By Merel Eigenhuis
In a Thursday-afternoon conversation with German/British theatre-director, writer and artist Marc von Henning, he talked about his video-installation/moving poem this is for everyone, which will be presented at SPRING in Autumn XXXL at the renewed library in Utrecht. this is for everyone exists shows, as Marc explained himself, “sentences, one after another. They all start the same, but end differently. They are very associative; it’s like life, unforeseeable. It seems to have no rules, and it mirrors life in the way that everyone repeats things day after day, but never does them exactly the same.”
Good afternoon, Marc! How did you come up with the idea for the installation/epic poem this is for everyone?
I was working at a theatre in Germany, and their funds were being cut. There were some protests, and so on. One of the technicians at the theatre was also a photographer, and he had the idea to shoot a portrait of everybody of the theatre, in black and white. He showed me these pictures, and I said: “I could do a little bit of text!”. That’s how it started. I wrote these sentences for everyone. It worked really well: it ended up being an exhibition in other towns. This was a long time ago. Then I did a few others, not just this is for everyone, but other projects, very similar in format but different in content. Suddenly I had a lot of them, about 400-500. And I thought: what do I do with them? You can’t just put them in a book, it doesn’t work like that. It took a while to find a medium that would fit the words, and I am still not sure. It can present itself in many different contexts. I felt like it needed to speak for itself, so it had to have a life of some kind. I put a few sentences together, and I showed it to people, asking: “what do you think should happen with this?” Almost all of them thought it was a kind of performance. As you can see, its an ongoing journey, and I just try to figure it out as I go along. Every now and then a new sentence comes to me, and I need to decide where to put it. It’s like a poem that you keep writing.
A living artwork.
Yes, something like that.
What does the title mean to you? Who do you mean by everyone? And why for everyone?
That is an interesting question. What I think its potential is, is to share thoughts, emotions, contradictions, unfulfilled desires and disappointments. It taps in to these shared experiences in different ways. It’s like a key to an ignition. I feel like it puts something in motion. The title points out the things we share, not what makes us different. I think it wants people to feel like a collective, and has potential to speak through different times and cultures. I feel it has a potential to create the idea that we are one, everyone. I suppose I try to find meaningful ways to connect to strangers to create collective experiences.
The work was supposed to be shown at SPRING last May, then you made a new version for SPRING on Screen [the online programme of SPRING last May]. Do you think the work has gained a new meaning somehow because of the pandemic?
I made a new version, which includes some of the sentences that I thought of during the lockdown, and some of the sentences that I hadn’t put in originally, but now seemed to gather a new meaning. The thing that is on people’s minds will influence the way in which they will see this artwork. And we have something collective on our minds now, with what we’re going through. I think it’s a good time to see it, also in this context, where it’s accessible for everyone. Because that’s also the idea, of course: that it is for everyone.
I think this is for everyone is a very hopeful poem/installation. Is your other work this hopeful as well?
I am working on a piece in Hamburg, named The Misunderstanding of the World. One of its main focuses is the positive developments that most societies have gone through in the last 100 years. We’re trying to create a platform for things that need to be addressed, from a point of self-confidence, rather than out of a panic or fear and blame with we’re always doing everything wrong. Most of the time, we tend to see the bad things, and disregard our abilities and capacities. We tend to think the weather is always bad, inside and out. There are some beautiful books being written, for example the book of Rutger Bregman - who are pointing to the good and potential in people. But: it’s not as clear-cut as we like it to be. There are no easy solutions and definitely no comfortable answers. So, with that in mind, that is where we start to feel good, if we stop trying to think there is a solution around the corner. I think that idea shows in my work.
Thanks, Marc, and see you at SPRING in Autumn!
this is for everyone is shown from October 28th until November 15th at the Bibliotheek Neude. For more information, click here.