The collaborative work of artists Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys is rooted in a folksy, tragicomic sensibility honed into an experimental dramaturgy. Their video and photographic work use simple, symbolic sets, including the paradigmatic spaces of home, battlefield, urban periphery and community hall. They have engaged a recurring cast of nonprofessional actors as well as invented or adopted personae spanning the forms of puppets, dummies, plush animals, makeshift robots and rejected toys. These characters continually rehearse power dynamics and emotional entanglements, creating worlds not unlike our own, yet more focused, bizarre and bleak. The artists seek ways to confront marginal, incapacitated, lost and alienated subjects without defining these “others” in sociological terms. In this sense, and especially in their novel use of a ghoulish humor, De Gruyter and Thys broaden the scope of reflection on socially produced behavior.
Ten Weyngaert (2007) – “vineyard” in archaic Flemish – is the name of a community/youth center in Brussels. The video presents the everyday bureaucracy and microcosm of the center – a would-be utopian and creative haven gone a bit wrong – transposing it into a world ruled by a spider, with robots as intermediaries between the minute monarch and its subjects. Odd situations and hilarity ensue, in a tragicomic, allegorical study of group psychology and dynamics, especially when under pressure.
Harald Thys and Jos de Gruyter live and work in Brussels and have been working together since the mid-1980s. Their work has been widely exhibited throughout Europe including solo and duo exhibitions at Aliceday, Brussels; MUHKA, Antwerp; SMP, Marseille; Galerie Carlier/Gebauer, Berlin; and Galerie EOF, Paris. Their work has also been included in exhibitions at Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin; Bozar, Brussels; and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, among others.
Courtesy the artists, Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin
Curated by Daniel Fuller