Decoratelier is a constantly evolving project, founded by Jozef Wouters and Menno Vandevelde. The former factory in Molenbeek (Brussels) is used for theatrical productions, interdisciplinary collaborations and social experimentation.
Jozef Wouters is an autonomous artist in residence at Damaged Goods. He founded Decoratelier in 2016, together with his technical director, Menno Vandevelde. Located in an old factory building at Manchesterstraat 17/19 in Brussels, it is the base for his various projects and artistic collaborations and an accessible workplace for artists from various disciplines.
"Decoratelier is a space that accommodates the various forms of collaboration and labour that are inherent in my work. Space is tested, conversations take place in wood, iron and cardboard. It is a permanent place within the constructional quest for constantly changing spaces in which art, thought and artisans meet." (Jozef Wouters)
How do you fall asleep? How can you adjure the night? Let go of your fears and embrace the possibilities of the dark? Stop lying awake with your mind blinded by rays of thoughts, but get up and take a walk in the shadows?
Since 2019 Jozef Wouters has shared his Decoratelier in Brussels with Barry Ahmad Talib, an artist from Conakry (Guinee) who like him suffers from insomnia. From within their sleepless nights, they have conversations made of more than words. An alliance of technicians, musicians, performers and poets forms around them. At night, they gather in Decoratelier to shape a world of fragile structures, built out of light and sound, fuel and time. A shadow atelier, where the table saw is idle and building takes place in hushed tones.
Wouters and his team transport this world to the stage, which becomes both the playing field and the wings. A Day is a Hundred Years is a tool, a planetarium of sorts, that can produce other forms of visibility. It is a theater which trades the central perspective for a multitude of gazes, where the scenography sees us more than we see it.
Premiere: 18-20 May 2023 – Toneelhuis (Antwerp, BE)
Written and directed by Jozef Wouters
Artistic collaborators Michiel Soete and Barry Ahmad Talib
Performed by Barry Ahmad Talib, Maya Dhondt, Micha Goldberg, Naomi Quashi, Kamal Tall
Scenography Jozef Wouters
Light design Michiel Soete
Dramaturgy Bryana Fritz
Technical director Menno Vandevelde
Built by Decoratelier (Brussels)
Inside eyes Enzo Smits and Lila John
Production management Vincent Focquet, Michiel Soete and Marie Umuhoza
Production Damaged Goods
Coproduction Wiener Festwochen (Vienna), Toneelhuis (Antwerp), PACT Zollverein (Essen)
With the support of the Flemish Government, the Flemish Community Commission and the tax shelter measure of the Belgian Federal Government in coproduction with Perpodium
Artist and scenographer Jozef Wouters and his Decoratelier built a construction to shelter the talks and discussions of Syndicat! during the festival Between Land and Sea. This space is a continuation of The Soft Layer, a work started four years ago in the historic building of Dar Bairam Turki in Tunis, as part of the Dream City Biennale. The texts created there will be performed by local actors on the opening night of the program.
Exploring the area of Palermo and responding to the materials they find there, Wouters and his team re-enact the 17th century space in a new context. Local sandstone – tufo – and the debris of demolished palazzo’s, polished by the Mediterranean Sea, mirror their memories of Tunis but carry their own site-specific stories. The structure follows Dar Bairam Turki’s ground plan, like the ghost of that space, but with a strong connection to the present – literally, as it adjoins the Ecomuseo di Palermo. By giving an answer to the existing circumstances, The Soft Layer turns a building into a question.
Initially envisioned as temporary, the structure will remain part of the museum until next summer as a multifarious space for encounter and collaboration.
Designed and built by Jozef Wouters and Menno Vandevelde
Original design Tunis in collaboration with Vladimir Miller
Structures in words, ephemeral spaces made of cardboard and imagined scenographies – yet there was no time to build them. Fragile spaces made of paper that transform the theatre into a gigantic book. Scenographer Jozef Wouters and dramaturge Jeroen Peeters were going to make a performance around this idea when the coronavirus struck, the event was cancelled and suddenly they had too much time on their hands during those strange weeks of lockdown in the spring of 2020.
