watch an excerpt from the film version
A project existing both as a performance lecture and as a film.
As a child my father told me about the movie: In a city somewhere, a man searches for another man. Everyone he meets tells him that his search is in vain, for the other man is already dead, but he refuses to give up and suddenly he believes he catches a glimpse of the other man’s face in a doorway. Then dad sat down in front of the piano and in his own tiptoeing kind of way he played ‘The Theme from the Third Man’. It made me dream of footsteps echoing in back alleys and a great, green shadow flickering by in the corner of my eye. Every time I heard that melody I had the peculiar feeling of someone observing me from a hidden viewpoint.
The Third Man is a coproduction with the Impakt Foundation, Utrecht in the framework of Impakt Works 2010 and has been made possible with the support of the City of Utrecht; the Mondrian Foundation.
via the third man.
Q- Why do you say that you have nothing to say?
A- Yes, mm, I feel that one of the great currents in the contemporary experience of art is that it seems to come out of the experience of the author. That is to say whether we’re talking about the surrealist experience or any inclination to expression – all of that is, dwells so to speak in the author. It seems to me that there’s another route in which the artist looks for a content that is on the face of it abstract, but at a deeper level symbolic, and that that content is necessarily philosophical and religious. I think it’s attempting to dig away at – without wanting to sound too pompous – at the great mystery of being. And that, while it has a route through my psychobiography, isn’t based in it.
A quite exceptional event, “Vides” (Voids) is a retrospective of empty exhibitions since that of Yves Klein in 1958. In almost a dozen rooms of the National Museum of Modern Art, it assembles in a totally original manner exhibitions that showed absolutely nothing, leaving empty the space for which they were designed.
The idea of exhibiting emptiness is a recurring notion in the history of art over the past fifty or so years, almost to the point of becoming a cliché in the practice of contemporary art. Since the exhibition by Yves Klein – “The Specialization of Sensibility in the Raw Material State of Stabilized Pictorial Sensibility” in Paris in 1958, totally empty exhibitions have been the statement of different conceptions of vacuums.
While for Yves Klein it was a way to point out the sensitive state, by contrast it represents the peak of conceptual and minimal art for Robert Barry with “Some places to which we can come, and for a while ‘be free to think about what we are going to do’ (Marcuse)” (1970). It may also result from the desire to fudge the understanding of exhibition spaces, as in the work “The Air-Conditioning Show” from Art & Language (1966-1967), or to empty an institution to modify our experience, as in the work by Stanley Brouwn. It also reflects the will to create the experience of the qualities of an exhibition venue, as with Robert Irwin and his exhibition at the ACE Gallery in 1970, or with Maria Nordman at her exhibition in Krefeld in 1984. Emptiness also represents a form of radicalness, like that created by Laurie Parsons in 1990 at the Lorence-Monk gallery, which announced his renouncement of all artistic practice. For Bethan Huws and his work “Haus Esters Piece” (1993), emptiness means being able to celebrate the museum’s architecture, signifying that art is already there on site and there is no need to add works of art. Emptiness assumes almost a sense of economic demand for Maria Eichhorn who, in leaving her exhibition empty at the Kunsthalle Bern in 2001, helped to devote the budget to the building’s renovation. With “More Silent than Ever” (2006), Roman Ondák, for his part, had the onlooker believing that there is more than what is just left there to be seen.
Installation view of Roman Ondák’s More Silent Than Ever (2006) at GB Agency, Paris
Courtesy GB Agency © Roman Ondák
Thus, it seemed that the history of modern art had reached its zero point when Marcel Duchamp presented a glass pharmacy phial filled with Paris air to an American collector in 1919, or when Kazimir Malevich painted his White on White composition in 1918, and two years later filled a room with, as one person noted, empty canvases “devoid of colour, form and texture” on the occasion of his first solo exhibition in Moscow. Yet in a 1968 article, critics Lucy Lippard and John Chandler could only observe that “the artist… has continued to make something of ‘nought’ 50 years after Malevich’s White on White seemed to have defined nought for once and for all. We still do not know how much less ‘nothing’ can be”. Thirty-five years later, Gabriel Orozco’s sole contribution to the ‘Aperto’ exhibition at the 1993 Venice Biennale consisted of an empty shoe box, eight years before Martin Creed notoriously won the Turner Prize partly for his installation Work No. 227: The lights going on and off at regular intervals. Nearly ten noughty years down the line, and shortly after a museum survey entitled ‘Voids: a Retrospective’ presented visitors with nine perfectly empty rooms, we are still none the wiser about “how much less ‘nothing’ can be”.
