Els van Houtert

Els van Houtert a multimedia artist and a researcher. Her academic roots are in cultural anthropology (BA, Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, NL) and religious studies (MA, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, NL). Currently (since 2019) she is doing her Masters in Art & Science at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna (AT). With a transdisciplinary approach she examines each of her projects artistically, socioculturally, and philosophically. Her projects mostly revolve around ritual practices, (micro) phenomenology of experience, other-than-human beings and new materialism. Recurring themes in her works are the dynamic relationships between dreams, memories and possible realities. In her work she explores daily life-as-lived, by taking a microscopic look at small everyday experiences, in order to bring to light the familiar and the unfamiliar in them. These microscopic inquiries start with her own everyday encounters, and Els sees and explores her own body as a principal resource in her artistic explorations. Els’ practice is playful, interactive, process-oriented and multidisciplinary: it includes academic and creative writing, field research, participatory observation, in-depth interviews, drawing, painting, installation, and time-based and site-specific art. During the Octopus Programme 2021, Els will artistically and anthropologically research everyday ritual practices of meaning-making. She will work interactively with different individuals who participate in her research project.

project in process

Reaching out for the Beyond

In her project ‘Reaching out for the Beyond,’ Els van Houtert dives into the varieties of everyday meaning making. She looks at how people build meaningful, everyday relationships with things, such as places, the body, ritualized activities, and objects. Things they deem special, and through which what is absent becomes tangible. Things, through which people experience a sense of connectedness with what lies beyond.

By focusing on life on an everyday basis, Els intends to portray an inclusive and grounded account of ways of reaching out. An account that embraces the complexity and the “situatedness” of everyday life-as-lived. She will explicitly concentrate on sensational and bodily forms of awareness, mixing anthropological, (micro) phenomenological, and artistic research methods. 

In collaboration between Els and the participants of the Octopus Programme, personal ways of reaching out will be collected, documented, and presented as portals to the beyond. Through a dialogue between absence and presence, materiality and transcendence, the everyday and the eternal, Els intends to tell stories of situatedness and searching.