Moments Before the Wind has therefore become a book, a collection of notes on scenography that offer an insight into the poetics and artistic practice of Jozef Wouters and Decoratelier. Reflections on space, scenography, making art and institutional critique invite the reader to think along or to raise questions, to think out loud and to invent their own space.
Moments Before the Wind was published by Varamo Press in September 2020 and is for sale in our webshop.
Moments before the wind is also an autonomous performance, created on the occasion of the book presentation in September 2020, when Decoratelier took over the auditorium of Vooruit. In this performance the book, as well as spaces and ideas that resisted its pages, is brought to life on stage. Quotations from previous creations and voices of kindred artists are compiled in a new performance that disrupts and renews our perspective on and in the auditorium.
Concept & performance Jozef Wouters en Jeroen Peeters
Light & sound Michiel Soete
Technical director Menno Vandevelde
Many thanks to Barry Ahmad Talib en Rimah Jabr
Production Damaged Goods
Coproduction Kunstencentrum Vooruit
Decoratelier Jozef Wouters
INFINI is an ongoing research project by Decoratelier Jozef Wouters. It is driven by the desire to question the classical theatre machine and its perspectival sets. The project originated in 2016, when Wouters produced the performance INFINI 1-15 for the Royal Flemish Theatre in Brussels (KVS). Working with the team then associated with his Decoratelier, the key question he addressed was: “what spaces should we show in the theatre today?” Fourteen artists entered into a dialogue with Jozef Wouters and Decoratelier, and each conversation yielded an infini: a unique interpretation of the painted backdrops that are lowered with pulleys in a classical theatre to serve as a horizon for the imagination.
Today, INFINI is not so much a performance as a growing collection of sets, each one of which – and sometimes independently of the others – tells its own story.
The INFINI 1-15 publication is also an offshoot of the Infini project; a translation of scenographic space and image into word and layout. The book was presented in September 2017 at Wouters’ Decoratelier, when all fifteen infinis were reassembled for the occasion.
Rimah Jabr & Decoratelier Jozef Wouters
Because we might not have the time to talk (about art) tonight, I have decided to write you a letter. I’d like to ask you the questions that came to mind when thinking about tunnels and endlessness – the two topics that I remember from our brief conversation at the Decoratelier in Brussels. I’m curious as to why the space of a tunnel is important to you. What is it about tunnels that turns them into an environment for a story, like the one you told me, about people being stuck?
Jozef Wouters, Nablus, August 14
Scenographer Jozef Wouters wrote a letter to the Palestinian playwright and director Rimah Jabr. What kind of space or landscape would she like to be represented on stage? Which space should Decoratelier construct for her? Their correspondence began with pictures of the tunnels under the Gaza wall. Later, these images were transformed into wood, canvas and paint. The final set, in combination with a letter from Rimah Jabr, results in a sharp and imaginative observation of a situation that can only be expressed in its absurdity.
Infini #5 was created as part of Infini 1-15, the Decoratelier performance in which fifteen artists considered which space or landscape they would like to see represented in a theatre today.
