A new step in Jozef Wouters' parcours

A new step in Jozef Wouters' parcours

How can you answer the questions that a space asks you without making a site-specific piece?

As a scenographer and theater maker Jozef Wouters initiates projects that are often connected to a specific location, engaging in a dialogue between spaces, social processes and storytelling.

In his long-term research INFINI (2016-now) he asks artists from different disciplines what images they want to show in the theater, and translates these to scenography together with Decoratelier, the alliance of builders, technicians, materials and skills around his practice. Since a few years Decoratelier (Ultima podiumkunsten 2019) is a physical space in a former factory in Brussels, from which Jozef creates his worlds – a.o. through creations such as Underneath Which Rivers Flows (2019 i.s.m. Globe Aroma) – and where he invites others to create their own space via artist residencies, socially engaged projects, performance and nightlife.

A debut

Still, Jozef Wouters considers A Day is a Hundred Years as his debut in a way: mid-career, this is the first major piece he signs with his own name. A Day is a Hundred Years is a new step in Jozef’s parcours, an ongoing investigation: how can you answer the questions that a space asks you without making a site-specific piece? 

A Day is a Hundred Years coincides with an interesting moment in the development of Decoratelier,’ says Jozef Wouters. ‘Since the pandemic, my work – which includes Decoratelier – has increasingly become a space full of reality. Festivals, artist residencies, a public open-air swimming pool (FLOW, in Brussels), a fixed team… we seemed ready to take the next step, to become an independent organization. A structure that holds things together. Can a performance do the same? Can fiction be a stepping stone to reality? Most of the people who work at Decoratelier have never experienced a creation process. Yet I’m an artist. A storyteller. Can I tempt Decoratelier to continue to invent and renew?’

Barry Ahmad Talib

With A Day is a Hundred Years, Jozef Wouters makes a piece out of the wealth ánd the difficulties of his temporary structure. His protagonist is Barry Ahmad Talib, an artist who traveled from Sagale (Guinee-Conakry) to Belgium five years ago and who got involved with Decoratelier as a participant in the piece Underneath Which Rivers Flow. ‘As artist in residence at Decoratelier, Barry became the guardian of the atelier. Anyone who has been in Decoratelier knows Barry, and vice versa,’ says Jozef Wouters. ‘His faith in imagination as a tool to survive is a fundamental base line of this piece. Last fall, we came together to cut thousands of leaves out of carpet – the time-consuming and attentive work that forms the basis of Barry’s installations. During those long winter days, we listened to music and told each other stories about sleeplessness, loss, dark, light and fears. Those stories and sounds form the tissue from which A Day is a Hundred Years grows.’

a shared fiction

In more than one way, Decoratelier is transported to the stage. Barry Ahmad Talib, as well as technical director and right-hand man Menno Vandevelde, light- and sound artist Michiel Soete – who has played an important part in the development of the artistic concepts behind this and other pieces of Jozef Wouters – and production leader Marie Umuhoza were all invited to collaborate on the piece. On stage, Barry is joined by performers, musicians and artists – Kamal Tall, Micha Goldberg, Naomi Lilith Quashie and Maya Dhondt – who were involved in the program of Decoratelier in the past years. All these different facets of Decoratelier come together in a shared fiction, which does not discriminate between reality and all other possibilities.

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