Arnold Schalks, Bühne de BovenLucht, Brandschat, CMI-brand, 28 februari 1996, Rotterdam, foto © Joannes Hoes

photo © joannes hoes

BRANDSCHAT was an interdisciplinary project comprising music, theatre, video, sculpture and performance. The word BRANDSCHAT (literally: burn-treasure) is the non-registered contamination of two dutch words: 'brandschade' (damage by fire) and 'bruidschat' (dowry). Guideline was a chemical fire that raged within a stone's throw of the Kunst & Complex studio building in February 1996.

The core of the programme consisted of six Official Announcements made by the mayor of Rotterdam, Bram Peper, on local radio on the day of the catastrophe. His historical words were transcribed. Peper obviously felt the duty to assure his fellow citizens that he was in control of the situation, and that was what he tried to achieve on a verbal level. But between the lines you could hear that he was very concerned and extremely embarrassed with the critical situation. The catastrophe showed that the city of Rotterdam had no real control over what was being stored il-/legally within its city limits. The statements were very moving because they exposed the interaction of impotence and authority in these higher echelons. The six announcements were recited by the Rotterdam actor Ton Pompert on six different levels inside the building. So far the fire damage-aspect.

The dowry-aspect was represented by a video registration of the reading of a passage from an occult book called: 'The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosencreutz'. The book was written in 1616 by the German theologist Valentin Andreae. It describes the seven days journey of Christian Rosencreutz to a mystical wedding party. The story contains alchemistic elements. Alchemists tended to project human experiences on their environment and refused to distinct between themselves and nature. For them, metals, minerals as well as human beings are born, they wed, mate and die. Alchemistic processes are 'heating', 'burning' and 'dissolving', which brings us back to the above mentioned chemical fire and its fighting.

Furthermore the programme offered madrigals by the German composer Paul Hindemith on the obscure, scorching lyrics of the austrian poet Josef Weinheber, the Song of Songs (for bride and bridegroom) from the Old Testament interpreted by the German composer Leonard Lechner (1553-1606), performed by a vocal ensemble of talented young musicians: Lilium Convallium. The programme continued with the fascinating quasi-mystical ritual in wedding dress by female performers Harriët van Reek and Geerten ten Bosch, a CHEMO-bar serving non toxic drinks in the attic, a scale model of the Apocalypse (Solomons temple) by master modelbuilder Herman Helle and a 'software', foam rubber firefighting depot, supplied by visual artists Jozef van Rossum and Barbara Witteveen.

BRANDSCHAT was the fruit of the collaboration of 19 persons: actors, musicians, visual artists, writers and filmmakers. The performance was conceived, produced and directed by Arnold Schalks.

The six performances were fully booked long before the premiere. 180 persons have attended the BRANDSCHAT performances.

Arnold Schalks


The media about BRANDSCHAT:

...Brandschat, completely sold out, was an absolute highlight... (R’ festivals’annual-report 1999)

...subtle and beautifully arranged in an elevator shaft that is used as a peep-box... (Rotterdams Dagblad)