18 - 21 October 2021 - Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp

Seminar and masterclass

“The world is still a wilderness. Especially in the sense that we, in Europe, are not always aware of the mechanisms of exploitation and power on which our prosperity and existence rests today.” (Jonathan Holslag)

Image from Masterclass ‘Sacrifice must be rewarded’ by Els Dietvorst.

AN ARTIST SYMPOSIUM followed by a masterclass given by Dirk Braeckman & Els Dietvorst.
A continuation of the artist platform founded by both artists: Time is a book(is Time)/part 3.

This symposium is open to the public and will take place in the LANGE ZAAL in the Royal Academy of Arts. There's no registration needed

It is the responsibility of artists to pay attention to the world, pleasant or otherwise, and to help us live respectfully in it. Artists do this by keeping their curiosity and moral sense alive, and by sharing with us their gift for metaphor. Often this means finding similarities between observable fact and inner experience, between birds in a vacant lot, say, and intuition worthy of Genesis. More than anything else, beauty is what distinguishes art. Beauty is never less than a mystery, but it has within it a promise. In this way, art encourage us to gratitude and engagement, and is of both personal and civic consequence.” (Robert Adams)

Today our society is facing unexpected, new challenges. Everything calls for change. Covid-19 gave us the challenge to re-see, re-think, re-do. And in a certain way re-connect. It opens up opportunities to stay locally, consume less and make efforts for ecological durability. Did we take this opportunity to finally make a difference? Artists can play an important role in that change. Creativity, beauty and engagement with the Other/our environment is a basic characteristic of the creative human being and can lay a humus for further development.

The essence is humanitas, the shaping of people. Man is not the last resort, it is the only remedy.”(Jonathan Holslag)

Being an engaged citizen and an active artist in society is also one of the main subjects of Els Dietvorst's Phd research ‘Partisans of the real’. She is interested in how you move as an artist, how you take a position to relate to society.

What can the position of an artist be in this post C19 society? Which tools/skills do we need? How can we be more resilient? What can lead us to create, connect, and work collectively? Which are the necessary energizers or drivers? What can bring change?

With the platform Time is a book(is Time) Dirk Braeckman and Els Dietvorst are creating an artist platform that tackles those questions and creates an active, unifying artist movement for reflection, action and dialogue in an imperative response to the ecological and socio-economic challenges of our time.

All invited guests are sharing an experience with the public from their own artistic practice. They will how to expand your work and connect with each other. This through different ways and art forms.


Day 1 - 18.10

  • 14:00 - 15:00 - TIME IS A BOOK(IS TIME). Introduction by Els Dietvorst & Dirk Braeckman
    ‘Our decline is inescapable. But let’s at least give it the lustre of beauty.’

Day 2 - 19.10

  • 10:00 - 12:00  - Conversation with Dirk Braeckman and Jonathan Holslag
    What could artists offer to, and learn from, a broader interdisciplinary platform, one that finds itself on the sideline of art, where artists could meet with other socially engaged thinkers, designers & scientists?
  • 12:00 - Lunch

Day 3 - 20.10

  • 13:30 - 14:30 - Benjamin Verdonck and Els Dietvorst in conversation with Pascal Gielen
    ‘A conversation about working in-situ, intimacy, research, desire and the poetic power of art.’
  • 15:30 - 16:00 - Zoom conversation with Els Dietvorst and Kai Bredholt of Odin theatre/ International School of Theatre Anthropology
    ‘Bartering as part of your artpractice to start new connections’

Day 4 - 21.10

  • 09:30 - 10:45 - Presentation by Flor Maesen & artists of ‘The land of the confused’
    ‘The land of the confused is an artproject that proves that a fluid exercice in identity, authorship, medium, and form is a base for empowerment.’
  • 11:00 - 12:15 - Presentation by Alex Akuete on his artist collective X-Ray company
    ‘I have always enjoyed caring for young people and creating an atmosphere where they can coexist with one another while maintaining their unique identities. I can say that this served as a mobilization agent to start Xray Community.’

This ARIA seminar & masterclass (research class) is a two-week event in De Lange Zaal organized by Els Dietvorst in the context of her PhD research 'Partisans of the Real’. The research class (from 25 till 29 October) will use work analyses and outcomes raised in the ARIA seminar. As a practice-based follow-up of the ARIA seminar, it is a test-case environment for preparing and laying the foundation of a permanent and continuing artist platform 'TIME IS A BOOK (IS TIME)'.

