Silke Huysmans / Hannes Dereere Pleasant Island


Silke Huysmans and Hannes Dereere devise theatrical and documentary performances which, starting from a geographical territory, look into the economic and social symptoms of a globalised system. After their stay in Nauru in 2018, one of Oceania’s insular micro-States, they examine the interaction between colonisation, capitalism, and what is at stake in terms of migration and the ecology.

Nauru, formerly known as Pleasant Island, is an distant island in the Pacific Ocean. During its occupation and after its independence in 1968, it benefited from the extraction of phosphate at the hands of the rapidly growing nations of the West. Its lands, exploited in order to fertilise the lands of others, are now sterile. The island, gone from riches to ruin, has become a detention centre for the Australian government in return for subsidies, and is now under threat from rising sea levels. “Over there, it was like looking into the future”, write Silke Huysmans and Hannes Dereere. Following on from their first piece, (Mining Stories, 2016) and their investigations into the mining catastrophe which hit the Brazilian village where Silke Huysmans was born and grew up, the young Brussels-based duo became interested in this paroxysmal, extraction-based parabola. Given special permission to stay on the island by a government which stifles all press coverage, they recorded the testimonies of inhabitants and migrants living on the island with their smartphones. On their return, still in contact with their friends, they transform this device – the very paradox of our modernity – into a central element of their dramaturgy. By means of all the standard applications, videos, sound and messages bring with them the voices of the island, echoes of a finite utopia.