A wider world

Seen in the Stedelijk Museum on 13 September 2015:


Enjoyed seeing ‘ZERO: Let Us Explore the Stars’ very much. The exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum is just great. At the time, when the young avant-garde artists from Düsseldorf, Heinz Mack and Otto Piene, dived with their Amsterdam friends  Henk Peeters, Jan Henderikse, Jan Schoonhoven and Armando into the future, they really thought it was a new beginning. Starting from scratch again. President J.F. Kennedy promised a new beginning, people flying to the moon, astronauts, plastic, television, plenty. The young artists had their Italian hero: Lucio Fontana, they invited Jean Tinguely, Yves Klein, Daniel Spoerri, Piero Manzoni, Yayoi Kusama to join them and to collaborate. “Artists collaborated on artworks, performances, happenings, multiples, magazines, and other publications.” There were sparkling exhibitions at the Stedelijk in 1962 and 1965. I wish I was there. But unfortunately, I was only 5 years old then, 8 years at most. Too young, too shy, too innocent, and not living in Amsterdam by the way. Nevertheless, it was nostalgic to see all those artworks again.

They were really utopian and anarchistic, not admired by Willem Sandberg, the director of the Stedelijk, at all, who just gave them a chance: ‘OK, you can have it as long as you pay for everything.’ Their works were a kind of countdown to the future, but for the elderly, who survived the Second World War, they must have lacked seriousness, or were too radical. What did Otto Piene write in 1961? “A wider world. Yes, I wish for a better world. Should I dream of a worse world then? Yes, I wish a wider world. Or should I long for a tighter one?” Their performances were like Provo’s protests and provocations. What I liked the most? Their attempts to make interactive art, to involve the audience, to collaborate, to work outside the institutions, to let things happen, to be passionate, to be optimistic, to experiment, to be authentic, to reject compromise, to step into the future. Like planners should.





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