241 Things

1000 Things is a subjective encyclopedia of inspirational ideas, things, people, and events.

Read the most recent articles, or mail the editorial team to contribute.

Studium Generale 1000things lectures, The Hague

241 Things

I met an art critic, a man well into his seventies, who told me of New York in the late sixties and of Max’s Kansas City: an unreal sort of meeting place where you could glance over the Velvets, William S. Burroughs, Stanley Kubrick, Janis Joplin, Dan Flavin, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Dennis Hopper… the list is mind boggling and seemingly endless.

Max’s was a collision point for many of the most creative minds of their times. With some luck, you would have seen early incarnations of Blondie, Lou Reed, or David Bowie perform. Or you might have caught Bob Marley and the Wailers' New York debut with Bruce Springsteen as their opening act.

Critical art writers typically deal with resistance along the way and this critic, too, at times met with the steely glances of slightly scorned artists. But walking into the bar with the bulky Robert Smithson would make him feel a little bit safer from the evil eyes cast by the glamorous Warholians at the back, and from the sneers thrown his way by the Abstract Expressionists between their heavy discussions.

"I met Iggy Pop at Max's Kansas City in 1970 or 1971," recalled David Bowie. "Me, Iggy and Lou Reed at one table with absolutely nothing to say to each other, just looking at each other's eye makeup."

Myra Friedman, visitor to the bar explains:

Max's was a lot more than a magnet for sex, games, and drugs. It was an earthy, invigorating hangout, and the people who Mickey let stay there for hours and hours were definitely a breed apart, when being "apart" had real meaning in the world. I remember it for lots of conversation with lots of people who had lots and lots to say, and looking back on it now, the hum of the place strikes me as sort of the last hurrah of a genuine American bohemia. Like a great piece of writing, it was airborne from the minute it opened. It had beautiful wings; it soared.

It won’t come as a surprise that many of Max’s visitors had trouble paying their tabs. And in the typical artist’s tradition, they often paid their debts with artworks. Mickey was so eager to surround himself with artists, musicians, and writers, that he would allow them to spend thousands of dollars worth of food and drinks. A few beers in exchange for a Carl Andre? Doesn’t sound like a bad deal at all for Mickey.

But the exchanges wouldn’t suffice. “Artists do drink, but they don’t pay,” Mickey said. Indeed, Mickey went bankrupt in 1974.
Monkey's Feast

Ferdinand van Kessel

Roland Barthes
Monkey's Feast

Ferdinand van Kessel

I was standing in a corridor when a tall, young man walked briskly passed me. Moments later he was chased by a small brunette whose every step seemed to fall into the spaces left behind him. He marched on in anger and as she furiously followed, she hissed, ‘This will be the last time, it’s over, I swear to god I will just disappear.’

Watching them rush down the corridor, I thought about how many times I had seen this exact process of emotions in others, and of course experienced it myself. We all know this story, it is constantly repeated, or at least we are all familiar with this interpretation of the story: one threatening to cut the other off whilst running after them in bewildered warning, angrily and frantically begging them to stay whilst they move away. The strange and stylised emotional language we use in situations that we cannot or do not want to express, the reformations of our true purpose in order to avoid vulnerability, and yet through all our fictions and theatricalities, our intentions, although unpronounced, are understood.

If already just in this superficial layer, in all these given understandings of this situation we can see the magnitude and effect of our interpretation on the “reality” of things, at what point do we stop interpreting, what is the actual, the non-fictional?

So many aspects of my self were suddenly laid bare before me as stories I had told myself, interpretations of people’s actions in designed sequences. The way I saw, the way I was seen and in whatever light anything is shown, are all characteristics that are open to interpretation. If we dissect this situation to all its separate parts, we see that everything occurring only exists as one thing after another, events and actions in meaningless succession; it is we who give it meaning and chronology.

I stood in a corridor. Through this same corridor, a tall, young man walked, he moved quickly and dropped his feet heavily as he did so. A small brunette also walked through this corridor. As the small brunette walked, she spoke, her words were fast and rhythmic.

“Narrative is present at all times, in all places, in all societies; indeed narrative starts with the very history of mankind; there is not, there has never been anywhere, any people without narrative … Narrative is international, trans-historical, trans-cultural; it is there, like life.”- Roland Barthes”[1]

Seven of wands

Scènes de la vie privée et publique des animaux

Used in the design of tarot cards

J. Grandville


R. Barthes, ‘On Narrative and Narratives’, in: R. Barthes and L. Duisit, New Literary History, Vol. 6, No. 2, Baltimore, US: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975, pp. 237 -272

Last December, I went to Düsseldorf for my annual visit to the artist I wrote my thesis about more than 20 years ago.

