Speech by Joost Vandecasteele for the Graduation Ceremony 2012 

Good afternoon everybody, staff, family, friends, and congratulations to
all the dancing fools in here. Or to paraphrase the great Tina Turner, “Now you
are a private dancer, a dancer for money”.

But the song by Tina Turner is not the only suitable quote on a special
occasion like this, actually I would like to begin with this quote by graffiti
artist Banksy.

 

“People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your
life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall
buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that
imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else.
They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the
most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with
it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you.

You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual
property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like
wherever they like with total impunity.

Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether
you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can
do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a
rock someone just threw at your head.

You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t
owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put
themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even
start asking for theirs.”

 

You can call this long quote the intellectual basis of his art, the
reason why he claims walls and places he doesn’t own. The reason for his
secrecy. And you can disagree with his methods or even his reasoning. But at
least it’s clear, his position is clear. Banksy believes his natural habitat is
in the dark, away from the all-seeing eye of mainstream media.

Maybe he is an extreme example, although more extreme artists exist. But
he made a clear choice and accepted the consequences. Like you guys, graduating
today, making a choice and being very aware of the consequences.

 

As artists we all belong to the opposition, we are not the enemy, but we
are the other side, always, of every political regime. No matter if we are
governed by a right wing party or by a gay left wing prime minister, we as
artists never approach the center. We stay on the outskirts of society,
together with the fools, the crazies, the wild, the poor and the ignored.
Staying on the outside, looking in, observing, analyzing and  modeling our findings into our work. We
stay in the shadows, concentrating on our vision, making it as powerful as
possible, so it becomes a bomb we can throw inside. Our credibility as our
bullet proof vest. They can accuse us of being strange, elitist or even
unnecessary, but they can never accuse us of being dishonest to ourselves.

 

There is something very unfair about this moment now. Because most of
you will never as fit as you are now. Most of you will never be as well-trained
as you are now. Most of you will never as flexible as you are now. And most of
you will never as ignorant and stupid as you are now.  I repeat, most of  you, not all of you. Some among you are
maybe freaks, evolving to a superhuman dancing machine. But the rest of you
will evolve into a more balanced cooperation between mind and body. It is maybe
unfair, that a body cannot stay on the same level of strength, but maybe that
is also the beauty of it. Maybe that’s the whole idea, to make your lifelong
destruction as gracious as possible.

 

Because there is no perfection in art. It does not exist. If that was
the case, why make another performance? If you already made the perfect play,
why try again? We aim for perfection, we come as close as possible to
perfection and when it is all over, we start again, do something new, something
different. Most logical thing would be to remake the previous play, to make it
even better, more perfect, fewer mistakes. Keep remaking it until it is all it
can be. That is the logical thing to do. That’s how products are made, that’s
how companies work. But we don’t, we’re not logical beings, we don’t make
products. We like flirting with disaster, we like the emptiness of the
rehearsing studio, we like point zero. Why? Because everything is possible at
that moment. Logical people hate nothingness, hate uncertainty, hate always
starting anew. But then again, we are not logical beings. Are we?

 

Even this speech is not that logical. Because now I will introduce
myself. Hi. Good afternoon.  My
name is Joost Vandecasteele. I am writer. For now.  For how long I don’t know. I don’t need to know. I graduated
as a theatre director, never directed a play in my life. Why? Because I’m a
terrible director, I get bored watching other people doing the same thing over
and over. I don’t know what to say if they need help. I don’t know how to move
from the table talks to the rehearsing floor.

But that’s okay. I made some plays. With other people. I wrote some
plays. For other people. I did standup comedy. Not a lot of people saw it. I am
not the title on my diploma. I was not fully educated as soon as I stepped
outside my school. But I was ready for being an illogical human being and to
suffer the consequences. I am a work in progress, unattached to any medium.

 

Now I write. Books and newspaper columns.  Why? Why not? Nobody is stopping me. And nobody will stop me
if I change course again. What comes next, I don’t know, but I am certain of
this, I will feel the same anger and the same fascination with cities and the
future. That is my niche, I am an angry science fiction comic book zombie
loving gaming political nerd.

