy to be here with PNEUMA – and to blow with you 25 candles – and to share with you where we are, where we think we are or whatever you might think we are.

Have a nice concert, and thank you for being with us tonight.


December 18th, 2019, one hour before the Pneuma concert at Kaaitheater
Link: the Guy Gypens's speech on the same day

Mentioned in this article
Gerd Van Looy