What happens behind the scenes of the TheaterFestival? Who are the workforces, volunteers and partners that execute diligent labour in order to throw you into theatrical ecstasy? Today: Judith Mertens
You must have noticed the fancy confession chair (‘Biechtstoel’) every evening in Kaaitheater. It has been set by art critic collective De Zendelingen for everyone who likes to share their most sinful thoughts about the selected performances from the TheaterFestival. And that is not all: while confessions take place, there is always someone making a drawing or painting about the piece, a personal vision of what has been shown.
I met Judith Mertens from De Zendelingen in front of KVS before Malcolm X. She recognized the ‘Sorry i fell asleep while you were talking’-illustration of David Shrigley on my notebook and it made her laugh. Well, she is an illustrator herself.
Judith comes from Antwerp, where she studied painting at the Academy of Antwerp and did her masters in illustration at LUCA art school. She also studied scenography. ‘I was always interested in telling stories. Like books, but with theatre’, she explains. She has been teaching art in hobby classes for kids and adults, but is quitting soon to go for new adventures.
Judith has already been involved in the TheaterFestival in Antwerp last year, through The Young Ones by deSingel. I asked her to share the process of drawing/painting at the TheaterFestival with me. ‘It is very personal for me, it is an impression’, she explains. ‘It is different from art criticism, where the voice of the critics might not always be that strong, and that personal’. She explains how the Biechtstoel indeed does the job: ‘The intimacy of the space really makes one comfortable to be more personal about their thoughts and feelings, even for people who are not trained to share their impressions.’
The process of drawing/painting is edited with the anonymous confession audio and published online, so the personal becomes public. We agreed that there have been different forms of reflecting at the TheaterFestival, and how theatre makers do appreciate very much the feedback they are getting.
I was also curious to hear if she sees a difference between the TheaterFestival in her hometown and in Brussels. ‘In both cities it marks nicely the end of the old and the beginning of the new festival season. In Antwerp it was slightly different with a big festival center with its own audience, while in Brussels there are many smaller spaces that attract younger people.
I like it here because of all the different spaces across the city the festival takes place in. I also think the party will be better here. I am really looking forward to it!’
Soon Judith is leaving Belgium for a long travel in the USA. ‘I have the idea of making a drawing or painting every day. I always wanted to travel with a book. It is like a personal travel recording, a travel diary, but I want it to be more physical.’
To my question whether she plans on publishing it, she answers that she will find out when the time comes. ‘I first want to do this. I have been walking around with this idea for a long time already. Sometimes you get stuck with all these ideas, and, once you start, something always comes up, new things that you haven’t been thinking about… so it is better to just start doing!’
Check the drawings of Judith and the Biechtstoel videos at facebook.com/zendelingen or youtube.com/zendelingen!