Song of my Soil (1984 -1989), 2 titles


set's photos


175.34 min.
PAL – color - stereo
Orig. version: German

Das Rheingold (1986)

Die Walküre (1989)

The German 19th century composer Richard Wagner wrote the operas Ring des Nibelungen and Parcifal in order to shape his vision on the relationships in society. Koen and Frank Theys have treated Wagner's Ring with an immoral curiosity and have enriched it with personal and contemporary themes. Wagner uses the central idea of the gold to develop his intrigue, whereas the Theys brothers build up their intrigue starting from the mass medium television. They conclude that in our society -within the frame of the ubiquitous mass media- the control over visual language, the propaganda lead to power. The electronic registration of reality creates a virtual reality that can be manipulated for ideological intentions. Through the scenario they express their reflections on the functioning of the propagated mass culture in a society composed of several cultural entities.
Between 1984 and 1988 Frank and Koen Theys realised the electronic staging of their scenario. They made numerous shots of landscapes, actors, accessories and handmade models for the background. Each image and colour has its own specific meaning and is stored in a memory from which it can be called up to become alive again during the montage. Analogous with the Leitmotiv the colour and image elements regularly reappear so that their codes within the frame of reference of the music and the topicalised intrigue enforce the events on the scene. In spite of their criticism against the mass media and their resistance against the professional picture quality they had intended the electronic staging of both operas to be broadcast on television, a great medium if used properly.Combining Wagner's Leitmotiv technique with the vast possibilities of video techniques, they have developed a video language which consists in adding emotional, intuitive or intellectual connotations to elementary images, which are continuously combined in different ways, so that the narrative structure arises. The apparent megalomania is compensated by the ironical tone, but the exuberant parade of electronic settings, inflatable females, sham rustic, scale models, aestheticizes images into an abyssal game with perspective and space.

(In spite of the international success of this work, the Theys brothers didn’t receive any financial support of the government in Belgium. In 1989 the ministry of culture still didn’t consider video-art as an artform, and so it wasn’t supported financially. So, like Wagner himself, the Theys brothers decided to stop their work at the tetralogy after the second part The Valkyrie as a kind of protest. As a response to this lack of recognition for video-art, they started in 1989 with some friends the center ARGOS, which is now the only international center for new media art in Belgium. Today video-art is the financially best supported art in Belgium.)

“… Our interpretation for television is not a copy of a theatrical vision. We worked on it so that the event happened on the screen itself…”
Frank Theys – DES ARTS

entire article (FR)

“… Earthly as well as religious values, the modern individual as well as the gods of the antiques went even beyond the mythology, and end there where everything began: in chaos…”

Entire article (DE)


“… The gods and the heros are fighting for the gold. Koen and Frank Theys transpose this theme to our society, dominated by the media. They replace the gold by the television screen...”
Greta Vanbroeckhoven – CARTES SUR CÂBLES

Entire article (FR)


“… Until today, all theories about the ideal filming of the tetralogy are based on theatrical representations…”

Entire article (DE)

“ … The production of these two parts, which can be counted amongst the most ambitious projects in the history of video art, was a real calvary, that ran from secret editing facilities in TV stations, collaborations with soft porn studios; partnerships with unions and tripe fairs, to illegally obtain recording tapes from technical services at museums. …”
Frederik Vergaert – catalogue ‘B-sides and Rarities’

Entire article (NL)