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The journey of Douwe Dijkstra

Every career in the art follows a different route. In The journey of column of the ArtEZ Business Centre, teachers will tell you about the key moments in their career. There is rarely much time to discuss this in class - but now, you'll have an opportunity to find out what choices they made, and how they got to where they are now.

The journey of Douwe Dijkstra

I’ve always been fascinated by the trajectory of a freelance career. The people you meet, the projects you do - sometimes you make it happen purposefully, other times you find them on your path through what seems like sheer coincidence. It's a journey that you can direct yourself to some extent, by being proactive, but a lot of it is random. Many of the steps of the journey I describe below flowed naturally from the work I did and the people I ran into along the way. But very little of it went 'according to plan'.

2005 - Graduation work awarded Groene Olijf Prijs [Green Olive Award] and TENT Academy Award

I graduated from the Illustration Design program at ArtEZ Zwolle. My graduation work garnered a lot of praise. Besides being nominated for the ArtEZ Academy Award, I won the Groene Olijf award for young talent (2005) and the TENT Academy Award that year. That kind of success was very encouraging, but it also raised the bar. I was only 20 when I graduated and the first few years out of school still felt like a practical appendix to my student years.

2006 – Artist-in-residence in Barcelona

With the TENT Academy Award, I was also invited to an artist residency in Barcelona. There I started making new work for the first time since my graduation in 2006. The result was a three-channel video installation titled Backpacking, which was included in the exhibition Play! The Art of the Game in the Cobra Museum. It was an early indication of the direction my work would take years later, although by then it would be much more self-aware.

Backpacking # 03 - 2006 from Douwe Dijkstra on Vimeo.

2006 – Start Festina Lente Collective

In 2006, I met Remy Harrewijn in Barcelona. Together with him and a couple of others, we founded the Festina Lente Collective, which focused primarily on applied online media projects. Although I'd found a clear direction and drive in my autonomous work at the academy, I wanted to spend a few years working on commission. In part because of the Festina Lente Collective and in part due to the commissions I took on myself, I started to change my mind. In many of these projects, I felt like my talent wasn't able to truly flourish, and I was only applying my technical skills.

Beguine - De Kift by Festina Lente Media and Douwe Dijkstra 2009 from Douwe Dijkstra on Vimeo.

2009 – start of 33 ⅓ Collective and work for Art Festival ZwArt

In 2009, for the second year in a row, I made a site-specific video installation and a performance alongside my fellow alumni Coen Huisman and Jules van Hulst for the ZwArt Art Festival in Zwolle. For the occasion, and a little tongue-in-cheek, we called our three-man team the 33 ⅓ Collective. Our festival supervisor, Michael de Roo, invited us to make an adaptation of the opera Bluebeard's Castle by Béla Bartók.

Under Exposed | ZwArt Festival 2009 | 33⅓ from 33one3rd on Vimeo.

2009 – departure Festina Lente Collective

In 2009, I left the Festina Lente Collective as a permanent member. I wanted to focus on my autonomous work and the projects of 33 ⅓ Collective

2011 – Opening night Bluebeard in Zwolle - Paris, Glasgow and New York follow

Our Bluebeard adaptation premiered at the Voi-Z festival in Zwolle. It was the first major show of 33 ⅓ Collective, for which we started a foundation with the same name and hired a business manager. Later, we performed this video mapping opera at music theater festivals in Paris, Glasgow, and New York. The performance really put our collective on the map and resulted in our involvement with a lot of other music projects, including some niche musical theater collaborations that we didn't quite feel at home in.

BlueBeard trailer | 33one3rd.com from 33one3rd on Vimeo.

Goodbye New York from 33one3rd on Vimeo.

2013 – First solo exhibition at Stedelijk Museum Zwolle

In 2013, my first solo exhibition DoorDouwe opened in the Stedelijk Museum in Zwolle. I was invited to do a show there because I won the museum's industry award in 2011. For the first time since my residency in 2006, I started to make truly new, truly autonomous work: a three-channel video installation that further elaborated on the themes from my ArtEZ graduation work.

DOORDOUWE - solo exhibition Douwe Dijkstra - trailer #1 from Douwe Dijkstra on Vimeo.

2014 –Premiere Démontable at the International Film Festival Rotterdam + first nomination Gouden Kalf

In response to the online trailer of my solo exhibition, I received an e-mail from a programmer of the IFFR asking me if the video installation was also available as a short film. I took the question as an invitation and, in late 2013, edited the short Démontable using material from my video installation. The film was selected for the IFFR 2014, premiered there, and was then shown at more than a hundred film festivals across the world. It was also nominated for a Gouden Kalf [major Dutch film award]. The reception of my work and my encounter with the world of short films confirmed my intuition that I had grasped something significant with this combination of medium, content and audience.

Démontable - (TRAILER) from Douwe Dijkstra on Vimeo.

2015 – Premiere Voor Film Go Short Film Festival Nijmegen + second nomination Gouden Kalf

After seeing Démontable, the Go Short Film Festival in Nijmegen asked me to make a short film in 2014, to be shown in Dutch arthouse cinemas. The result was Voor Film, my second short, which takes tentative steps into documentary territory. The film premiered at Go Short in 2015 and it was also nominated for a Gouden Kalf award. Just like before with Démontable, it was shown at many international film festivals and I sometimes had the opportunity to travel along, making new connections in the European film world.

Supporting Film / Voor Film from Douwe Dijkstra on Vimeo.

2015 – Artist-in-Residence in Museu da Imagem e do Som in São Paulo, Brazil

Here, I made a short documentary titled Green Screen Gringo, which combines many of the themes and methods from my prior work and which further developed the direction I wanted to take with my autonomous work.

Green Screen Gringo from Douwe Dijkstra on Vimeo.

2018 - 33 ⅓ Collective stops

After so many beautiful international projects, growing pains and adventures, 33 ⅓ Collective ceased to exist at the end of 2018. Our friendship remains, and so do all the things I learned and inspiration I found in the areas of live performance, music and video projections; areas I want to continue to explore.

2020 – application for Teledoc Campus for documentary

In 2020 I wrote a Teledoc Campus application for a documentary on Abdiwahab Ali, my neighbor in the building where I rent my studio. It's a project that combines many of the motifs and techniques from Démontable and Green Screen Gringo with an approach to filmmaking that is new to me personally: close to the skin of the subject and with my own relationship with the protagonist at the center. This project is made possible thanks to funding by the CoBo fund, the NPO and the Dutch Film Fund. I hope to complete it later in 2021.

Looking back on my key moments, I remember a lot of beautiful encounters and surprises. I'm also grateful for those experiences that turned out not to fit exactly with my own direction; they still help me to collaborate successfully with others. I now see my choice to return my focus to individual autonomous work and combine it with travel as my most valuable decision. On some level, I already knew this was what I wanted to do shortly after I graduated. I think I wasn't fully prepared to commit to it because I lacked experience. What followed was an organic chapter of after-study study. And in a way, that's how I still work: without a business plan, I follow the wind.

Follow Douwe

We interviewed Douwe Dijkstra alongside Ratna Ho (Fashion Design-Arnhem) and Simone Trum (Graphic Design-Arnhem) during the (online) meeting of the Community Cultural Entrepreneurship of the ArtEZ Business Center.