The first line of the first Azart Ship Register, May 1990.



The Fools are in town! Their ramshackle ship a ridiculous and blatant toy upon the waves! These motley sailors are a boisterous crew that inhabits the public place – to merchandise the living flesh of the spectator! It is the eternal Bateau Ivre that comes to your market places and squares. My God! These fair folk brew in their floating pots and pans a concoction of greasy soup and black pudding, of absurd dance, roguish song and burlesque theatre. They drink, kiss and fight for the last piece of sausage. They celebrate life and the joy of living. Their show is homage to the culture of Mirth and Laughter, their spectacle the High Mass dedicated to Joyfulness - and a mordant satire of the scurrilous lies of society. 



The Ship of Fools is a group of traveling performers sailing to the other side of the world
on behalf of those excluded from society.
Their quest explores the mental health of folly,
by employing humour in a universal theatrical language of images.
She seeks to involve local communities in a celebration of joy and reflection.





The medieval culture of mockery and laughter is a unique phenomenon that provoked a ‘carnivalisation’ of western conscience and world vision. Her essence is, according to the famous analyse of Michail Bachtin*, the utopian, popular rejoicings of games and laughter, the universal, collective and ambivalent celebration of life and ever rejuvenating time. Its artistic principle is the dethronement of the sacrosanct and the crowning of the forbidden, the motif is the Big Open Mouth, the Gates of Hell that devour everything to give birth again. The fool disposes the licentious wisdom of the feast. These millennia-old carnivalesque traditions engendered modern literature and played an important role in the reversal of the ‘Holy Order’ of Gods and Kings. It belongs to the essence of the cultural heritage of Europe and of the subsequent cultural patrimony that Europe gave to the world. Among the most exuberant, boisterous and subversive manifestations of this comic universe are the ribald farces, ludicrous processions, donkey feasts, mock-sermons, child Masses, death dances, erotic grammars or jolly funerals that inspired, as an exhortation or admonition, the greatest artists of that time, such as Hieronymus Bosch, Albrecht Dürer, Sebastian Brand and Pieter Breughel and continues to inspire the public imagination and many a modern artist to this day.  

* Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, 1965                                 





The Ship of Fools is the exquisite emblem of that comic universe of flamboyant popular laughter, it is the wheeled vehicle of the carnivalesque celebration of the powers of abundance. The Ship of Fools is a timeless image of the world turned upside down, in a spectacular play of identities: the King is a fool, the Fool a king, the poor are rich and the man - a woman! The Fool holds a mocking mirror in face of society, reflecting – and undermining the established order. The Ship of Fools is a symbol of mankind adrift, of the society that has lost its bearings. 

More about the Historical "Shyp of Folys"      


Kroniek van de Abdij van St-Truiden, in the year 1133
De eerste historische vermelding van de Zottenschuit




Azart assumes proudly The Bleu Barge as her beggar's nickname 
Hieronymos Bos inventor 

Because the jester FlatPants is both a musician and a helmsman      The birds see him as a fool 
And even though his company sings lustily      They will be called the singers of the blue barge

Jheronimus Bosch has left us five compositions of the Ship of Fools. Now the ship is being transformed into the aesthetics of his magic universe, into a bizarre, blue resonance chamber, a floating monument of excess and symbol of the Hyperbole. The main mast is disguised as a tree, the mizzen mast as a bell tower of disproportionate kitchen utensils. As a tribute to his (lost) work "The Blue Barge", the whole, ship, all the rigging, all ship furniture and all costumes and mobiles are being painted in a mosaic of one hundred and eleven different blue tones.

His compositions:      






The Ship of Fools proposes a popular feast that lasts as long as she stays in town. Apart from her comedies she proposes other theatrical manifestations of high symbolical value. That starts with the Disastrous Arrival, where the ship enters port with improbable manoeuvres - weighing a wooden anchor! Then she holds a Jolly Press Conference on Board as an open invitation to the public and press and an extravagant Parade of Fools to the city centre. The Fools pay a Theatrical Visit to High Dignitaries, mostly to the Town Hall, for an exceptional and ceremonial reception in which small gifts and jolly sermons are exchanged – and sometimes a calligraphic ‘Welcome Letter’. This gives lieu to a Toast of Honour and in the best of cases, to a Solemn Banquet. The crew pays a Theatrical Visit to Institutions for a meeting and a simple, shared meal in a psychiatrical or penitentiary centre, a hospital, home for the elderly, school, factory or other such. The public is received on board for a Theatrical Visit of the Ship, a sequence of sketches on seven different locations: the Garden, Pent House, Wheel House, Engine Room, Dressing Room, Clandestine’s Cabin and the Big Artist’s Hull. The funfair finishes with the Sad Departure of the Ship, dramatic, because nobody knows if the ship will ever return! 




The bridge head is a festival ground that includes the ship as stage and back drop, a seating platform for up to 250 persons, a blue bus, a radio station, a tea house and a Garden of Delights, with rarities, laughing mirrors and a Bestiary of fantastic animals and hobby horses. The crew provides Fool’s Courses and Court Feasts. This place serves as a temporary meeting point. as a county fair for the Arts, for shows, expositions and feasts in which local artists of all disciplines are stimulated to participate or perform. 




