Jan van Raay



by Jan van Raay

Installation at De Appel
23 March - 8 April

ARTZIEN, Vol. 1, No. 5, March 1979
A Monthly Review of Art in Amsterdam

A refreshing new addition to Amsterdam is the concept begun by De Appel this month, the "Open Avond," or open evening. With plans to continue throughout this year, the first Wednesday of each month is being offered to artists who would like to do a performance, show films or videotape, etc. Artists need only present themselves at the gallery the day before "Open Avond" and give some idea of what they plan to do so that the evening can be almost spontaneously coordinated. This eliminates the more formal route of application to De Appel, having proposals passed by a board and then waiting for a scheduled time, and it is an excellent opportunity for those younger, less exposed artists. But they are faced with certain problems: those of time, if there are many artists applying for one night, and a necessity to produce their own announcements, if desired, or information sheets, which were non-existent the first night. One artist had printed and mailed out his own announcements, but those not belonging to a union must be prepared to cover their own expenses.

I was a bit apprehensive when I learned that there were to be five offerings the first night, March 7th, the variety and pace set by the pieces themselves made it an interesting evening. Because of the situation of De Appel, although events may occur simultaneously or one after another, it's not necessary to present all of them. There is always another space to move to. You can set your own pace.

There was an unusually large crowd the first night -- a curious mix of punk, Amsterdam art and literary regulars and others. The evening began with Gerard Pas who also videotaped his own performance. He began by presenting a round cake to the audience on which was written the words "KUNSTLEDEMATEN." He proceeded to talk about his battle with polio as a child, and to eat the cake, very slowly, as he spoke. He told the audience the story of how he became the Polio poster child, the rejections of schoolmates because her was a cripple with a heavy metal brace on his leg, and of traumatic experiences at a camp for crippled children ("Am I like them? Can't I see the difference anymore?") And her ate and ate the cake. ("So I continued to consumer and I decided to become an artist. I went to New York and my illusions were shattered because I went to the Museum of Modern Art and contracted venereal disease by rubbing my penis against a Picasso...I hear the artists of the world talk about big deals, and I wonder, and art started to become cheap.") He began to wretch, still eating. The cake was more than half consumed, but he continued to eat and talk until only the word "KUNST" remained on the icing. ("I called myself an artist for lack of a better name, and my work became like an old lived out prostitute. I didn't want it anymore.") Forcing his fingers down his throat he began to vomit over the word "KUNST," and hands dripping slime on the pink icing, he ate his own vomit. And then - "I've had enough" and it was over. It was a concise and well timed piece, but the monologue tended to get a bit overindulgent. The events of which he was speaking seemed so intense, so sincere, which made me resent the necessity to use his fingers to force vomiting. The inner pressure should have been enough.

The second offering of the evening was Harry Hoogstraten who stood reading thoughts and statements in Dutch and English as a great number of color transparencies were projected on a screen. Slides of paintings and collages, book covers, old photographs, and in the background disco music played from a tapedeck. Hoogstraten read intensely, sweat pouring down his brow, and the overabundance of slides projected on the screen, It was too long. There was too much. It was reminiscent of the late 1950s at a coffee house popular in New York then called the Gaslight on Bleecker Street. People like Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg and Kerouac could be found there, reading their poetry. Everyone thought it was very deep. Many were bored but they looked intense.

The third event was given by Roni Klinkhamer. A figure dressed in a white paper jumpsuit stood next to a film screen on which was projected a slide of a gold mask. Wearing a high hood made of newspaper, and carrying blue bag and plastic sack, the figure passed along slowly in front of the screen through the projected image of the gold mask. The bag and sack were dropped to the floor, and the newspaper hood removed, revealing a blond girl. She proceeded to tear up the newspaper hood. Then, kneeling, she pulled many newspapers from the blue bag strewing them on the floor around her. The last article out of the bag was a notebook. Revealing her palm to the audience on which was painted the "eye of God," she turned to a microphone and read from the book about the daily newspapers, "We are not protected...we want to be black on white...black it white...black and white things that happened somewhere and you read it in the daily news." I was reminded of Charlotte Moorman's piece for the Avant Garde Festival of New York in 1968, when, in the middle of Central Park, she took a copy of "The Daily News," shredded it up and put it into an electric blender with a bit of water. After making a thick gruel of it she fed it to one of New York's more popular reporters at that time. And in the early seventies Lil Picard had done "Messages, Messages," dressed in a newspaper dress and hat as slides of her own daily life ritual were projected on a screen. I regret that I wasn't able to see the completion of Ms. Klinkhamer's piece, (a coughing fit due to a recent bout of pneumonia forced me to leave the room), but my son Cassidy reported to me that she then put down her book and microphone, opened the top of her jumpsuit a bit, and pulled out five pieces of red clay. She piled them on the floor, then picked the mass up, pressing it to her forehead, chin and neck. Ripping it off she then distributed small pieces to everyone in the first row of the audience saying, "Nu ga ik de troep opruimen." (Now I'll go clean the stairs)

The audience of the fourth performance seemed to be enthralled by his lecture and wit. Egbert Switters, looking very punk, punctuated his remarks by drawing diagrams on a blackboard, and as one source said "Explained the mathematical functions relative to their occurance in this cause and effect universe. For example, the thematical significance of the tetrahedron in the pyramids and Stonehenge."

The finale this evening was by Piero Heliczer who sat at a table on which various books and magazines were placed. After some music (Te Deum by Charpenteur) he began to read what he said was something her had written some time ago. An autobiographical sketch about his wife and child deserting him in London, about sabotage and how to make a better world, and then his wife and child deserting him again, this time in France. He went on with his problems as a film maker and how we must learn to love and stop sabotage. The manner in which he delivered it made it almost embarrassing to listen to. It ended with him delivering, for sale, the collection of publications on the table which ranged from Inter/View and Kulchur to Seven Poems of Charles Henri Ford.

It was a long evening, but an unpredictable one. Hopefully "Open Avond" at De April will continue to draw both participants and an audience. And hopefully we'll have some pleasant surprises. It is a welcome idea.

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