Els Dietvorst (°1964) is a socially engaged artist. She uses dialogue, experiment and intuition as her main artistic strategies. Ever since the 1990s, the artist has been moved by social issues such as migration, racism and climate change. Dietvorst reflects on the ‘condition humaine’. As a result, major themes such as life and death, fear, alienation and desire are addressed in her work. The position of the outsider is something Dietvorst specifically focuses on, directing her gaze towards those persons and events that would otherwise go unnoticed. Not so much to point out injustice, but to develop a personal understanding, to keep track of the bigger picture and contextualise different events. Her work is focused on the myriad forms of social communication and interpersonal relationships and conflicts that she expresses in striking social-artistic projects such as The Return of the Swallows in the Brussels Midi-neighbourhood. She tries to create circumstances which enable us to be together, think together and act together. The artist sees art as a means to communicate, a reason to talk about relationships between people and their environment, or as an encounter with whatever is strange to us. Dietvorst's work reminds us of the ‘soziale Skulptur’ of Joseph Beuys, one of the pioneers in creating a unifying artistic practice, which was meant to bring about interaction between groups of people. According to Beuys, the entire society can be seen as one large work of art, or ‘soziale Skulptur’. To edit and refine this sculpture, the creativity of everyone is needed, and not just of so-called artists. The work of art as an object is not a goal in itself for Dietvorst, but a means to create social involvement. Her choice of medium, whether it be actions, documentaries, films, mud sculptures, installations, drawings or theater texts, depends on the specific circumstances and the individuality of each project. Many of her artworks have therefore been given away or destroyed, or have perished. In 2020, many of these works were remade for the exhibition Dooltocht / A desperate quest to find a base for hope at MHKA (Museum of Contemporary Art, Antwerp). To Dietvorst works of art can leave the representative, symbolic domain and provide strategies for actions in society. In a world dominated by capitalism and inequality, Els Dietvorst searches for alternatives, for hope.

© Flor Maesen

Theatre pieces written and directed by Els Dietvorst

2019 ‘Memento Mori/Memento Mori’, premiered February 2019 in Kaaitheater Brussels, May 2019 in deSingel Antwerp, November 2019 in De Grote Post Ostend, 30CC Leuven and in CC Geel, January 2020 in Kaaitheater Brussels, March 2020 in De Studio in Antwerp

Films written and directed by Els Dietvorst

2020 ‘Solid Crystal Fortune Cookies’, creative documentary
2019 ‘Dogfish’, 10”, experimental film
2017 ‘I watched the white dogs of the dawn’, 53”, creative documentary
2014 ‘The Rabbit and the Teasel’, 53”, creative documentary
2011-14 ‘The Black lamb’, web documentary
2010 ‘A walk with ACM’, 10”, documentary
2008 ‘As long as the blackbird sings’, 40”, creative documentary
2006 ‘Song for the price of a goat’, 52”, documentary
2006 ‘The Apple-Eater’, 25”, creative documentary
2005 ‘The return of the swallows, five years in the making’, 54“

Film projections/festivals

2019I watched the white dogs of the dawn’, Trento filmfestival, Italy
2019 ‘I watched the white dogs of the dawn’, Tallinn photomonth, Kai Art center
2018I watched the white dogs of the dawn’, Jean Rouch filmfestival, winner of the Anthropology and Sustainable Development Award
2018I watched the white dogs of the dawn’, Kilmore Quay documentary festival, winner of the jury prize
2016 ‘The Rabbit and the Teasel’, 5th Ecofalante Environmental Film Festival, Sao Paulo
2015 ‘The Rabbit and the Teasel’, Official selection Visions du Reel, (medium lenght competition, international premiere), Switzerland
2015 ‘The Rabbit and the Teasel’, Festival Planète Honnête, France
2015 ‘The Rabbit and the Teasel’, Festival Filmer a tout prix, (Panorame Belge), Belgium