Maria Eichhorn‘s exhibition ‘Das Geld der Kunsthalle Bern / Money at the Kunsthalle Bern’ (2000) resulted from her research into funding of the exhibition and her decision to devote the entire budget for her show to the renovation of the building. The entire museum was on show during this renovation and visitors could watch the process from up close, even in rooms that were normally hidden from view.
Willem de Rooij, Beverwijk (NL), 1969
Lives and works in Berlin (DE)
Route Along 18 Corners, 1993/2010
Courtesy of the artist
Route along 18 Corners belongs to a long tradition in which artists reflect on the conditions of the exhibition space. The work is a brochure setting out a route along 18 corners of galleries and exhibition spaces on the ground floor of the Stedelijk Museum building. De Rooij made the brochure as a sketch while studying at the Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, and it is specially presented in the Stedelijk for the first time in Taking Place. Now that the museum has been renovated, the meaning of the work has changed. The 1993 brochure featured the reddish herringbone parquet floor of the old Stedelijk, with impromptu fragments of whitewashed walls, baseboards and power outlets. The new oak parquet is lighter, broader and laid in a different pattern; the baseboards are recessed and the power points are concealed. Where De Rooij’s guided tour originally intended to put the museum itself on exhibit by highlighting unobserved details, the work now offers us a glimpse of the history of the building, prior to the renovation.
The site of this exhibition was one of a pair of Modernist villas built by Mies van der Rohe in 1928–30 that had been converted into gallery space. When artist Bethan Huws first saw the house she found it so beautiful that she decided to leave it empty for her exhibition, treating it as both a readymade and an artwork in its own right that needed nothing added to it. To accompany her show, she did, however, prepare a text, which consisted of a selection of words — adverbs, pronouns, prepositions, declinations of the verb “to be,” etc. — excerpted from a conversation with her partner, Thierry Hauch, but that on their own meant absolutely nothing. Although the only permanent “void” created by Yves Klein is just next door in the Haus Lange (the second Mies van der Rohe villa), Huws claims she was not particularly inspired by Klein’s intervention, since she feels distant from his philosophy and “mystifications.” She has also said that the Haus Esters exhibition came at the end of an intense period of work that had left her creatively unsure and empty and that following the show she produced nothing for five years.
Het begrip ‘leegte’ wordt in de kunst vaak beschouwd als een vorm van non-presentatie, een weigering kunst visueel te presenteren. Maar je kunt je afvragen wat die leegte nog voorstelt nu zij in de kunst zoveel nieuwe vormen van representatie heeft voortgebracht. Waar is de ‘leegte’, als zij altijd afhankelijk is van een zekere vorm van ‘aanwezigheid’? Toen begin jaren zestig de commerciële markt rondom kunst toenam, reageerden kunstenaars sceptisch op de toegenomen complexiteit die dat met zich meebracht. Representanten van deze markt, zoals galerieën, collectioneurs en musea, werden geprovoceerd met radicaal conceptuele voorstellen. De Britse groep Art & Language ontwikkelde in 1966 The Air-Conditioning Show, een tekst gebaseerd op het zuurstofvolume dat circuleert door het airconditioningsysteem van de galerieruimte, Robert Barry verklaarde tijdens zijn tentoonstellingen in Amsterdam, Los Angeles en Turijn de galerie gesloten Closed Gallery Piece, 1969-1970 en Robert Irwin liet de ruimte van de Ace Gallery in Los Angeles leeg, maar keerde met regelmaat terug om na te denken wat er geproduceerd en gepresenteerd zou kunnen worden Experimental Situation, 1970.