“The art practice of Els Dietvorst is deeply concerned with the critical balance between ecological urgency and harnessing story that can resonate beyond the local to rekindle the sense of a common artform and a primal interconnectedness.” Cherry Smith


Jonathan Holslagh

Jonathan Holslag is a professor international politics at the Free University of Brussels, where he teaches diplomatic history and international politics. He also lectures on geopolitics at various defence academies in Europe and the Nato Defence College.[1] He was invited as a guest lecturer to various universities, including the Central Party School of China, the Harvard Kennedy School, and Sciences Po, Paris.


The same questions and urgency that Dirk Braeckman and Els Dietvorst had in 2009 when they decided, to turn a festival into a book are still very actual. ‘Time is a book’ was an activist statement, it was created out of a deep concern about the arts but especially anxiety about the future of man and his (natural)world. The book was a platform for reflection about the artists’ humus, necessity and off-production time.

In 2019, the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp hosted a symposium organised by Els Dietvorst & Dirk Braeckman under the title ‘Time is a Book (is Time)’. Taken aback by the socio-economic and ecological challenges of our times, Els Dietvorst & Dirk Braeckman called for a “revolution of everyday life”: a revaluation not so much of art’s role, but of its potential in our society. Masterstudents and public were invited during this week venture on a humble yet ambitious tightrope walk between activism and archivism. Griet Teck and Simon Bultinck joined the team.

In 2021, Els and Dirk(and Griet and Simon) want to make the fundaments to make ‘Time is a book (is time)’ an active, unifying artist movement. A platform for reflection, action and dialogue in an imperative response to the ecological and socio-economic challenges of our time. They both believe in the arts as an active agent for change. In this seminar and masterclass Els and Dirk aim to share with a mixed crowd of students, artists researchers a DO IT masterclass with inspiring talks and workshops

Els Dietvorst

Els Dietvorst is a socially engaged artist. She uses dialogue, experiment and intuition as her main artistic strategies. Ever since the 1990s, she has been moved by social issues such as migration, racism and climate change. Dietvorst reflects on the human condition. As a result, major themes such as life and death, anxiety, alienation and desire are addressed in her work. She focuses particularly on the position of the outsider, pointing her gaze to/aiming her attention at those people and events that would otherwise go unnoticed. Her choice of medium, whether it be actions, documentaries, films, mud sculptures, installations, drawings or theater texts, depends on the specific circumstances and the individual nature of each project. Many of her artworks have therefore been given away or destroyed, or have perished. In september 2015 she was selected for the Moscow Biennal of Contemporary Art along with Luc Tuymans(B), Fabrice Hyber(F), Liam Gillick(USA), Gabriel Lester(NL), Li Mu(CN). In 2017 she was chosen by an international jury to win the 2-yearly Evens Arts Prize 2017. In 2018 she won the Prize for Anthropology and Sustainable Development at the prestigious International Jean Rouch festival in Paris with her film 'I watched the white dogs of the dawn'. In 2020, many of these works were remade again for the exhibition *Dooltocht/A desperate quest to find a base for hope at MHKA (Museum of Contemporary Art, Antwerp). She is currently researcher on a PhD: "Partisans of the Real" at the Royal Academy / University of Antwerp. Dietvorst is the winner of the BelgianArtPrize 2021.

Dirk Braeckman

Born in Eeklo (BE) in 1958, Dirk Braeckman has spent the past 30 years developing an impressive portfolio. Working with the medium of photography, he occupies a distinctive place within the visual arts.
Braeckman has taken part in numerous exhibitions both nationally and internationally. In 2017, he represented Belgium at the 57th Venice Biennale. He has had solo shows at The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (USA), LE BAL (Paris), De Pont (Tilburg), De Appel (Amsterdam), S.M.A.K. (Ghent), BOZAR (Brussels), M (Leuven) and ROSEGALLERY (Santa Monica, CA). Braeckman’s works are part of important private and public collections around the world, including in FRAC Nord-Pas de Calais (Dunkirk), Sammlung Goetz (Munich), De Pont (Tilburg) and Fondation Nationale d’Art Contemporain (Paris), Central Museum (Utrecht), and Musée d’Art Contemporain et Moderne (Strasbourg). There are also several publications on his artistic practice and oeuvre.

