In The Funeral, current politics of fear and crisis are encapsulated in ten baroque funeral masses, a happening reflecting on the doom rhetoric of politicians and cultural pessimists. The spectators ponder the ‘death’ of vanished ideas, values or parts of our society and get the opportunity to pay their last respects. Together, they look back on the role ‘the deceased’ concepts or ideas played in their life, after which they carry them to the grave.
The happening takes place in a Neo-Gothic church and follows the liturgy of a Catholic funeral service. A priest, a deacon and altar boys lead the service, a choir and professional coffin-bearers are present. After the service, there is a procession through the city and a burial at a previously constructed cemetery. Each day, a different value or element of society is buried: ‘The multicultural society’, ‘Our post-colonial feelings of guilt’, ‘Belief in God’, ‘Our privacy’, etc.
By asking the visitors to stand, kneel and pray together, to walk in procession to the cemetery and to shovel earth onto the coffin, they become complicit in creating this ritualistic service, and invited to take a position in relation to the value or idea buried that day.
"No one walks the razor’s edge between trash and culture with quite the finesse of Gina-Lisa Lohfink... The Dutch artist Dries Verhoeven couldn’t have picked a better cast for his performance. Lohfink’s appearance automatically transformed it into a kind of meta performance."
'Ja, Gina-Lisa Lohfink macht jetzt in Kunst', Sebastian Spath in Die Welt (30-08-3016)read the review (in German)
"...as the photographers zoom in on her, cameras flash, and she huddles in the church pew at the side of her boyfriend Florian Wess, the moment suddenly seems almost real – a brilliant strategic move in which the camera crew and congregation are merely extras, come to violate the privacy of a grieving woman."
'Es lebe die Realsatire', Birgitta Lamparth in Wiesbadener Kurier (30-08-2016)read the review (in German)
"The funeral was the final chapter in an equally serene as playful ‘performance’."
‘Sereen theater in RK-kerk’ ('Serene theatre in a RC Church'), Ron Rijghard in NRC Handelsblad (23-05-2014)read the review (in Dutch)
"An oasis of inspiration, fortitude, humour and bravery in times of recognition and conservatism in the Arts."
‘Dries Verhoeven op scherp in ‘De Uitvaart’. Magisch theater in tandeloze tijd’ ('Dries Verhoeven, astute in ‘De Uitvaart’. Magical theatre in a toothless time'), George Knight in his blog (23-05-2014)read the comments
"In ‘De Uitvaart’, the church is the pigeon coop and death is the cat."
‘Funeral for decayed ideas’, interview by Peter van de Vusse in AD Utrechts Nieuwsblad (30-04-2014)read the article (in Dutch)
"The piece is highly amusing, at times even moving."
‘Alternatieve begrafenis werkt op lachspieren’ ('Alternative funeral works on the funny bone'), Moos van den Broek on Theaterkrant.nl (15-05-2014)read the review (in Dutch)
Background and public reception
Every day during The Funeral, there is an obituary published in a local newspaper. Photos of the farewell to ‘the deceased’ appear in the afternoon and the following morning, there is a video reportage of The Funeral. Advertisements, prayer cards (see photo), photos and videos are gathered in a public blog.
In Utrecht, a small group of believers came out in protest against the performance of De Uitvaart. They believed the church was being desecrated by the happening.
For De Volkskrant, Charlotte Huisman wrote about the affairs: ‘Worshippers leave Utrecht church after ‘desecration’ by theatre maker’.
read the article (in Dutch)
Both Verhoeven and SPRING-director Rainer Hofman wrote a letter directed to the believers and other interested parties.
Several German media reported on the appearance of Gina Lisa Lohfink in the ‘Privacy’-edition of The Funeral in Wiesbaden (2016). Bild, Der Spiegel and ARTE reported.
Die Beerdigung (The Funeral) in ARTE Journal, 29 August 2016
‘Hedendaagse kunst in Nederlandse kerken 1990-2015 Van Jan Dibbets tot Tinkebell’ (‘Contempory Art in Dutch churches 1990-2015. From Jan Dibbets to Tinkerbell’) offers an overview of Dutch contemporary art in churches, Joost de Wal (ed.).
view the publication (in Dutch)
director Dries Verhoeven
text Dries Verhoeven and Jibbe Willems
production Studio Dries Verhoeven, Saskia Schoenmaker
priest Victor Mees
deacon Wil Kwaak
ministrants Julia Harmsen, Rens Clijnk, Derick Pieter and Noa van den Beukel
organ player Bob van der Linde
photography Willem Popelier, Jeva Griskjane
video Thorsten Alofs, Sofia Samoylova
guidance funeral SENS uitvaarten and De Dragerscentrale
choirs Koor Bon Ton, Kamerkoor JIP and Kamerkoor Saudade
The Funeral is co-commissioned by SPRING Festival Utrecht (2014) and the Wiesbaden Biennale (2016).