“A man climbs a mountain as if he is walking on a rope stretched between two mountaintops. With a cloud of smoke tied to his back. As if he believes he is made of smoke himself, so light. He believes the cloud of smoke makes him light- er. He believes belief can move mountains and that he can fall upwards.” – Peter Verhelst
Image by Kris Dewitte
Calculated Risk by equilibrium artist Kasper Vandenberghe is composed of three intimately entwined parts: The Ritual, The Installation, and The Story. The audience can experience this tril- ogy in any order they wish. The course, then, becomes a poetic quest for how much vulner- ability we allow ourselves today, in a Western world that passionately believes in the perfect- ibility of humankind and society. However, how could we perceive vulnerability as strength? And, simultaneously, how do we withstand the gusts of wind and rain of life? In Calculated Risk, Vandenberghe dances on the flaccid tight- rope between two profoundly human desires: the desire for balance and the desire for a bot- tomless leap into the unknown.
Image by Kris Dewitte
In The Ritual he climbs a scaffold, dressed in a harness of mattress stuffing and bubble wrap, only to let himself fall like a stone from a height of exactly four meters and twenty centimetres. It is calculated recklessness. It is an ode to the fragility and exceptional resilience that the creating artist relates to a playing child. Moreover, every step of the ritual is accompanied by a text by Peter Ver- helst.
The Installation shows the studio of Vanden- berghe. The museal setup reveals the drudgery behind his meticulous research into failing and try- ing again.
During The Story, he explores the dif- ferent aspects of the calculated risk. He gives an account of his conversations with field specialists (like a circus performer, hypnotist, insurer) to fur- ther dissect the bottomless vacuum of things. He offers a personal testimony examining what might be the most significant calculated risk in our lives: love. By excessively slowing down the visual re- cording of his fall, Vandenberghe’s actions are put into a whole new light.
During his labyrinthine ordeal searching for the creation of Calculated Risk, performer Kasper Vanden- berghe met with many field specialists, who each offered him a different perspective on his heroic venture: making himself fall from a pre-calculated height, making him jeopardise his self-preservation though secur- ing his safety nevertheless. His traumatologist, project developer, and psychotherapist helped him along the process. A hypnotist helped him overcome his fear of heights. A circus performer taught him the technical ropes of falling safely. Additionally, Vandenberghe asked an insurer whether he could protect himself finan- cially during this calculated fall and – metaphorically speaking – from a potentially traumatising experience of loss. Lastly, Vandenberghe queried philosopher Marc de Kesel, whose work focuses on the question of what it means to be modern, about the cultural-philosophical meaning of this calculated risk in light of modernity, which we live in today.
A fragment of De Kesel’s exposé: …