 Banksy puts stencils on
walls because he feels as much right to do so as companies. I write and I
perform because I believe the most compelling and powerful stories are being
told in B-genres. But then again, that is my niche, my sandbox I can play in,
my domain to conquer. That’s mine. Get your own. Nobody is stopping you from
claiming what is yours.

 

But you can say, there is nothing left to be claimed. Theatre and dance
have already experienced so many great directors and dancers. So what is there
to claim?

Good  question, even better
answer.

Here lies the beauty of this profession. Something literature and movies
can’t offer. Performing arts has no tradition. It has a history. But no
tradition. Because as soon a play or a performance stopped touring, it doesn’t
exist anymore.

You heard of it, maybe somebody taped it. But it is gone. Somebody else
can step forward and start all over again. Somebody else can claim the floor
and create something else on the very same spot.

That’s what you are, a new generation, constructing a tradition that
will fade away and inspire a next generation to rebel against. That’s right,
you just finished school and already I’m talking about the people who will
think you are old-fashioned, boring and passé.

 

When I said, you will be never be as ignorant as you are now, I’m not
saying you’re stupid. I’m saying you are going get smarter. More creative. More
confident. There is no limit to imagination, it doesn’t dry up, but you need to
water it sometimes. You will always think of something new, something more
beautiful, more effective. You will always get better. Even if it doesn’t feel
so. Even if you truly believe this is best you can do. Still, you’ll do better
next thing. Allow yourself to rest, to reflect, and you will find flaws,
mistakes, and the ambition to try again. Hate your own work, believe me, it
helps.

Now you’re still safe, in the cocoon of a school which name has more
allure than your own name. Tomorrow you are ex-parts. You can consider this as
frightening, as a responsibility, as a honor, or as just a period of your life.
You don’t owe this school anything, you’re free now, use what you need, throw
the rest away. These are not the best years of your life. They were nice, I
presume, but they are nothing compared with being out there. Being an ex-parts.

 

I start my last book with a quote by the William Gibson, who says ‘Earth
is the alien planet now’. Again, just like Banksy, that is his justification
for writing like he does, for the kind of material he chooses, for kind of
style he uses. He sees the world as something imagined by science fiction.
Always considering it might not be real. But again, that’s his reasoning. Get your
own.

 

Another quote by another great science fiction writer, JG Ballard. He
said ‘As the world becomes more advanced, mankind becomes more primitive’. He
truly believed we are not capable of handling perfection. That’s why there is
no heaven, we would go insane living forever in a state of bliss. Ballard
witnessed as a child the massacre of Shanghai, wrote books about the sexual
appeal of car crashes, predicted the riots in London. All based on that one
quote. Again, it’s his quote, get your own.

 

Personally, I don’t have a quote of my own. I find inspiration in their
quotes, but slowly ever so slowly I am sculpting my own voice, finding my own
reasoning, my own point zero. I graduated ten years ago and I’m still a
beginner. But slowly ever so slowly the admiration I feel for certain artists
and journalists is transformed into respect. I respect their legacy, I respect
their own trial and error, I respect their success. But the feeling of wanting
to be like them is over. I just want to be me at my very best. And I find this
very important to say this in a school like this.

You can admire who came before you, maybe they were teachers here, maybe
they are reason you started with Parts. But if you step out of this school,
believing they are untouchable, stop right now. Belonging to a new artistic
generation requires to be arrogant and naïve at the same time. Realizing you’re
not as good as them, but slowly ever so slowly you’re getting better than them
and nobody is stopping you. Look at you, coming all over the world to Brussels,
like a reverse up with people. Look at you, all trained, ready to spread out
over the world, like an artistic al-quada. Look at you, before everybody else
looks at you.

 

So in conclusion, another quote, this time by Kanye West. ‘I’m livin’ in the 21st century

Doin’ something mean to it. Do it better than anybody you ever seen do it. Screams
from the haters, got a nice ring to it. I guess every superhero need his theme
music.’

Again his quote, get your own,

These are truly the best times to be alive, even
better to be an artist. Because it means something again, to choose this path,
to choose an ancient art form in a futuristic landscape, to put your body out
there as a statement when everybody else is just talking
and talking and talking and talking and talking…

 

Thank you





www.joostvandecasteele.be

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