AMEN & BEYOND: Meet the curators Colin H. Van Eeckhout (Amenra) & Barbara Raes (Beyond The Spoken)
“Something that gives you energy rather than sucking it out of you”
From 16 to 26 May, Colin H. Van Eeckhout (Amenra) and Barbara Raes (Beyond the Spoken) will be curating the Vooruit programme AMEN & BEYOND. A mix of performance, music and reflection centred on the rituals that lie at the foundation of their respective work: death, sadness, pain and sacrifice. Vooruit sat the two of them down to let them probe into each other’s work, habits and intentions.
How did you discover that music was the language through which you could release your soul?
Colin: We’ve been making music since our teenage years, when there was hardly any pain to speak of. When I lost my father in my early twenties, it had an immense impact on me. While performing at a gig shortly after my father’s passing, I found I was carried away into a kind of frenzy. I felt transported to another dimension, another level. A place where I could scream and thrash away all the sadness. Where I could let go of emotions that had nestled deep within me for a long time, that I had no means of venting in my daily life.
Where do people find solace?
Barbara: There are many sources. Everyone has their own way of finding comfort. The obvious places to look are in art, nature, loving relationships and the distraction of day-to-day activities. But I feel that people who come to Beyond the Spoken mainly take strength from the fact that their sadness is acknowledged. They mostly come to us for suffering or loss that is left unacknowledged by our society. However, these turning points can have a big impact for some people. During their personalised ritual, when there is room for understanding, they are able to share their suffering and take strength from the pain.
What is the significance of pain in the work of Amenra?
Colin: Our point of departure is the pain of life. It’s in times of pain and sadness that we really have something to say. We come together to write new music when one of us needs to channel their emotions, to transform negative energy into a positive source of strength. Something that gives energy rather than sucking it out of you. I think that the sharing of such deeply human emotions is what sparks that transformation. It brings with it a feeling of recognition and unity. A moment of solidarity our listeners seem to be able to relate to as well, and which also seems to hold a healing power for them. This significance, consolation and inspiration has come to mean a lot to us.
“There are always blind spots, different interpretations. Always.”
- Barbara Raes
Do you think that sadness can really be shared?
Barbara: I think that sadness can never be completely shared, but it is still necessary to be able to share it. Sharing sadness is just about the most important part of the mourning process. There is the expression: “It takes a village to raise a child.” And, likewise, I’m convinced that some people also need a whole village in order to be able to mourn. But for someone else to completely understand their pain empathically would be impossible. Even if they had experienced something similar before. There are always blind spots, different interpretations. Always.
What is Amenra’s ritual before a show?
Colin: We seek out silence. Everyone shuts themselves off in their own cocoon. On the road or during the soundcheck we are completely carefree and have a great time together. As the show comes closer, we have learned to leave each other in peace. Everyone seeks out seclusion and attempts to revisit the emotions out of which the music was created. This reflective state of mind is what knells the approach of an Amenra concert.
Have you observed a renewed interest in rituals or ceremonies recently?
Barbara: I think that all the causes of rituals disappearing from our society are also the causes for their recent return to our attention. Secularisation and the separation of church and state have served to sideline traditional Western rituals. This has left a void. The amassing of crises in past decades has led to a human need for stability. And rituals seem to be the perfect answer to this need. I see rituals as being part of the larger whole of the transitional movement that has led people to want to share again. People have a renewed need for community-building projects. This is accompanied by a stark increase in the need for deceleration and reflection. Just look at the popularity of yoga and mindfulness, for example. This need is also met by the rhythm and intimacy of rituals.
Which production or concert are you looking most forward to during AMEN & BEYOND?
Colin: A lot of them. It’s a fantastic chance to bring together so many different media and projects dealing with pain and rituals for one period on the same stage. High on my personal list is the performance art of Olivier de Sagazan. This ‘sculptor’ sculpts himself in the contemporary context, which is constantly changing. These changes lead to evolutions in his own sculpture. It’s great to witness how something contemporary can become something almost sacred.
Why did you want to curate AMEN & BEYOND as a duo?
Colin: I remember the first meetings with the people from Vooruit concerning AMEN & BEYOND. They mentioned Barbara’s name at the time. I wasn’t yet familiar with her work and so I did some research back at home. The work of Beyond the Spoken really blew me away. It’s a beautiful thing, how Barbara succeeds in incorporating the mourning process in art.
Barbara: When I attend an Amenra concert, I feel a deep sense of affinity. We speak the same language, deal with the same subjects and fascinations, but through a completely different form of expression. Amenra does it out loud, for a large audience. While, with Beyond the Spoken, I aim for intimacy and inner reflection. But we are essentially doing the same thing: making room for sadness, offering solace. Amenra is a sort of brother or mirror to Beyond the Spoken.
Colin H. Van Eeckhout is the voice and frontman of the Belgian post-metal band Amenra. Their music, dealing with pain and loss, cuts right to the bone. For Amenra, making music is a means of processing emotions. Of creating space for their own suffering. A source of strength and solace for those in need of it. Their live shows have come to be known as intense and profound experiences.
Barbara Raes is a researcher and the founder of Beyond the Spoken, a workshop for addressing unacknowledged loss. Beyond the Spoken attempts to give recognition to life’s turning points, big and small, and to guide people through these periods of transition. They might be positive experiences, such as a child’s first steps, or painful episodes, such as a separation. Together with different artists, the workshop develops personalised rituals for celebrating or processing these transitions and for transforming them into lasting memories.
AMEN & BEYOND
do 16 t/m zo 26.05
Text: Jietse Vandenbussche
English translation: Jonathan William Beaton
Image: Kaat Pype