The Fools present a Universal Theatre accessible to a public of all cultures and ages, written in the universal language of comedy, in a tradition that links the the Roman satires and Saturnalia with the pagan fertility rites, with the medieval buffoon, the Commedia dell´Arte, the clown and the Theatre of the Absurd. It's a Grotesque Theatre of disguises, distortions and mutilations, of transgression and transformation, of incongruity and disproportionality. It's a Total Theatre, an interdisciplinary theatre of images, objects, gestures, marionettes, dance and music.  It's an Optimistic Theatre that exalts the laughter as the best elixir of renewal, the open and honest laughter of a child, jovial and liberating… the salutary laughter of a joyful metamorphose and malicious and insolent against stagnation and one-self. It's a Direct Theatre, primitive, participative en anti-academical, with torrents of gaiety, efficient caricatures, clever and cynic inventions in which there’s continuity between the public and the scenic reality and where the public participates in de operation of catharsis – in a temporary suspension of banns and inhibitions. It's a Gesamtkunstwerk (Total Artwork), a theatralisation of life that doesn’t limit itself to a set of performances but that includes the ship as an absurd sculpture, as well as the whole array of the travel and experiences of the crew and the images and stories produced by them. 



 Stultorum Numerus Infinitum Est (Ecc 01:15)

 The Crew

The crew consists of the fraternity of the "Guild of the Blue Barge" **, an ever changing group of independent artists from many countries who left their houses and debts - to embark on a World Journey that is at the same time Life’s Journey - without end. Their travel is a Festive Pageant around the Globe, a solemn pilgrimage – in praise of Folly! Being a world-sailing Jester, the crew meets with Mayors, Ministers, Chiefs and other High Dignitaries but also invites meetings with the disabled, the unemployed, the mentally handicapped, the prisoners and the dispossessed of all continents, as fellow travellers upon this Universal Ship of Fools. 

For the last 28 years the Ship of Fools has been a travelling comic theatre that has performed in over 200 cities in 20 countries. She is a sailing laboratory, researching a permanent participation with  local  artists and provoking an artistic, social and political collaboration within local communities.

** "The Guild of the Blue Barge", a satirical poem by Jacob van Oestvoorne, beginning of 15-th century.




Azart is a traveling platform for artists of many disciplines to create poetic and innovative projects. She invites artists from around the world for an artistic interchange with local colleagues. This offers a unique environment as a laboratory and stage, implying the local population of the city where resides the ship. The core discipline is theatre. The Festival of Fools is open for all kind of initiatives: music, performances, radio, story telling, dance, video, installations, lectures, dress design, drawing…




The entrance-tickets often consist of victuals, drinks, gifts or drawings o the ship. Otherwise, the spectator is weighed and charged per kilo of body weight in local currency to enter! This is inspired by mediaeval allegories of the age-old fight between the rich and the poor. Overweight above 77 kg is gratis, entrance is free above 111 kg. The show starts at sunset. 





The tour begins in August 2017 in Amsterdam and follows the ancient trade routes to the East. The journey leads by Brazil, South Africa, the Indian Ocean and India, Indonesia and Australia. About fifteen cities on five continents are going to be selected for a festival of about two months. 




In 2020, the ship arrives in Australia and crosses the continent on wheels as a giant monument dedicated to foolishness. This voyage across the desert will be the jubilant apotheoses of the millenary history of the Ship of Fools that in history always has been a ship on wheels.






The Fool’s Log Book is a contemporary seaman’s saga on a centenary vessel about the encounters with peoples, nations and the elements. The most important media are the internet, video, animation, photography, radio and the written word. This seaman’s diary is unique because it offers the audiences a continuing story after the performance is over. So the end of the show  – and of the festival - is the beginning of a new story. Through an interactive website the audience becomes a fellow traveller on a parallel journey on the web. A webcam from the wheelhouse permanently indicates the state of the sea or on the quay, from the perspective of the helmsman.


   THE SHIP    



 A Centenary, Ocean-going Vessel of 160 Tons of Iron






The figure-head wit it's spoon and fork signifies: "Here We Come, We Are Hungry". Their stay in any city is an ongoing invitation for joint projects and a search for teachers, apprentices and friends to engage the whole community in a tidal wave of collective laughter.




A Millenial European Pelgrimage of playing and gambling

* All enter ship on own risk *









 The carnival traditions, a vision that expresses the essence European thought





More Photo's

Azart reflects the City of Amsterdam as a cosmopolitan center of meetings, a unique blend of ancient and modern, a creative fusion of culture and water




Street sign on the Amsterdam Azart Square, named after the ship

A unique 'Lieu de Mémoire' of which the story is being written daily





(Hugo Grotius, 1609)

"Fools Without Borders" promote the freedom of the sea, the right of travel and the freedom of artistic expression


Desiderius Erasmus. In Praise of Folly, last line (5011)