Dries Verhoeven (1976 Oosterhout, the Netherlands) is a theatre maker and visual artist.
Dries Verhoeven creates installations, performances and happenings in museums, on location and in the public spaces of cities. On the boundary between performance and installation art, he critically evaluates the relationships between the spectators, performers, everyday reality and art. The spectator is directly involved in the work or given the opportunity to steer his or her own experiences.
In his work, Verhoeven highlights aspects of the common social reality in which we live. He is not concerned with conveying a statement about reality, but mainly about unbalancing the visitor in order to evoke a shared vulnerability between the viewer and the viewed work. With gestures, which radically affect the public order of everyday life, he hopes to sow the seeds of doubt about the systems that inconspicuously influence our thoughts and actions. In recent years, the current crisis mind-set and the influence of digital media on interpersonal relationships in particular have formed the basis for his projects.
In his early performances, Verhoeven worked together with exceptional people: young children, the elderly (Empty Hands, 2010), the blind (Dark room, 2011), refugees and immigrants (No man’s land, 2008). The performances challenged the visitor to consider her own world from an unexpectedly different perspective.
The meaning of the space is of great significance for Verhoeven’s work. In 2007, for the performative installation You are here, Verhoeven created a hotel for thirty visitors. Through a 400 m² mirrored ceiling, the visitor could see other spectators who, just like him, lay alone in a room. The installation functioned as a model for ‘being collectively alone’ in a modern city.
Since 2012, the work by Dries Verhoeven has shifted more towards visual art. Where the conventions in theatre are based on a stationary spectator (the visitor remains seated on a chair, unless he loses interests and walks away), the conventions of museums are rooted in a moving visitor (the visitor walks on to the next hall, unless she becomes interested in a particular work of art). According to Verhoeven, this provides an actively thinking viewer. This applies to the passer-by on the street to an even greater extent. In principal, he continues walking unless an artistic gesture interests or confuses him enough that he slows down or stops walking all together.
That’s why the works in the public arena often have no clear start and end. They function in a ‘loop’. The unsuspecting passer-by is challenged to determine how much time she will invest, and her position in relation to the work. The pieces temporarily disrupt the public order to question the prevailing status quo: the way we have designed public spaces and what we normally show and conceal there.
In the human exhibition Ceci n’est pas… (2013), Verhoeven exhibited exceptional people in a glass display case in the middle of a city. Each day, passers-by’s found themselves confronted with a different ‘exception to the rule’. In Homo Desperatus (2014), Verhoeven’s first solo exhibition, 70.000 ants lived in scale models of our current human catastrophes. ‘Via the ant’, the viewer looked at how humanity deals with disasters. In Wanna play? (Love in the time of Grindr) (2014), Verhoeven examined the changing nature of love in a time when dating apps like Grindr and Tinder supply ‘intimacy on demand’. His life and search for connection was visible to everyone for 10 days, 24/7. With the video installation Guilty Landscapes (2016) Verhoeven brings the reality of uncomfortable news images confrontingly close. He poses the question of whether a personal connection is possible between the viewer and the person being viewed. Phobiarama (2017), a theatrical ghost train erected in the middle of the street, questions the presence of angst-fuelling rhetoric in politics.
The work by Dries Verhoeven is shown in international festivals, such as Wiener Festwochen, LIFT (London), Festival Transamérique (Montreal) and Holland Festival (Amsterdam). Verhoeven has received various prizes, including the Mont Blanc Young Directors Award at the Salzburger Festspiele (You are here) and in 2018 an award for ‘Best International Performance’ at the Fadjr International Theater Festival in Teheran (Guilty Landscapes). He has worked with HAU Hebbel am Ufer Berlin, Battersea Arts Centre London and the Münchner Kammerspiele, among others. Many works were seen at SPRING, and the former Festival a/d Werf, Utrecht. The Municipality of Utrecht and the Dutch Performing Arts Fund provide continuous support for Verhoeven’s studio. Dries Verhoeven resides in Berlin and Amsterdam.