La Flèche et l’Éléphant
La Flèche et l'Eléphant

La Flèche and L'Elephant are the names of the two locomotives that were used to pull the coaches of the very first passenger train on the European continent. That pioneering journey took place in Belgium, on 5 May 1835, between Brussels and Mechelen. La Flèche et l'Eléphant is a one-time event paying homage to that very first ride and was developed on the occasion of EUROPALIA TRAINS &TRACKS by EUROPALIA arts festival and Ictus Ensemble. In Brussels, the audience will step aboard a private train to the impressive SNCB Central Workshop in Mechelen. Especially for this event, the SNCB will open the doors of this huge industrial site, where trains and their components are converted and repaired for the Belgian railway network. Visitors are invited on an artistic journey with numerous special musical and (audio-)visual performances by contemporary artists who will interpret the sounds and images of the train in a unique way.

During the train ride, you will be accompanied by a sound performance by Myriam Pruvot. By using the various announcement voices of the SNCB, Pruvot has created a new narrative to lead you into a sonic voyage to Mechelen. Arriving on the site, you will be guided to Ann Eysermans’s unique site specific performance: a prelude for 2 diesel locomotives and harp. This line-up may at first seem incompatible and strange to you. But opposites attract. Two train drivers conjure up the impressive and nostalgic sounds of the HLD 5404 and HLD 6041. The sounds of locomotives idling, and those of compressors and air escaping as well as the roaring transition to a higher speed are all part of
their sonic potential. The harp interacts with fragile micro sounds, solid chords and circular movements to create a remarkable counterpoint and melodious interweaving of sound.

You will then walk up to the immersive performance by the Swiss composer Fritz Hauser. Schraffur is based on the “scratching” of various objects and tools found in the workshops of Mechelen. A mix of percussion and scratched sounds will be created by a large group of participants, resulting in a special soundscape inspired by the sound-universe of trains.

This will take you to the impressive performance by Ictus Ensemble of Ballet Mécanique A companion to the ultra-machine-like approach of George Antheil, the self-proclaimed 'Bad Boy of Music' of the 20th century. Ballet Mécanique (1924), the original version which Ictus Ensemble will re-enact, was an attempt by the American composer George Antheil, the painter Fernand Léger and the director Dudley Murphy to offer a multimedia experience before there was even a name for it. Ictus Ensemble will propose the original idealistic and madly startling version of 1924. Stravinsky's dissonance stretched to the
limit, the unflagging repetition, the chemistry at work in the machine-like heavy handedness and the lightning speed – all of these ingredients succeed in making the Ballet Mécanique a wholly unique work in the history of the 20th century.

From the ashes of Ballet Mécanique rises Bezel, a work by Mario Garuti for two double
bass recorders: futuristic-looking instruments, as if designed to reveal the performers’ breathing and moving bodies. 

And finally you will experience Gordon Monahan’s kinetic performance Speaker Swinging. First performed in 1982, the performance is an experiment for nine swinging
loudspeakers, audio oscillators and LED lights, set in rotation by the performers in a particular athletic gesture. The idea comes from hearing such things as Leslie speakers, moving vehicles with broadcasting sound systems, airplanes and other moving sound sources, both industrial and organic. The subsequent acoustical processes of phasing, vibrato and tremolo are fundamental to the work, as are the elements of sweat, struggle, fear and seduction.

In collaboration with Ictus Ensemble, Kunstencentrum nona, NMBS, Mechelen Central Workshop, ChampdAction.

Event on train
Mechelen Central workshop
19.03.2022 - 17:00
Bautersemstraat 61 - 2800 Mechelen
Regular Institutional Partners