Jan van Raay



by Jan van Raay

Installation at De Appel
23 March - 8 April

ARTZIEN, Vol. 1, No. 6 April 1979
A Monthly Review of Art in Amsterdam

This exhibition of Abromovic and Ulay at de Appel consists of a double installation of new work and a video tape of a performance done at the Brooklyn Museum in New York on May 13, 1978. It is a concise and direct statement, without flourish, almost zenlike in its simplicity.

I was present at the performance of "Charged Space," the piece being shown on video tape, and it was interesting to see it from a new perspective almost one year later. The situation was a very large gallery of the museum where huge super realistic paintings hung on the walls. Many of the spectators present were other participants in the European Performance Festival which had been coordinated by Jan Brand and Sharon Avery. It was an excellent space, and the acoustics were acute. Marina and Ulay began facing each other, holding hands with arms outstretched. Barefoot, they began moving in a circle, slowly, carefully, staring directly into each other's eyes. The speed of their circular movement increased over three or four minutes to almost a spin, the centrifugal force pulling their bodies away from each other as their hands grasped tight. Marina breaks away and falls to the floor and Ulay tell her to "move." Marina and Ulay are now moving and turning independently, each commanding "move" as they spin and weave in the space. They fall, crawl, set up again, move, spin and shout "move." The observers, who were mostly at one end of the gallery, are almost completely motionless. About ten minutes into the performance a low murmuring is audible while Marina and Ulay continue to spin and fall and shout their demand to "move." As Ulay's demand to "move" became more intense there was a noted discomfort and questioning among those watching. It was interesting to see so many performance artists questioning their movement. It began with a gentle shuffling among them from one foot to another. Weight and counterweight. Ulay falls to the floor again, his head resting against a wall. His command to "move" becomes more rapid, shouting every three seconds as Marina goes into an exhausted spin, falls, rises, spins, falls and finally remains motionless, panting on the floor. She rises, and walks off.

The installation on the first floor of de Appel consists of a single grey wood propeller spanning the width of the room. Fixed to a motor at its center it turns constantly at a fairly rapid pace. The speed is fast enough to defy intervention. It threatens and beckons at once. There is an immediate challenge when confronting it.

Upstairs, in a darkened room, a film is screened on the wall at the far end. You watch Marina sitting nude and tranquil behind Ulay who, also nude, is laying down on the floor. Ulay is breathing very deeply, his ribs and lungs expanding and contracting with great effort. His penis is full and erect, moving with the rhythm of his body. You realize shortly that this is a film loop, the movements repeating themselves.

Movement, tension, time and space. A timelessness reaching for another dimension. Situations created to help free your mind so that you may also reach out. Repetition -- everything is constantly changing -- the repetition never comes full circle, but moves in a spiral infinitely. Everything always is, always was, and always will be. Abromovic and Ulay are trying to show us this most simple fact of our existence, our way in this universe.

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