Stefano Keizers: “I'm a Trojan horse”

He goes by the name of Donny Ronny, was born Gover Meit, and we know him as Stefano Keizers. In his work, too, he's a chameleon and this September he'll become TU/e's artist in residence (AiR). Time for an interview with Cursor. Let's find out who Keizers really is. And what's in store for the students who join him for an expedition this fall.

photo Julie Hrudová

In another context Stefano Keizers – whose ID says Gover Meit – once called himself “a Trojan horse”, and it's a role he sees himself fulfilling as artist in residence. “TU/e is inviting in the devil,” he says.

“Nonsense is the tool of my trade, which is in stark contrast to scientists, who do all they can to combat nonsense,” he explains. “That shows you the bold spirit at this university, and a bold spirit is something I greatly admire. Besides, it's better to try and learn something from the devil than to chase him away with flaming torches and pitch forks.”


Keizers, who trained at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, employs nonsense in all sorts of ways to earn his keep: as a performance artist, comedian, theater maker, tv maker, writer, actor and participant in tv programs such as De verraders and Last One Laughing.

“I'm always looking to do something new that I've never done before. Paradoxically, this has revealed that – while the medium keeps changing – there's a very clear common thread running through all my work.”

What is that common thread? “I always play with conventions and expectations. I reflect, hold up a mirror to myself and others. I play the role of court jester: I'm impertinent and mischievous and I make jokes, but jokes with an underlying message.”

I have a reputation for making people nervous, but it's not the aim of this expedition to give the participants a hard time

Stefano Keizers
Artist in Residence TU/e

And just as in the olden days the only person in the royal household allowed – no, required – to mock the king was the jester, so the theater audience expects to be ridiculed by him, Keizers says. Not that the students who join his expedition have anything to worry about on that score.

“I hold TU/e students in high esteem and I appreciate their willingness to invest time on a regular basis over a ten-week period in something that, unlike their academic work, benefits their future in a rather indefinable way. I have a reputation for making people nervous, but it's not the aim of this expedition to give the participants a hard time. On the contrary, I'm laying out a cozy comforter for them.”


What does Keizers's cozy comforter consist of? Not that he'll plan everything in advance, he says. “I want to leave room for the students' own wishes.” In the video invite he recorded for Studium Generale he promises, among other things, to help those who sign up to develop the skill of ‘not knowing what to do’.

“What do you want to do with your life? Society often expects a clear-cut answer to this question, even before you've had time to give it any serious thought. Intelligence also lies, I think, in admitting you don't know something.” Especially in an era of lightning fast technological development. “Some of today's students will very likely move into jobs we can't yet imagine.”

Overcoming fears is another expedition aim, along with exploring new worlds. “Some of which are very different from the university, though surprisingly close by.” In Keizers' opinion, there's also plenty to discover on the campus itself.

“You've no doubt walked through the Auditorium at some point with butterflies in your stomach, before an exam perhaps. But probably not with the churning stomach that comes from knowing that at any moment you could be caught. And so, during the expedition kick-off – which anyone can join in, not only expedition members – we'll be playing a massive game of hide-and-seek in the building.”

Extinction Rebellion

During one of the later sessions, Keizers wants to have a discussion on sustainability with the expedition group. “I'm planning this evening with my two younger brothers, both of whom work for companies with a sustainable objective.”

“However, one of these companies is raring to commercially launch energy-related innovations but can't find any investors. Every pot is empty. While the other company is drowning in grant options, but can't tap into them because it doesn't yet have the product – circular office furniture – that it wants to sell.”

It is conflicting obstacles like these that give the sustainability debate the air of a philosophical discussion, says Keizers. Personally, he decided – in the person of Donny Ronny – to join Extinction Rebellion, the climate activists, whose reach extends via its splinter groups University Rebellion and Scientists Rebellion into the academic world, including TU/e.

“I don't want to be someone who stands on stage and complains about climate policy while standing on the sidelines. At the same time, I'm still an independent thinker and someone who is very discerning. I'm open to discussion with people who have arguments against Extinction Rebellion's views and methods. I actually like being made to have doubts and I'm curious to find out where the students stand on this topic.”


Keizers is looking forward to his conversations with the students. “I think they'll have a really interesting perspective, perhaps without realizing it. And that, if by accident I manage to get them thinking about certain issues, they'll come up with spectacular insights.”

That the TU/e community is so international – raising the expectation that the expedition team will be too – he sees as a huge advantage. “In my time at the Rietveld Academy I learned as much from my international fellow students as from the courses I took.”

I consider myself an intellectual, but I picked up my wisdom on the street

Stefano Keizers
Artist in residence TU/e

What does he think it will be like to be an artist moving among academics? “In my family, most of whom are scientists, the academic is more highly regarded than the artistic. My father actually gave me a pat on the back when he heard I'd been made artist in residence at TU/e. I feel it's an incredible honor to be asked.”

Not that Keizers feels in any way inferior. “I consider myself an intellectual, but I picked up my wisdom on the street. What connects scientists and artists is their curiosity about the as yet undiscovered. And the way they're bold enough to jump in at the deep end: that they'll invest energy in something – an experiment or art project – without knowing in advance whether it will bear fruit.”

Pedantic men

Finally, speaking of intellectual, what does Keizers think of being the next in line after Spinvis and Arnon Grunberg? They were the artists in residence at TU/e in 2019 and 2021, respectively. Does he see similarities or mainly differences with the other two AiRs?

“I think we're the three most pedantic men in the country. I regard myself as being at least as self-satisfied and nerdy as my predecessors, but I hope people think I'm a little less serious and stuffy.”

“And I'm a bit younger, which means I'm a little more in touch with the students. What's more, I know how a smartphone works. Still, the Spinvis-Grunberg-Keizers line will be great for my reputation and street cred, so I hope it'll soon be up on my Wikipedia page.”

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