When the composer Gustav Mahler was diagnosed with a fatal heart disease, he wrote to a friend: 'I have lost everything I have gained in terms of who I thought I was, and I have to learn my first steps again like a newborn.' It was in this mood that Mahler wrote Das Lied von der Erde. The last of those songs, 'Der Abschied', was to be one of his most personal works, one that reflected his state of mind. Man's struggle with his mortality, in contrast with nature, which is eternal and constantly renewing itself.
In Forever, Grace Ellen Barkey raises the same questions as Mahler: 'No one can sustain constant praise of life. Death or, rather, the finiteness of human life deserves a song or a dance, too.' The song, and also the orchestration, is sung in an intimate setting as a recollection by Maarten Seghers, backed by the dancers and the installation. The score of Mahler's 'Der Abschied' is visible in the choreography of Forever.
In 2004 Grace Ellen Barkey and Lot Lemm set up Lemm&Barkey to give shape to their close artistic cooperation: they work on the concept, set and costumes for Barkey’s creations, and create art installations.
Grace Ellen Barkey’s stage productions are sequences of images that attempt to be autonomous. Lemm&Barkey’s visual art work is an in-between stage in the archiving of these autonomous images. An in-between stage because Barkey never wants to achieve her aim. She is not interested in solutions, but in the problem itself.
The use of a craft, both porcelain and knitting and crochet, seams to form a bigger story. The materials that pass through the hands of artist Lot Lemm, are treated in an almost relentlessly hysterical manner and made into something monumental.
Their visual work has been exhibited at several museums including BOZAR (Brussels), Benaki Museum (Athens), Musée des Arts décoratifs (Paris), CC Strombeek, Dr. Guislain museum (Gent), Triënnale Hasselt / Superbodies i.a.
Their film ‘The Porcelain Project | Installation’ (2007) was selected for the Festival International du Film sur l’argile et le verre (FIFAV) in Montpellier.
In 2013 Lemm&Barkey made 'Odd? But true!', a wordless dance performance for all ages, opening up their work to a young audience.
Idea, choreography: Grace Ellen Barkey
Music: 'Der Abschied', Das Lied von der Erde, Gustav Mahler
With: Maarten Seghers, Sarah Lutz, Mohamed Toukabri
Musical dramaturgy: Rombout Willems
Dramaturgy: Elke Janssens
Sound: Bart Aga / Pierrick Drochmans
Production & Technique: Marjolein Demey, Gwen Laroche
Assistant trainee to the director: Camille Doucet
A Needcompany production Needcompany
Coproduction: Steirischer Herbst, PACT Zollverein (Essen) and Internationales Figurentheater-Festival (Erlangen and Nürnberg).
With the support of the Flemish authorities
Premiere: 24 September 2016, Steirischer Herbst Festival, Graz.