WhyNot in collaboration with Dr. Esmee Geerken and Embassy of the Free Mind

Date: Thursday 14 December 2023
Location: Embassy of the Free Mind
Tickets: €15 via
Language: English spoken

What makes a body, a collection of 'lifeless' particles, a living, rotating whole? And is the distinction between living and non-living matter actually clear? With The Body & Alchemy in the Embassy of the Free Mind, dance and performance platform WhyNot investigates the origins of living matter in an evening in which art, dance and science come together.

For many years, (Eastern) Alchemy has been searching for 'the life giving juice' - or the 'philosophers stone' - that lies at the base of the conception of the living body, from the womb or the distilling flask. Where Western Alchemy split into Alchemy (the occult) and Chemistry (science), art, dance and science are interwoven again during this evening. Together with natural scientist and artist Dr. Esmee Geerken, we investigate the alchemical perspective, in which life and non-life form one whole. As Cleopatra the Alchemist describes it in her Ouroborus emblem: “One is the Serpent which has its poison according to two compositions, and One is All and through it is All, and by it is All, and if you have not All, All is Nothing.”


The evening opens with a work by visual artist Jennifer Tee and dancer Miri Lee. Based on the concept 'Soul in Limbo', Tee explores the spiritual, mental and physical space, often together with dance, music and poetry. In 'Concrete Interior' (NY 2012) dancer Miri Lee breathes and moves on a crystal-shaped, octagonal floor piece by Tee, on which the inner psychological space of the dancer is enclosed.

Bonnie van Vugt, art & performance student, enters into a dialogue through Cleopatra the alchemist about how non-living matter turns into living matter and how we can reconnect science to creative and spiritual domains in our world. What if this alchemist from the 3rd century BC could talk to a modern-day scientist, philosopher or artist?

Corey Andrews, junior researcher at the Embassy of the Free Mind, guides us through rare books and manuscripts that explore the connection between the body and the universe.

Cellist Sheng-Chiun Lin and performer Reza Mirabi will end the evening with an embodied journey through time. Through various stones, Mirabi takes you to his grandfather's ritual in the Kurdish valley of Zaman (دره زمان).

With The Body & Alchemy, WhyNot presents the second part of its “The Body & …” research series, with this year's overarching theme being 'Revolving Bodies'. During The Body & Atoms, the first evening in this series that took place in De Waag, we investigated the origins of matter and the smallest particles in relation to the body.