Show | 2021

The German dramaturg Michael Bölter initiated the meeting in 2017 between Florentin Ginot and Helge Sten, a Norwegian artist and international icon of the electro-ambient scene, better known as Deathprod. This musical collision sets the ground for an immersive, transdisciplinary creation, the starting point for which is the post-war apocalyptic imagery of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. The talented young dancer and choreographer Soa Ratsifandrihana, based in Brussels, will advise on the performative elements.

The Waste Land presents us with a chaotic world, a land of ruins, but also an incentive to peace.

Thomas Stearns Eliot published The Waste Land, a poem of 433 verses dedicated to Ezra Pound, in 1922. Now considered to be his masterpiece, it is a complex tableau with multiple sources: Eliot composes a modernist puzzle whose vignettes draw on Dante’s Inferno as well as on the works of Shakespeare, Baudelaire, Nerval and Whitman. Just as Joyce used mythology as a ground for his Ulysses (also published in 1922), Eliot borrows from the major themes and works of anthropology to provide a snapshot of English post-war society while questioning its absurdity.

Eliot’s text, placed at the heart of the project, serves as a source material to inspire the creation of a particular architectural, musical and performative environment. The original text is only present in fragments — by the projection of selected short passages, for example; generally, it will appear more in reference to Eliot’s own sources, by capturing their iconology and symbols, such as those found in the ancestral rituals analyzed by J. G. Frazer or J. L. Weston in their respective works, but also by extracting the social and anthropological archetypes to which the poet refers, from works such as The Tempest or Tristan and Isolde.


A free-standing installation

The public enters a large space that is dominated by three vertical structures, each six metres high. Serving as a crossroad between Eliot’s apocalyptic text and Helge Sten’s dark music, the set systematically draws on the remains of ancient architecture: the structures evoke the arches of the thermal baths of Pompei and recall the shape of antique aediculae. This introduces into empty space the notion of ruin, of palimpsest, and acts as a singular catalyst to highlight Eliot’s poetic construction and its fragmentary temporality.


Dramaturgy advices • Michael Bölter

Mechanisms & programmation • Jacques Bouault

Scenic design • Olivier Defrocourt

Artistic direction • Florentin Ginot

Light design • Marie-Hélène Pinon

Music • Helge Sten


A HowNow production, supported by Centre des Monuments Nationaux, GRAME and SACEM