80 Words

About the lecture-performance

80 Words is a project about what happens to a language when there are only 80 words to speak it. Are words still a reliable currency, now that “freedom of speech” suffers from heavy inflation? What happens to the imagination when information is reduced to the minimum? Can (self)censorship be a good thing?

Taking the shape of a lecture-performance, the artist invites the viewer into a dark room, one that looks like an undeveloped photograph where your senses are heavily deprived. An isolated researcher guides you through a slide show. Words and gestures are stripped to the bone and one’s imagination is gently encouraged to combine phantom phrases with after-images, leaving you no choice but to make highly subjective conclusions.

Participation to the 80 Words lecture-performance is free for Willem de Kooning Academy students. If you are not a student of de Willem de Kooning Academy and would like to attend the lecture-performance, please contact education [​at​]


Research on 80 Words began in 2011. Together with graphic designer Céline Wouters, van Lamsweerde condensed the research process into a booklet. The publication includes lists of 80-words compiled throughout the course of her research. The booklets are printed in an edition of 80 “unique copies”: each cover carries a different word, forming an 80-word list itself, made available to the people present.

Concept and performance Sarah van Lamsweerde; Dramaturgical assistance Zhana Ivanova; Research participant Andrew Fremont-Smith; Scenography and projection set-up Marloeke van der Vlugt; Graphic design Céline Wouters; Coaching: Esther Mugambi.

80 Words is a Het Veem Theater production.