JOS DE GRUYTER & HARALD THYS
Friday, March 18, 8pm
This evening of films concludes The Dirty Puppens of Woodlawn, a show Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys installed with Yale Union this winter in a Lexus ES 300.
Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys imagine their films as bearing witness to our present moment, a moment of mechanized stupefaction. The characters in their works often look a bit shocked. The artists call them immobilized: “You can see this occur in animals who are confronted with some bizarre opponent, another (bigger) animal, a human, or a combination of both.”
The films are dingy and depressed. They are populated by a cast of mannequins and the artists’ family and friends. These characters find themselves restricted, condemned as they are to eventless gloomy interiors. Sparse and constructed, these spaces are clearly stages. Here, the actors seem to be post-something: -trauma, -language, -empathy. Their actions could be mistaken for a list of symptoms. They have little motivation or power.
Inside these films is a bleak current, first and foremost bleak, something like a bleak churning current full of whirls, stoppages, flood waters carrying refuse, and there are two artists gazing at it, swept up by it, trying to channel it into some kind of whole. Whatever the bleakness is—trauma, some kind of malaise, feelings of helplessness or more likely, their mixture—that caused them to make these films, I am immensely grateful for it. History has provided ever-accelerating causes for malaise. Our history is one of continuous, rolling traumas: an aggregated abstraction. It’s within this that Thys and de Gruyter go to work. Their films do not look into any concrete moment; instead, their world and their characters, like ours, are awash in a culmination of dread (at least) a few hundred years in the making.
Watching these films means confronting a vision of intensity, withering in its austerity, imperious in its dismissal of convention and cant, solicitous only of something true about our highly mechanized world, no matter how unpleasant or embarrassing. It’s a cliché to say artists are artists of our time. Still, if we are to define “our time” as a historical moment in which we are dropping bombs on humans we’ve dehumanized; or a time in which many humans remain immobilized, stateless, and without rights; or a time in which some of us are desperate simply for a job; or even just a time when a portion of the population feels scared for reasons that are hard to name; if we define “our time” in these ways, then Jos and Harald are artists of our time.
Jos de Gruyter (b. 1965) and Harald Thys (b. 1966) live in Brussels. They met in 1987 as video students at the Sint-Lukas Brussels University College of Art and Design. Depressed and alienated by the situation, Jos and Harald stayed indoors and made films.
The Dirty Puppens of Woodlawn is organized by Matt Browning and Robert Snowden. Matt Browning (b. 1984) is an artist who lives in Seattle, WA and Vancouver, BC. Infrequently, he organizes exhibitions as Tarl, a group made up of Browning, Jessica Powers, and Jason Hirata.
Thanks to Isabella Bortolozzi, Jason Hirata, Jessica Powers, Bayard Snowden, Rob Teeters, Margot Vanheusden, and ODOT.
The Experiment, 1995
The Deserter, 1997
Ten Weyngaert, 2008
Der Schlamm Von Branst, 2008
Das Loch, 2010