Flor Maesen/The land of the confused

The Land of The Confused can be seen as a nomadic land wherein all residing things are in a constant state of confusion and have the possibility to be fluid. Be it in identity, authorship, medium, or role in the project. The Land is inhabited and shaped by a temporary collective of artists and non-artists, inviting them to find a balance between individuality and collectivity, process and result. Ideally, The Land takes place over an extensive period of time, is in various ways a co-creation by the inhabitants, and provides the opportunity for unexpected collaborations to emerge. The Land has the ability to function as a buffer zone between an institution and artists, individuals, or between artists and a community. Its flag or logo depicts a figure sucked into a swirling vortex. This is a symbol for the world, experienced through the eyes of the confused human, who perceives without naming or identifying, and who is thus constantly overwhelmed with incentives, esthetic experiences, and divine revelations.

Kai Bredhold

“The Odin Theatre was founded in 1964 by Eugenio Barba, who remains the director. I became acquainted with them in 1990, by which time the company has already invented the barter system. As you said yourself about the contents of your book: to survive as an artist requires multiple skills. This is what acting used to be like in Shakespeare’s time, or in Molière’s day: actors were highly skilled in a wide range of things. They could sing, juggle, could perform drama, play comedy and many of them made their own costumes because they had to change parts every day. If they fell out of favour with the king, they were out on the street. And serious intellectual pieces didn’t appeal to popular audiences, who wanted comedies or juggling acts. But at some point, everything became compartmentalised: ballet and drama were assigned their own kinds of theatres, and singing went into opera houses, and so on. The Odin Theatre began with a group of young Europeans. They arrived in a tiny Italian village and stayed there for three months. There were a lot of young guys from the village hanging around, watching the actors rehearse in the courtyard, either because they were interested in theatre or because they liked the actors (there were quite a few blonde Nordic girls). They asked: ‘Can we watch your performance?’. And Eugenio answered: ‘But this is not a performance, we’re rehearsing’. They replied, ‘Yes, but we want to see what you are doing.’ To which Eugenio responded, ‘Yes, we can show you our work, but then you have to show us what you do.’ ‘No,’ they said, ‘we are only carpenters, or bartenders or farmers’. And Eugenio said, ‘I know you have many songs in this region (Puglia)’. ‘Yes, but we don’t sing them anymore.’ ‘But I know your parents and grandparents sing these songs’, so he sent them home and said, ‘You can get your grandmother and she can sing and you can accompany her with the guitar.’ That was the Odin group’s first barter, this was in 1974. This exchange prompted the entire village to visit the courtyard out of curiosity, just to see these strange actors from the north. It became a kind of a performance where people sang songs, brought wine and olives etc. So this was more or less how the barter system was born.”i

Pascal Gielen

Pascal Gielen (1970) is professor of sociology of art and politics at the Antwerp Research Institute for the Arts (Antwerp University - Belgium) where he leads the Culture Commons Quest Office (CCQO). Gielen is editor of the international book series Antennae - Arts in Society (Valiz). In 2016 he became laureate of the Odysseus grant for excellent international scientific research of the Fund for Scientific Research Flanders in Belgium. Gielen has published many books which are translated in Chinese, English, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Turkish and Ukrainian. His research focuses on creative labour, the common, urban and cultural politics. Gielen works and lives in Antwerp, Belgium.

Benjamin Verdonck

Benjamin Verdonck (1972) lives and works in Antwerp. He is a theater maker, visual artist, writer and collector. His idiosyncratic practice, both inside and outside the theater, often gives a leading role to 'things' - objects, forms, surfaces, collections of found objects - and lets them speak for themselves. His work can be read as a never-ending stream of performances, installations, actions, table theaters and pamphlets with a recurring undertone: how to give shape to the lack of public debate about the irreversible changes in our ecosystem. In response to his large-scale interventions in the public space (including the swallow's nest against an apartment building in Brussels or a year-long action in Antwerp), Benjamin Verdonck has been working in recent years on a series of small and mobile theater forms.

Alex Akuete/X-Ray company

My name is Alex Akuete. I am 25 years old and I am a multidisciplinary Artist. The art forms that I practise most often are dancing, painting and designing. I have always enjoyed caring for young people and creating an atmosphere where they can coexist with one another while maintaining their unique identities. I can say that this served as a mobilisation agent to start Xray Community. A place where young people can come together to share creativity and inspire positive growth with each other under close guidance. Together with 15 young people and with the help of the organisation Fameus Antwerpen i have been able to create since 2018 a space where new friendships, creativity, sharing and performance exist. These young people have grown to become grounded grounded individuals. They also assist me in the coaching of new young people. by sharing their stories and experiences within the collective.