Thibault Delférière illustrates man’s struggles in his performance piece The Spirit


Belgian born, live artist Thibault Delférière works in the mediums of theatre, film and visual art. He has created over 70 different performances in Belgium, the UK, Los Angeles, France, Italy and Luxembourg. Performing at the world’s first fully relaxed venue Battersea Arts Centre, Delférière’s latest work The Spirit is a primal, haunting trio of performances that can be seen stand alone works, or as an extended trilogy depicting the evolving nature of the human spirit. Review by Natasha Sutton-Williams

promotional image of artist

The Spirit by Thibault Delferiere, Battersea Arts Centre © Vincent Pourcelle

In part one ‘The Camel’, Delférière blends performance art, theatre, music and painting into a cryptic piece depicting the fruitlessness of human endeavour. Through the piece Delférière paints one word sequentially on the back wall in bold black capital letters which acts as scene headings, splitting the physical action into segments. These words culminate in the disjointed sentence reading: MUST SHARE BUILD HARMONY FAITH.

Delférière initially enters the stage pulling a square iron weight with long ropes; this is the beginning of his exercise in struggle. After creating a makeshift table out of wooden A frames and wooden planks, he takes an apple suspended elegantly in mid air (through the use of a transparent fishing line) and begins cutting it with a large knife. As an artist with cerebral palsy, seeing the image of Delférière wielding a large luminous knife, determined to cut an apple, is highly evocative and at times unsettling.

Placing the roughly cut pieces of apple into a bowl, Delférière shares this offering with audience members. However, as each person reaches for a slice, he indicates that only the specific piece he points to can be eaten. The audience’s sense of choice is snubbed out. Delférière drolly plays on this micro expression of the determinism theory that humanity has no agency, no free will, and everything has already been predetermined for them.

Having fed the first row, Delférière turns to wooden planks, A frames and wooden step ladders, and builds increasingly large sculptures, similar to Jenga towers. He places these wooden pieces at progressively precarious angles, only for the structure to be crushed under its own weight. He then rebuilds these broken fragments into new, abstracted structures. The drama is in Delférière’s physical struggle to erect these sculptures, and his unyielding resolve to create from what was broken by his own actions. This is an unflinching illustration of society’s endeavours to construct a world of buildings, communities, artworks, only to demolish them by our egotistical efforts, greed or sadism. Wielding a sledgehammer, Delférière wryly destroys the final structure with quiet glee.

Exceptional guitar playing and electronic looping emanates from the musical talent that is Sicilian composer and performer Guiseppe Lomeo. His guitar is bowed, plucked and beaten with a pencil-like stick, creating otherworldly motifs, which bounce from the cheery to the eerie. Intentional or not, this ethereal score at times felt like a separate entity from Delférière’s physical performance and could have related more organically to the action of the piece.

Delférière is an enthralling performer, creating chaos and beauty in this solo work of struggle, momentary harmony and destruction. The only words uttered are in the final moments when Delférière directly addresses the audience: “What do people gain from all their labels? Nothingness. Everything is nothingness. Meaningless.”

The Spirit (Parts One, Two and Three) will be performed 27 February to 14 March at Battersea Arts Centre, London


Relaxed Performances
All performances will be relaxed. At Battersea Arts Centre, this means that you are free to move about, make noise and come and go during the show. Latecomers will be permitted – this might be at specific points in the performance agreed with the artists. It does not mean that light and sound effects have been changed. For more info, visit the Access Page.

Step-Free Access
This event takes place on the first floor of the building, which can be reached via a lift. There is step-free access to Scratch Bar and ground floor public spaces. There are accessible toilet facilities across the building.

Further Information
Download the pre-show information or visit the Battersea Arts Centre Access Page.