Kunstmuseum aan zee Collecties van
de Vlaamse Gemeenschap
Stad Oostende

@ Mu.ZEE & Permekemuseum 

Orla Barry and Els Dietvorst both centre their work around human interaction and the relationship between mankind and the natural world. The oeuvre of the two artists is closely linked to their reflections on society and is based on sustainable and respectful interactions with all living things. Mu.ZEE has invited them to stage a joint exhibition at two locations: the Permekemuseum in rural Jabbeke, and Mu.ZEE in the city of Ostend. The Permekemuseum is housed in the former home of Constant Permeke, a painter with a huge admiration for farming and fishing who decided to build his own house amid a green landscape. These surroundings have now been eaten up by villas, a busy road and a petrol station. The contrasts between the natural and urban environment, and between past and present, are inextricably entwined with this location. Thanks to the substantial links with the work of Orla Barry and Els Dietvorst, it provides an ideal context for their exhibition.

In 2011, Orla Barry and Els Dietvorst established a sheep farm together in Ireland. The organisational and physical responsibilities that this entailed influenced them both as human beings and as artists. Indeed, ‘learning by doing’ has always been a core part of their artistic practice. By working together and analysing the environment, but chiefly by engaging in the work themselves, they accumulate knowledge that they subsequently process and share in their oeuvre.

The exhibition ‘Wintrum Frod’ is the first project in which Orla Barry and Els Dietvorst unite the works that grew out of their experiences on the sheep farm. The title is Anglo-Saxon for ‘wise in winters’ and refers to the knowledge gained through extremely cold seasons. All the works in the exhibition are closely connected to their surroundings in Ireland. At the same time, the project can be seen in a wider context as a reflection on contemporary industrialised society. Indeed, the sheep farm operates in the market economy and follows the logic that goes hand in hand with this game. The evolution in food production is just one consequence of capitalist thinking that influences a more general vision of society. Because we want cheap food, companies drive through economies of scale in order to work more efficiently, and the individual is excluded from the process. Knowledge passed down and accumulated by producers through their years of personal involvement is being downplayed and set aside. The relationship between consumers and food is also fading and is leading to a growing gulf between human beings and the natural world. As a reaction to these evolutions, Orla Barry and Els Dietvorst go in search of vanishing areas of expertise, for example in pedigree sheep breeding, or in fishing traditions, and bring together these diverse narratives in individual works.

With the support of Culture Ireland and Irish Arts Council.

Overview future exhibitions »

06/07 - 03/11/2019