La Flèche et l’Éléphant
Centrale Werkplaats Mechelen

La Flèche and L'Éléphant 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'Éléphant 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 special 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.

If you are taking the train from Schaerbeek train station

  • Please be present at 17u15 sharp for the ticket control at the stairs of platform 3 at Schaarbeek Station. If you miss the private train, you cannot attend the event.

  • At the ticket control you will be divided into 2 groups (blue and red). For the organisation of the event it is necessary that you stay with your group. If you would like to be in the same group with certain people, you will have to present yourself together with those people at the ticket control.

  • The event at the Central Workshop will last until 21:15.

  • For those taking the same scheduled train back to Schaarbeek: please follow the group to Mechelen station. The train leaves at 21h58 precisely from platform 11. Arrival in Schaarbeek is foreseen at 22h12.


If you arrive from Mechelen (no train ride)

  • Coming by car? You can enter the underground station car park via Motstraat.

  • Are you coming by bicycle? You can reach the covered bicycle parking via Hanswijkvaart.

  • Please be present at 18:20 sharp for the ticket control at the entrance of the Centrale Werkplaats. At the back of the train station in Mechelen, past the last tracks, you
    walk (carefully) up the cycle path to the left and you will arrive right at the entrance.

  • At the ticket control you will be divided into 2 groups (blue and red). For the organisation of the event it is necessary that you stay with your group. If you would
    like to be in the same group with certain people, you will have to present yourself together with those people at the ticket control.

  • The event at the Central Workshop will last until 21:15.

Tips

  • We advise you to wear comfortable shoes; the distance between the performances is covered on foot. Please do not wear heels.

  • We advise you to check the weather forecast: part of the performances will
    take place in the open air, part in little heated hangars.

  • On the site of the Central Workshop, you are not allowed to move around freely and you must always stay with the group.

  • It is best to provide something to eat before or after the event; there are no eating or drinking facilities on site.

  • Smoking is prohibited during the entire event.

The public is invited to board a private train at the Schaerbeek Station. 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.

On the site, you will be guided to ANN EYSERMANS’ unique site specific performance: a Prélude 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 walk up to the immersive performance by the Swiss composer FRITZ HAUSER, with Ictus musicians, students and volunteers. Dreaming Trains / 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.

We then propose our interpretation of the Ballet Mécanique by the American composer GEORGE ANTHEIL. In 1924, this self-proclaimed ‘bad boy of music’, in a gesture of
sudden inspiration, radically brought to life the futuristic dream of a ‘machine symphony’: a cohort of acoustic and mechanical pianos (here replaced by synthesizers), four bass drums, three xylophones, thundering propellers, shrieking sirens, and finally a huge cluster of electric bells, combine their inhuman forces in an unimaginable metallic and motorised machinery of sound. We have chosen the original and utopian score published at the time of the premiere – the most ostensibly savage, snarling with mongrel arrogance, seeming to defy Stravinsky on his own turf, in the primitivism of his Noces. In those interwar years,
was this an ode to the machine or a cry of terror at the accumulation of overwhelming violence, threatening Europe and the world? Perhaps a bit of both, and does it matter anyway… The piano chords shattering like broken glass, the dissonance sought for its own sake, the relentless repetition, the very particular alchemy of heavy machines and lightning
speed make this Ballet Mécanique a totally unique work in the history of the 20th century; it transcends the neo-classical gesture and propels it into unsuspected territories.

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.

The evening ends with Speaker Swinging, a sound and kinetic performance created in 1982 by GORDON MONAHAN. It is an experiment for eight rotary loudspeakers, audio oscillators and LED lamps, set in motion at the end of cables by a group of performer-athletes who seem to have stepped out of a socialist realist painting. Monahan was inspired by the famous rotating Leslie speakers, but also by the “Doppler” effects emitted by all the whirring machines of modernity. Phasing, vibrato, tremolo and acoustic distortions of space are fundamental elements of the work – as are the dramatised
gestures of the artists, their effort and their sweat.

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

La Flèche et l'Eléphant

Event on train
Mechelen Central workshop
Programme
19.03.2022 - 18:00 - 22:00
Address
Entrance Mechelen Station
Regular Institutional Partners