We live in a world that is beautiful, inspiring, mysterious and diverse. Ánd we live in a time that is loud, bizarre, bold and unfair.
Julian Hetzel (° 1981) believes that art must therefore be loud, bizarre and bold, as well as beautiful, inspiring, mysterious and diverse. For him, theater is a way to explore the complexity of the world and to shape its outcomes in such a way that the audience is carried away and touched. His performances arouse wonder and confront, challenge and sometimes evoke strong reactions. Marijn Lems (NRC) calls Hetzel a "professional provocateur" who consciously exceeds the limits of what is acceptable.
In addition to being provocative, Hetzel's performances are also poetic, moving and humorous. With a sleek visual language based on contemporary design, he brings complex moral, social and political dilemmas close to the public. Instead of telling stories, he makes his audience part of situations that evoke associations and emotions and challenge you to wonder. These are often very recognizable situations such as those of a trendy store (Schuldfabrik), a game show (The Automated Sniper) or a museum (All Inclusive). With his bright, slightly surrealistic visual language, he evokes wonderful worlds that have a lot to do with the world that we (think we) know but, at the same time, our thinking is turned upside down by how things are enlarged or extended to the absurd.
Hetzel's oeuvre and his way of working cross borders and that is not only a matter of provocative content and international tours, but also relates to the form, the creation of the performances and where they are shown. Freely combining disciplines that have once been separate, such as theater, performance and visual arts, goes without saying for him. His works are shown in theaters but also in public spaces, such as on the street or in shopping centers. The boundary between what belongs to the performance and what does not is vague. Schuldfabrik confronted shoppers with a pop-up store that was indistinguishable from real, where real soap made from human fat was sold as part of a theatrical installation that could be visited through a store.
Fiction and reality also intertwine with theater performances. In The Automated Sniper, actors must defend themselves against the real violence of a paintball gun in the eyes of the public. For All Inclusive, real rubble that was imported from Syria acted as the basis for artworks by a fictional artist named Julian Hetzel, and the public looked at real refugees visiting an exhibition of this work. After the performance, the audience visits a fictional museum shop where various works of art from the performance can actually be purchased. For Schuldfabrik, Hetzel designed a brand name / visual identity that at first sight could hardly be distinguished from commercial 'branding' of hip, contemporary lifestyle products, but at the same time raised questions about who actually benefited from how large commercial companies use charities as a marketing strategy.
Typical for how Hetzel uses this strategy of subversive affirmation is how he opposes great ideas and ideologies in his work. For instance, the confrontation of the character of the tour guide and her philosophical glorification of violence in art in All Inclusive with real refugees who have experienced war violence up close. It puts the viewer in an uncomfortable position. In this way, the audience is taken along into an exploration of conflicting world views, views and experiences.
This strategy of confrontation and affirmative confirmation is also the basis of the name of Hetzel's organisation: Ism & Heit, a combination of two suffixes that can be added to nouns to describe ideas, movements and trends, such as in real -ism and Schön-heit. The name Ism & Heit invites you to fill in various words for these suffixes and thus shows how the work of Hetzel provides a stage for playing out worlds of thought against each other. The combination of German and English expresses the international character of the way of working of Hetzel and his team.
Ism & Heit is a flexible and dynamic collaboration focused on developing, producing and displaying Hetzel's work. To this end, Ism & Heit has developed close partnerships with a large number of partners at home and abroad, including SPRING, Het Huis and Theater Kikker in Utrecht, Frascati in Amsterdam, Noorderzon (Groningen), Kaaitheater (Brussels), CAMPO (Ghent), Schauspiel Leipzig, Kammerspiele (Munich), Spielart Festival (Munich), Gessnerallee (Zurich), Steirischer Herbst (Graz) and Actoral (Marseille).
Press & Prizes
"Julian Hetzel's work belongs to the most radical events in today’s art world."
Anja Nioduschewski, Theater der Zeit (01/2020).
The quality of Julian Hetzel's work is internationally acclaimed. This is apparent from reactions in the press and also from the selection for prizes and prestigious festivals. In 2017, The Automated Sniper won the VSCD-Mime prize. All Inclusive was selected for the Dutch Theater Festival in 2019 and lead actress Kristien De Proost was nominated for the Theo d’Or. In the same year, SELF was selected as the Dutch entry for the Prague Quadrienniale and Schuldfabrik for the Adelaide Festival (Australia). At the Theater Biennale 2019 in Venice, three (!) Of Hetzel's performances were shown.