Jan van Raay



by Jan van Raay

ARTZIEN Vol. 1 No. 1, November 1978
A Monthly Review of Art in Amsterdam

In their recent appearance, "Reindeer Werk" (Tom Puckey and Dirk Larsen) installed themselves in De Appel for five days and nights (31 October - 4 November). They brought with them 16 beds, 29 kilos of malt syrup, a sack of malt, bread, lemons and butter.

People were invited to "be" with them. To co-exist in the same time and space. There were no rules. There were no plans. Participants could come and go as they pleased.

Before the situation began, Tom Puckey stated: "The place will be continuously open whenever people want; if we (Reindeer Werk) are not asleep, we are prepared to talk with people. Every day there will be a performance, or whatever develops over the five days from 'performance'...In a way it's like we're offering a commitment for our participation in the situation as made by the spaces at DeAppel...I hope other people will make commitments as well...In addition to people familiar with De Appel as a showing space, we invite anybody who has a concern with their person and its relationship to other personas, and is dissatisfied with textbook conclusions about such things."

When this observer arrived at the beginning of their public time as stipulated by the gallery, there was a total of fourteen people living in the space (two more joined later in the week). Some had already been there for as much as two days. The three rooms, on three levels, included a kitchen. It resembled a refugee camp. The mood was quiet. There were more individuals reading or sleeping or sketching than talking. There was more self-involvement. Clothing hung Beuys-like on the gallery walls above the beds. Personal belongings were sharply separated from each other around the beds. Relics of daily like were taped in a row on the wall next to one bed. A huge plastic sack hung prominently at the far end of the first floor space began to fill with refuse. It was, on the first day, a lived-in situation reminiscent of the "be-ins" so popular in the 60s and early 70s. The atmosphere was relaxed to the point of boring. From the outside, nothing was happening.

The second and thirds days exhibited more comfort of the individuals towards one another. Two people were working together on a statement of their feelings toward the situation. There was more clutter of things brought in from the outside. Barriers, that were obvious on the first day, of personal belonging arranged around specific beds, had been broken. They mixed into and through each other. It has begun to be a ‘whole' group. But it is difficult in a gallery situation for such development. And it is difficult to know the communications and co-existence without living with it.

On the third day, more out of pressure or feelings of expectation, at 5:15 Tom Puckey began a "performance." Up until that point the situation had been developing organically. Dirk Larsen continued the "performance" for a short time, but the group was tense, uncomfortable. It wasn't a reality. This situation had nothing to do with time or schedules. The "performance" was an intrusion.

Several people living at De Appel explained to me that they had used this invitation as an opportunity to visit Amsterdam. And indeed, Dirk had said earlier, "I have come to live in Amsterdam and I know it's hard to find somewhere to live. So, now that I've found I can live in De Appel for a week or more, I offer the same possibility to others who need somewhere to stay. We can start from there. A feeling of having found somewhere to stay for a while. Somewhere to put our things. An equal basis for developing a concentration of communication. I don't want De Appel to be just ‘my house' for a week. I want it to be ‘our house.'

The group decided to give a party on Friday night, the fourth night. Some of them went around Amsterdam posting invitations to the public. Others invited friends. It was a quiet party, even with the music. Not much different from the rest of the week. People looked bored. When their time at De Appel was over, the gallery had to be cleared and cleaned of the weeks' accumulation. No one had very much to say, or wanted to say anything about what had happened (or not happened). They quietly stripped the walls of their clothing, smoked a few joints, packed up their sleeping bags, exchanged a few addresses, and most wandered off towards Central Station. It was a temporary situation with a specific end. But then, everything is temporary, everything is constantly changing, and in the end, what does it all amount to?

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