text Rimah Jabr / scenography Jozef Wouters / dramaturgy Jeroen Peeters / light Ken Hioco / technical direction Menno Vandevelde / production manager Celine van der Poel / decoratelier Ryma Merghoub, Stijn Maes, Tim Vanhentenryck / production Decoratelier Jozef Wouters, Damaged Goods (Brussels) / thanks to Dries Douibi, Bruno Forment, Ine Craenhals, Chris Keulemans and KVS (Brussels)
Globe Aroma & Decoratelier Jozef Wouters
“One day, a large banner suddenly appeared on the facade of the Decoratelier, showing a virtual vision of what the neighbourhood might look like in the future. The atelier and its surroundings had been replaced by a large park. That same day, I met a group of people from Globe Aroma and we decided to dig a hole towards this future park that, right now, is still an old factory. In the enormous void we taught each other to build out loud: a form of construction in which there is no difference between speaking, dreaming and building. Gradually an alternative park took shape, a park where memories and imagination intermingle, a secret garden filled with shadows and a jumble of grey zones. As yet I understand little of it, but it seems to be a place where people can decide for themselves whether or not to be visible or invisible, and this in the heart of the city.” (Jozef Wouters)
For a year, Decoratelier Jozef Wouters worked with Open Arts House Globe Aroma on Underneath Which Rivers Flow. A group of women and men – builders, poets and dreamers – met weekly in the Decoratelier in Molenbeek. Together, they built stories, a secret garden full of wormholes to unsuspected worlds.
Read a text by Guy Gypens about the broader context of the project here.
Watch an interview with Bushra Lamsyeh and Jozef Wouters here below.
Underneath Which Rivers Flow
A project by Globe Aroma & Decoratelier Jozef Wouters
Building Poets Barry Ahmad Talib, Ali Alkrizi, Mimouna Amri, Mbarek Bouallaga, Zohir Boumelha, Sekou Coumbassa, Chantal Gyselinx, Idris Hassan Hardi, George Khuroshvili, Bushra Lamsyeh, Soumaya Mahroug, Shilemeza Prins, Randy Renders, Marie-Ange Sibi, Ifrah Yusuf Magan, Tahar Zadam
Artistic direction Jozef Wouters
Artistic collaborator Jeroen Peeters
Dramaturgy Vladimir Miller
Decoratelier Menno Vandevelde (technical director), Lukas Geerens, Jan Rymenants, Willem Rys, Koen Schetske, Vic Van den Bossche, Siemen Van Gaubergen, Casper van Overschee
Film Robbrecht Desmet
Light Michiel Soete
Sound in collaboration with Vincent Malstaf
Production management Penelope Desloovere, Brecht Theunis, Camille Thiry, Ewoud Vermote
Production Damaged Goods, Globe Aroma
Co-production Kaaitheater, Netwerk Aalst
Special thanks to Saïd Amrawu, Alex Cepile
Thanks to Thomas Collier, Wannes Cré, Philip Delbecque, Pieter Dumoulin, Marlies Jacques, Sirine Jen, Lila John, Sanae Khamlichi, Ferre Marnef, Hana Miletic, Kristof Vande Walle (M – Museum Leuven), Sarah Vanhee, Nathanael Van Hoecke, De Lork vzw, Gemeente Molenbeek, L’Escaut Architectures, WijkAntenne de Quartier
Part of the two-year collaboration between Netwerk Aalst and Jozef Wouters, within the framework of The Unreliable Protagonist-programme (2017-2019). For Netwerk Aalst, this project was managed by Els Silvrants-Barclay.
Decoratelier Jozef Wouters & Vladimir Miller
In response to an invitation from Dream City – the Tunis Biennial for Contemporary Art – Jozef Wouters took residence in the historic building of Dar Bairam Turki and asked the residents of the Medina which visions they had for it. One thing almost everyone seemed to agree on: the future of the Medina and of Dar Bairam Turki is a restored version of itself. But which version of the past should we select to be the new future and how do we make that choice? If the only imaginable future is the past, then where are we now?
Jozef Wouters and artistic collaborator Vladimir Miller gather these conflicting ideas around restoration in a process that adds layers to this building instead of peeling them off. Together with the Tunisian artists Amira Chebli, Hichem Chebli and Fatma Ben Saïdane this ephemeral Soft Layer will be performed in order to temporarily restore the collective histories, imaginations and visions that make up the nostalgic territory of architecture. If we keep adding layers, stories, copies and visions to it, will the courtyard one night expand and be able to hold the many versions of itself without bursting?