2015 ‘The Rabbit and the Teasel’, Festival dei popoli, chosen for SUI GENERI(S)* a special no-competitive section, Italy
2015 ‘The Rabbit and the Teasel’, Kilmore Quay documentary festival, Ireland
2015 ‘The Rabbit and the Teasel’, EMERGENT, Belgium
2014 ‘Art coeur et merci, the whole story’, performance, Kunstenfestival/Kaaitheater, Brussels
2014 ‘The Rabbit and the Teasel’, private viewing Wexford Art center, Ireland
2014 ‘The Rabbit and the Teasel’, Blackstairs rural filmfestival, Ireland

Solo exhibitions (selection)
2020 ‘Dooltocht/A desperate quest to find a base for hope’, M HKA, Antwerp
2019 ‘Wintrum Frod’, Muzee, Ostend
2016 ‘Driftwood’, Panache, Antwerp
2014 ‘One Was Killed For Beauty, The Other One Was Shot, The Two Others Died Naturally Argos, Brussels
2010 ‘Art coeur et merci’, Museum Guislain, Ghent
2008 ‘Skull’, M HKA, Antwerp
2004 ‘The return of the swallows’, Palais de beaux art (BOZAR), Brussels
2003 ‘De laatste nacht van de nachtman’, KunstenFESTIVALdesarts, Brussels ‘Dreadlockcity’, de begane grond, Utrecht

Group exhibitions
2018 ‘Bare Root’, Wexford Ireland
2016 ‘Burning Ice 10’, Kaaitheater, Brussels
2015 ‘Moscow Biennale of contemporary art’, Moscow
2014 ‘Drawings from the CERA collection’, Museum M, Louvain
2013 ‘THE BLACK LAMB’, presentation in Burning ice, Kaaitheater, Brussels
2012 ‘THE BLACK LAMB’, presentation in Burning ice, Kaaitheater, Brussels
2009 ‘Songlines’, Mechelen
2009 ‘The Stone Road’, Kunstenfestivaldesarts & Argos, Brussels
2009 Presentation ‘Time is a book’, Timefestival, Ghent
2008 ‘The Stone Road. (On Track. Off Track. Memorising the Mid-World.
2008 Walking the Fifth-Space.)’, WUK, Kunsthalle Exnergasse, Vienna
2006 ‘Making Sense in the City’, Aula, Ghent University, Ghent
2006 ‘Outdoors’, Danielle Arnaud Contemporary Art, London

Curator of the following projects
2009 Time is a book/Ghent
2009 Songlines/Mechelen
2006 Making sense in the City/Ghent

Experience
2014-2020 Member of the Artist in community scheme, Co. Wexford
2004-2008 Selected to be a member of the Arts council
2000-2010 Artistic director of Firefly

Guest lecturer, workshops, masterclasses
2019 RAFA, Masterclass: ‘Original thinking is lonely’
2018 INSIST-2, ‘Social Innovation and the Arts: the Role of Plasticity’
2016 St. Lucas school of arts, Antwerp
2014 BAC-Gotland, Sweden
2013 KASK Gent, SIC Brussels, KUL
2011-12KASK Gent, IT CARLOW-Wexford
2010 KASK Gent, Sint Lucas Ghent

Books published
2020 Els Dietvorst, M HKA, Antwerp
2019 Wintrum Frod, Orla Barry en Els Dietvorst, Mu.ZEE, Oostende
2014 ‘ED2’, Argos, Brussels
2006 ‘ED’, Flemish community, Brussels
2004 ‘Koningskinderen’, Mol
2000 ‘No Shooting’ (with O.Barry), Provinciaal Centrum voor Beeldende Kunsten, Hasselt

Publications
2008 ‘Bienvenue’, Firefly
2004 ‘Cahiers, Solitary walker’, 2 editions, Firefly
1999 ‘The Return of the Swallows’, 3 editions, Firefly

The process is the expo, the expo is the process.