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.

Els Dietvorst

Recent works