After its premiere in Tunis, the group will bring this ritual to other places, beginning with Vooruit in Ghent.
made with & performed by (nightshift) Fatma Ben Saïdane, Amira Chebli, Hichem Chebli, Vladimir Miller, Jozef Wouters (dayshift) Ahmed Ayari, Kais Ben Rejeb, Valérie Bikok, Manoubi Cherif, Emna Hamdi, Laila Missaoui I costumes Lila John I sound in collaboration with Milan Warmoeskerken I technical director Menno Vandevelde I technical assistants Aziz Romdhani & Syrine Chekili I production team Aisha Zaied, Selma Ben Gaied & Insaf Mejri I thanks to Jeroen Peeters I production Dream City Tunis, L’Art Rue, Damaged Goods I coproduction Arts Centre Vooruit
Decoratelier Jozef Wouters
The Unbuilt School of Architecture is a school without a building. It only exists temporarily and needs to be built time and time again by a group that comes together to work on a specific topic. The school was established for the first time within the context of the Free School-program of Kunstenfestivaldesarts. Jozef Wouters, the team of Decoratelier, and Brussels based art/party collective Leaving Living Dakota invited a small group of participants to discuss, design, construct and host a nightclub. What night-space do our collective desires invent? Or should we choose to focus on our conflicting ones? How visible or invisible do we want to be? What other forms of public space can we come up with? Can architecture keep a secret?
In collaboration with: Leaving Living Dakota (Célia Wu-tangu and Golce Dabanna) and Steven Jouwersma
Participants: Irène Bouzin, Melissa Jin, Maru Kay, Gülce Padem, Clemence Marin, Vesara Molla, Maria Muehombo, Benjamin Munix, Maria Mushtriev, Charlotte Nagel, Isabelle N’diaye, Joris Perdieus, Mariagiulia Serantoni, Marion Stucky, Erik van de Wijdeven, Elina Valdmane, Lizzy Vandierendonck, Ode Windels
Coproduction: Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Decoratelier Jozef Wouters, Damaged Goods
Supported by: SAU/MSI urban development corporation
Building Out Loud is a form of improvised construction in which sketching, making, expressing and speaking take place simultaneously. More than a name for a specific project, it is a common theme that includes various projects and spaces.
In addition to their own work and projects, Decoratelier Jozef Wouters creates scenographies in collaboration with various artists, makers and organisations.
Night Shift is an endless swirl of interventions and experiments, allowing each action to leave behind a unique trace and stimulating crossovers to trigger the unexpected. For this edition Gouvernement and close collaborator Decoratelier invite an unlikely assemblage of artists to head to the seaside and construct a space to research, share and show generously.
After the previous Night Shift is now landing in an unusual time and space: the summer in Oostende. During three days, on the 26, 27 and 28th of July, artists will present their work in and around the youth-center OHK.
Preceding the days of public showings, intense research periods on location will allow the artists to connect to each other & their surroundings. Each bringing their own practices, interests, questions and visions to the seaside. Out of the comfort zone of the regular season and the usual infrastructures, artists will look for different ways of working and sharing. As part of an always-shifting shared platform, artists will activate many spaces within structures of care and with the support of many.
26, 27 and 28th of July 2022
From 18:00 to 00:00
In and around OHK
(Koninginnelaan 1, 8400 Oostende)
15€ & reduction price 7,5€
A project by
Gouvernement, Decoratelier, VIERNULVIER, De Studio, CAMPO, Toneelhuis, De Singel, OHK, KAAP, Theaterfestival, Perpodium & Theater Aan Zee
The players of the National Lottery, the Flemish Government and the Tax Shelter of the Belgian Federal Government
Order tickets here
Night Shift team
Nele Keukelier, Vincent Focquet, Marie Umuhoza, Deborah Van Haute, Michiel Soete, Lies Vanborm