THE SHIP OF FOOLS
"The Ship Of Fools" is a timeless image of mankind adrift, immortalised by artists such as Hiëronymus Bosch and Albrecht Dürer. This millenium-old carnavalesque tradition is embodied since 1994 by Azart, a 90 foot long oceangoing vessel which presented a spectacular music-theatre in about hundred cities in seventeen countries. The ship Azart is a bizarre monument in praise of folly, which suddenly appears at the horizon, soon to leave a void on the quay-side. It is a project which combines humour and the arts with the challenges of the seas and the challenges of meeting different cultures and natures. It is an international crew who stages each year a spectacular music-theatre about the follies of mankind. It is a legend which started at the jubilee celebration in 1994 of the publication of the world's first bestseller, the 'divina satira' called "The Ship Of Fools", written by Sebastian Brant in 1494 in Basel/Strasbourg. Each year in about 20 towns Azart puts up a tribune for 300 persons and the ship itself is stage and settings.
Azart is a laboratory of theatre, a laboratory of experiences, a theatre in constant search for its own peculiar dimensions. It is home made theatre, free from rules, styles and formulas, in which the collective creation is an investigation of the fantasies and dreams of a Babylon. It is a visual theatre in which the design of costumes and props is always subject to the search for new vistas in the art of representation, using the recycling of waste, a variety of styles and a mixture of eras as the means to the making of every scene a constant surprise. It is a serendipity, a comic theatre designed to entertain and to make laugh and a philosophic theatre in its satirical comment of society. And it sure is a music theatre, with its original blend of a baroque orchestra and the folly of incidental and atmospheric sound effects. Azart is a collective of eleven artists from various continents, who transform their world-travel into a life-travel and a festive pageant. They explore the boundaries of life as art and art as a lifestyle. Embarked on an artistic pilgrimage they search for new dimensions in global communication and for new horizons of cultural interchange. All the world is a stage.
In 1994, commemorating the first edition of "The Ship Of Fools", Azart presented to the parliaments of said towns a bronze bell in the form of a jester whose function now is to silence their most clamorous members. In the same year the small planet #5896 was called "Ship Of Fools". Also Amsterdam Town Council named a place in the harbour Azartplein (Azart Square), in honor of her cultural activities. The Lord Mayor of Amsterdam, Schelto Patijn, then gave a traditional letter "to the illustrious, very illustrious, very powerfull and wise to welcome the captain of Azart and receive him and his ship courteously". That year Azart set sail and indeed was received more then courteously in many a harbour. Being a sailing world-jester, Azart meets with Mayors, Ministers, Chiefs and other High Dignitaries and is often received with a calligraphic letter of invitation; but, as interesting, she invites meetings, wherever she sails, with the disabled, the unemployed, the mentally handicapped, the prisoners, the disposessed of all the continents and many other fellow traveller on the universal Ship Of Fools. These performances form part of the age-old fool’s traditions and add a colourful accent to the arrival of "The Ship Of Fools".
Azart is an multicultural project, adapting herself to the dreams and aspirations of the public and the people she meets. She looks for public participation and, if staying longer in one place, for ways of joining in with the local community theatre. The text is in the language of the countries Azart visits. In the Baltic sea Azart has been an avant-garde youth theatre, it turned in the Mediterranean Sea into a family theatre and it became a fantastic theatre of images while visiting cities in Russia, Marocco and Israel. Azart, born from Amsterdam maritime traditions, now intends to follow the trail of the ancient Dutch merchant routes, this time to redress history's mistakes by promoting an artistic cooperation with the local people she meets. Azart is financially supported by the Royal Dutch "Prins Bernard Fonds". Azart supports "Culture as Confrontation", the official cultural policy of the Dutch government.
The entrance-tickets are gauged by the weight of the spectator, about ten pesetas a kilo or a tuppence a pound. This is inspired by mediaeval allegories, depicted by, among others, Breughel, in which the age-old fight between the poor and the rich is represented as a fight between the thin and the fat. Experience shows that this odd and discriminatory way of entrance makes it a popular theatre with the advantage that children pay next to nothing and that public participation is assured before the show has even started.
Since the middle of October 1999 Azart produces and presents each week on the Amsterdam cable-TV-station "KLEURNET" an half-hour coverage about the ship, crew and show and about the impressions and reactions of the public and population. "KLEURNET" is a multicultural station with a reach of 900.000 viewers. All the necessary equipment and know-how is on board.
The requirements for the mooring is the length (90 feet) and draft of the ship (9 feet). For the tribune is necessary a free space on the quay of 60 feet alongside the ship and 30 feet wide. Essential is a central spot in town to secure a maximum of attention.
The new show of 2000 is called "Along The Edge" and tells of the haphazardeous voyage of mankind through the ages and what, according to the Fools, had best be forgotten... or not? Azart will visit the Scottish Highlands and Islands, possibly making excursions to Ireland, the Færøerne Islands, Iceland and Bergen, Norway.