The Better Life

Niko Hafkenscheid (1977) studied philosophy and worked as a book critic for the Belgian newspaper De Tijd and various art reviews. Currently he works as a musician, composer and musical dramaturg for film and performance art. He also makes own performances where music counts as a central performative element.

During his residency at workspacebrussels he will be working on ‘The Better Life’, a research project in the realm of performance art (supported by a research grant and trajectsubsidie from respectively the Vlaamse Gemeenschap and the Vlaamse Gemeenschapscommissie). For this research he works together with the lightartist Jan Maertens and the dramaturg Isabelle Pauwelyn.

Niko started as a singer and guitar player for the band aMute and toured with them as a support act for bands as A Silver Mount Zion, Shannon Wright and Do Make Say Think. They played at festivals as ‘La route du Rock’, ‘Les nuits du Botanique’ and ‘5 days off’.

In 2007 he started working with Meg Stuart/Damaged Goods and made and performed the music of the piece ‘Maybe Forever’, a performance choreographed by Meg Stuart and Philipp Gehmacher. The piece toured over 4 years, was selected for Het Theaterfestival 2008 and won the price of the Jury at the BITEF International Theatre in Belgrade, a.o… A cd of the music was released by Damaged Goods. He also participated in an improvisation project with Meg Stuart, Hahn Rowe and Vania Rovisco for Istanbul 0090 in Garajistanbul.

Meanwhile he started making his own performance work, together with the Spanish performers Coral Ortega and Sara Sampelayo. ‘My name is…’ (2009) and ‘In this case…rather not’ (2011) were produced by de Beursschouwburg, k.c. Nona and DT Espacio Escénico Madrid and supported by de kunstenwerkplaats De Pianofabriek and projectsubsidies from de Vlaamse Gemeenschap and the Comunidad de Madrid.

In 2010 he started working with Kabinet K. and created the music for ‘Unfold’. He is now making the music for their new piece ‘I See You’. ‘Unfold’ was selected for the Theaterfestival 2010.

With the sound artist Cristophe Bailleau he released the c.d. ‘Lights out in the ghosting hour’ (2009) on the French label Optical Sound.

With the writer Saskia De Coster, the scenographer Kristof Timmerman and the actor Peter Gorissen he worked on EGG, an installation for public spaces produced by k.c. Nona (2011).

As a composer he worked for the French-German television channel ARTE and for various producion houses for documentary film. Films as ‘Not Quite The Taliban (Fadi Hindash, 2009)’ , ‘Shadowwarriors’ (Bart Vermeer, 2011), ‘Simple Appareil’ (Jean Christophe Cavallin, 2008) and ‘The delicate Ransom’ (Coral Ortega, 2010) were/are being shown on festivals worldwide.

The Better Life
The Better Life investigates the places or moments where light design, music, sound and space meet. This research project wants to bring the peripheral elements of the performance arts together to see what they’re really worth. ‘The Better Life’ wants to ask what happens when explicit central dramatic action is absent or is not the main point of attention.

There are a couple of key subjects during the research:
1.    Directness and presence of the peripheral elements (when they become performative as such). I would like to understand better what it means to be ‘present’ in a directional way with music and light in a space. The ‘identity’ of music, sound and light will be questioned as mere theatrical elements.
2.    Absence and the lack of presence (they become imminent and hidden). I would like to understand better how the peripheral elements can indirectly relate to their original place as ‘accompanying’ phenomena. The identity of their ‘background’ function will be questioned.
3.    “Memory and sharing”. I would like to understand better how a performer can share the space with his audience in a relationship towards the ‘memory’ of sounds and music. What does it mean to witness ‘recordings’ in a performance space? Can this be suggested by light too?
4.    The outside and togetherness. I would like to understand better what it means to transform the space by filling or emptying it intentionally. What are the consequences of the separation of space and music/sound/light? And what are the consequences of bringing them deliberately together?
5.    There are many more questions…
So…. What about light objects,…how do they relate to space and duration? Where do lyrics and songs bring us to? How do they relate to a presence on stage? What kinds of amplification can be used? What do colours in a light design exactly suggest?…

At the same time and meanwhile ‘The Better Life’ wants to guide us deliberately to a series of associations suggesting a couple of things that we -at times- think to be missing in this life, a desire for ‘the better’ in a metaphysical sense, something very typical of human beings. This counts as an underlying energy.

Concept: Niko Hafkenscheid
In collaboration with: Jan Maertens, Isabelle Pauwelyn
Music and sound: Niko Hafkenscheid