Volkskrant, 2023-03-28

Kunstcollectief Kirac mag van de rechter film met bedscènes Houellebecq maken

Ariejan Korteweg, De Volkskrant, 2023 March 28

Original in Dutch

Translation to English

Art collective Kirac allowed by judge to make film with Houellebecq bed scenes
French writer Michel Houellebecq has lost his court case against Stefan Ruitenbeek of the art collective Kirac. The court ruled against him on all counts. That means Ruitenbeek gets carte blanche to make a film with the bed scenes he got from Houellebecq.

Houellebecq had filed a lawsuit in Amsterdam alleging that Ruitenbeek made him sign a strangulation contract at a time when he was unable to oversee his actions. Houellebecq had come to Amsterdam in December at Ruitenbeek’s invitation with Qianyum Lysis Li, his wife, for film shoots of a partly sexual nature. Earlier, bed scenes had also been filmed in Paris. Soon after arrival, Ruitenbeek asked him to sign a contract in which Houellebecq ceded all control over the filming to him. The writer would have no right to previews, no say in the use of footage, no say in the screenplay and no remuneration.

According to his lawyer, Jacqueline Schaap, such a contract is very unusual and Houellebecq had signed it while taking medication for his depression and drinking several glasses of wine. The judge called the contract “far from balanced”, but did not find that a reason to not hold Houellebecq to the agreement. The judge also finds no evidence that the contract was signed in apparent condition. ‘All this is insufficient to assume that his judgement was impaired by fatigue and alcohol.’ Finally, the judge saw no evidence of depression.

Special vulnerabilities
That Houellebecq participated in film shoots in Amsterdam after signing the contract weighs in the verdict. Partly for this reason, interim relief judge Messer does not think that “Houellebecq should be protected because of special vulnerabilities”.

The contract expressly states that Houellebecq and his wife are not allowed to appear recognisably on screen at the same time with their sexual organs. According to the court, for the time being there is no reason to believe that Ruitenbeek will not abide by that agreement. According to Ruitenbeek, the video film, called Kirac episode 27, is still a work in progress. ‘It has always been my intention to make a portrait with integrity. Hopefully Michel will agree with the result.’

Advocate Schaap called the verdict very disappointing. In her opinion, the judge should have given more weight to ‘the unreasonable contract provision’. ‘That can make a contract voidable.’ Whether Houellebecq will appeal is not yet known.

The writer had earlier claimed in the French court that Kirac should take offline the trailer announcing the upcoming film. The French court deemed itself incompetent to rule on the matter and referred the matter to the Dutch court. Attempts to reach a settlement came to nothing in recent weeks.

Difference of opinion within Kirac
There also appears to be a difference of opinion within Kirac about Ruitenbeek’s conduct. Artist Tarik Sadouma, involved in Kirac projects from the very beginning and featured in many of the collective’s video films, left Kirac because of his dealings with Houellebecq. He hoped to make a film with the writer that would focus on their shared interest in the American writer H.P. Lovecraft.

He sees the contract Ruitenbeek signed with Houellebecq and the way the writer has been put on the block, without taking into account his condition and artistry, as taking advantage of the situation. Kirac’s projects often take the art world to task. Sadouma thinks Ruitenbeek is guilty of the behaviour he accuses the art world of.