The Vrije Universiteit Brussel has awarded honorary doctorates to photographers Stephan Vanfleteren and Dirk Braeckman. They each receive the title of Doctor Honoris Causa. The ceremony took place during the Theater Aan Zee festival in Ostend, of which rector Caroline Pauwels is the curator this year and where VUB has a major presence with activities that connect art and science.
After months of imposed distance and isolation, VUB celebrates and forges a connection with these two exceptional photographers, to consciously build a bridge between science and art. "Artists and scientists are pioneers, mindblowers. After all, they both work from a place of curiosity, wonder, freedom, creativity and critical thinking. The work of photographers such as Stephan Vanfleteren and Dirk Braeckman proves that," says Caroline Pauwels, "I think that, given the challenges facing our 21st-century society, we all have an interest in bringing artists and scientists together more often. Away from the silos in which we have put them, back into a mutually challenging dialogue and exchange full of wonder."
The award for Vanfleteren was pronounced by Olga Van Oost, the general director of heritage organization FARO and a part-time professor of sociology of art and culture at VUB. "A time of isolation, illness, loss, loneliness and emptiness dawned on us all. Raw and bleak. But it was also a time of warmth and hope," she said. "In difficult times we need artists and thinkers to guide us. Who show us that emptiness does not always have to be synonymous with decay and finiteness. That is what this great artist does."
Fabienne Brison, who teaches media law and intellectual rights at VUB, addressed the award for Dirk Braeckman. "Dirk Braeckman offers us not so much photos, but images," she said. "And he is very selective in doing so: a counterpoint to the multiplicity and speed with which we are overwhelmed today. Dirk Braeckman is socially committed, but as an artist he does not preach."
After the official awarding of the honorary doctorates, host Fien Sabbe welcomed writer Peter Verhelst and musicians Mauro Pawlowski and Brihang to pay further tribute to the laureates.
Stephan Vanfleteren Stephan Vanfleteren has been an internationally acclaimed photographer for 30 years. He studied photography at the LUCA School of Arts in Brussels, worked as a freelance photographer for De Morgen from 1993 to 2009, and is co-founder and art director of publishing house Kannibaal/Hannibal. Since 2010 he has been a guest lecturer at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Ghent. He is known for his black and white portraits and reportage at home and abroad. His work is characterised by sobriety and character photography. Vanfleteren expresses desire in his work and provokes thought with light and dark, white and black. He connects past and present, life and death, concrete and nature, grief and hope, defeat and resilience, loneliness and togetherness with the four primal elements as a background: water, earth, fire and air. Each of his initiatives is preceded by careful observation and critical analysis of the subject and is underpinned by authentic humanist values.
Dirk Braeckman Dirk Braeckman is internationally appreciated and renowned as a photographer, sculptor and pictorial artist who seeks interfaces and cross-fertilization with other art forms. He studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent from 1977 to 1981. In 1982 he co-founded the Galerie XYZ in Ghent with Carl De Keyzer. Between 1994 and 1997 he taught photography at the National Higher Institute for Fine Arts in Antwerp, and in 1999 he was a lecturer at the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht. Former Flemish minister Sven Gatz commissioned Braeckman to represent Belgium at the 57th international art exhibition La Biennale di Venezia from in 2017. Like an explorer, Braeckman seeks out the boundaries in photography. He pushes them and invites us to explore the multi-layered meaning of his art. Braeckman also invites the viewer to embark on their own quest and gives them the freedom to interpret.
Sicco Wittermans Woordvoerder en persrelaties Vrije Universiteit Brussel Vrije Universiteit Brussel is an internationally oriented university in Brussels, the heart of Europe. By providing excellent research and education on a human scale, VUB wants to make an active and committed contribution to a better society.
The World Needs You The Vrije Universiteit Brussel assumes its scientific and social responsibility with love and decisiveness. That’s why VUB launched the platform De Wereld Heeft Je Nodig - The World Needs You, which brings together ideas, actions and projects based on six Ps. The first P stands for People , because that’s what it’s all about: giving people equal opportunities, prosperity, welfare, respect. Peace is about fighting injustice, big and small, in the world. Prosperity combats poverty and inequality. Planet stands for actions on biodiversity, climate, air quality, animal rights... With Partnership , VUB is looking for joint actions to make the world a better place. The sixth and last P is for Poincaré , the French philosopher Henri Poincaré, from whom VUB derives its motto that thinking should submit to nothing except the facts themselves. VUB is an ’urban engaged university’, strongly anchored in Brussels and Europe and working according to the principles of free research.
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