Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys
Lives in Brussels, Belgium
Jos de Gruyter
Born Geel, Belgium, 1965
Born Wilrijk, Belgium, 1966
“We decided to put the grant into the production of a photo series we did for an exhibition at the Kestner Gesellshaft in Hannover, Germany... [The grant] allowed us to start the project freely and without restrictions. We trust eventually the galleries we work with will sell the work and in this way the grant is refunded to us so we can invest it again in another project.”
Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys, January 2012
Belgian visual artists Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys have been working together as a duo since the end of the 1980s. Their artistic approaches include installations, video, drawing, sculpture, performance, and photographs. Their FCA-supported work Objekte als Freunde (2011), consisting of 170 color photographs of objects glued on wood, was shown in a solo exhibition of the same name at Kestner Gesellschaft, Hannover. It was also shown at Mu.ZEE, Belgium; and Culturgest, Porto.
Thys and de Gruyter have exhibited worldwide in venues including Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna; The Museum of Modern Art, Antwerp; Freize, London; Isabella Bortolozzi Galerie, Berlin; and the 55th Venice Biennale. In 2015, a series of solo exhibitions were exhibited in the U.S. at venues including The Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco; MoMA PS1; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.
Jos de Gruyter studied at Rijksakademie in Amsterdam and Institute for Fine Arts, Sint-Lukas Brussels (1992) and at Rijksakademie, Amsterdam (1997). Harald Thys completed studies at the Institute for Fine Arts in Sint-Lukas, Brussels (1992) and at the Jan van Eyck Akademie, the Netherlands (1999).
The collaborative work of Belgian artists Jos de Gruyter & 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 non-professional 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, Thys and de Gruyter broaden the scope of reflection on socially produced behavior.