In the early nineties I discovered, through an article in the art magazine Metropolis M and an internship at Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, the work of a relatively unknown German artist. He made small, grey, paper books with series of fuzzy black-and-white photos of small airplanes in the sky, women’s knees and swimmers doing their laps in a pool.
At the Boijmans I was stimulated to further study this –in my eyes- somewhat obscure artist. As I grew increasingly enthusiastic and found out that very little had been written about the man, I went to my thesis tutor, feeling both excited and reluctant, in order to inform him of my choice of subject. He suggested that I should meet the German artist in the flesh for an in-depth conversation about his work. Oops! It was not that common for an art history student to have a real rendezvous with an artist. But it was the only possibility to gather lots of information and I felt like adventure. After some dawdling, I took up the phone and called the artist for an appointment. As I was not impervious to some romantic notions surrounding ‘the essence of the artist’, I was surprised how quickly he agreed to a visit with a completely unknown student from Groningen (if only it had been Amsterdam). I took to Düsseldorf, tape recorder in my bag, and, timidly, rang the bell at a nice-looking apartment building from the early 20th century. Astonishment yet again! The man stood before me as awkwardly as I to him. He was around 50 years old and I was somewhere in my twenties. He wondered what on earth could be my business here with him, as an art history student from Die Niederlände. He also told me that he in fact had a dislike for words and that he had nothing to say about his, indeed, decisively visual work. Well, imagine: there we were then, the two of us, sitting in his study at a large desk on which there were many folders full of images! Out of shyness I took out my home-prepared sandwiches and began to nibble at them. In hindsight, this proved to be the magical moment in which the artist started to believe that this student could actually write an excellent story on him. In a later letter, he let me know that my taking my own sandwiches had brought us to the same wavelength.

the artist

The thesis was written and approved by both university and artist. And indeed, last December I paid him a visit for the umpteenth time. He as a much more famous man than back then, and I, after roaming about in the art world somewhat, as a teacher at the Art Academy in Groningen. This artist (now in his early 70s) has also come to win a prestigious prize for, note, young artists (the jury praised the work for its freshness). Not to mention a large retrospective in Hamburg.

Shadow Play (2002-2012)

And, surprisingly: the last time I visited him I felt again this tension of twenty years ago, when we met. An appointment between a now-famous artist and someone who wrote a thesis on him in his early stages: does that have validity? It is confronting how as an adult, you still relapse into old thought patterns. Immediately after my arrival in his town he takes me to a cafeteria in a shopping street in Düsseldorf and tells me how the regularity of our meetings is dear to him. I have been in this coffeehouse with him before and he is a daily customer who likes to sit here reading and, especially, watching life on the street. There is little noteworthy or sophisticated stuff that is said during our meetings and yet every time I see him, he manages to provide me with a few new perspectives on the world around us. However small they might be, I leave these meetings every time with extra air in my lungs. The late Dutch curator Gosse Oosterhof has once called him a “professional voyeur”. And indeed, this man accomplishes the feat of rendering the everyday world special for a while with his visual and, despite himself, verbal frameworks. A great gift, I find, and I am glad that I had prepared those sandwiches back then. The name of the artist, by the way, is Hans Peter Feldmann.

see the documentary on http://www.cobra.be

Hans-Peter Feldmann at gallery and bookshop Wien Lukatsch

http://www.ingemarleenbooks.com/blog/wienlukatsch/

Hans-Peter Feldmann, Ursula + Hans-Peter.
Gardner

English text will soon follow.

1 Lars Fischer on situated knowledge

Dear Theo

Will life never treat me decently? I am wracked by despair! My head is pounding. Mrs Sol Schwimmer is suing me because I made her bridge as I felt it and not to fit her ridiculous mouth. That’s right! I can’t work to order like a common tradesman. I decided her bridge should be enormous and billowing and wild, explosive teeth flaring up in every direction like fire! Now she is upset becuase it won’t fit in her mouth! She is so bourgeois and stupid, I want to smash her. I tried forcing the false plate in but it sticks out like a star burst chandelier. Still, I find it beautiful. She claims she can’t chew! What do I care whether she can chew or not! Theo, I can’t go on like this much longer! I asked Cezanne if he would share an office with me but he is old and infirm and unable to hold the instruments and they must be tied to his wrists but then he lacks accuracy and once inside a mouth, he knocks out more teeth than he saves. What to do?

Vincent

Dear Theo

Once again I am in need of funds. I know what a burden I must be to you, but who can I turn to? I need money for materials! I am working almost exclusively with dental floss now, improvising as I go along, and the results are exciting. God! I have not even a penny left for Novocaine! Today I pulled a tooth and had to anesthetize the patient by reading him some Dreiser. Help.

Vincent

Dear Theo

Have decided to share office with Gauguin. He is a fine dentist who specialises in bridgework, and he seems to like me. He was very complimentary about my work on Mr Jay Greenglass. If you recall, I filled his lower seven, then despised the filling and tried to remove it. Greenglass was adamant and we went to court. There was a legal question of ownership, and on my lawyer's advice, I cleverly sued for the whole tooth and settled for the filling. Well, someone saw it lying in the corner of my office and he wants to put it in a show! They are already talking about a retrospective!

Vincent

This is a selection from the exchanges of notes which can be fully read in the text If The Impressionists Had Been Dentists from Woody Allens Without Feathers.