Van: Jeroen Offerman <>

Onderwerp: some more information on what I've done recently.

Datum: 30 augustus 2012 19:32:28 GMT+02:00

Aan: J G <>

Kopie: Jeroen Offerman <zzzzz@hotmail.comz>

Hello J,

I have no ready information of my work in general but I could tell you of some of my projects. Perhaps it is useful for your catalogue texts.

First let me tell you about the Stairway projects. When I made "the Stairway at St.Paul's" in 2003 I was often asked if I could "still sing the song in reverse" and this made me think of the possibility of turning it into a live performance. I did do so and performed at several locations and settings such as Moscow, Tokyo, London, France, Liverpool, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, in theatres, at pop-festivals, in artist run spaces, in galleries. This was very interesting to do because I figured out that audiences around the world in different settings are "programmed" to respond differently to the piece depending on the situation they are in. Also, the original video was very much about subliminal messaging, the power of the mind, mass hysteria, etcetera. The live performances were more about transformation since the audience watched me doing a strange DaDa-istic show which they saw later change into a pop-iconic classic.

I stopped doing the live performances around 2005 or 6. I'd done enough of them. Now I occasionally do talks about how the live performances were done and constructed.



In 2006 I had a show in London which saw me show a few very formal pieces; photographs, a large video-installation ("the Great Escape") and a sculpture-installation ("24 Carat Strawberry Mousse"). It was all done the way a museum-show or posh-gallery or white-cube show would have to look in my eyes. Let's say it looked like real art. I felt some unease about it because it looked good but not surprising. So I invited a clown and asked him to sit still on a chair in the basement of the building during gallery-hours. I asked to try not to interact with the audience. The clown was not an art-work nor had he a title or did the gallery text refer to him being there. I think that because of this people who accidentally discovered him (when for instance they went to the toilets that were also located in the basement) were slightly baffled and didn't know what to think of him, not even know if he was part of the show.

Two years later I was approached by a curator that had heard about "my" clown and was setting up an exhibition about performances that were so still that they could almost be sculptures. She asked if my clown piece could be included in the show. I found this difficult since I never meant the clown to be an art-piece but probably more an anti-art-piece to unsettle the audience. Placing him in a proper show in a gallery would turn him into a proper art-piece and the tension that initially surrounded my clown during the exhibition where he was first introduced would be gone.

So I realised he could actually not be in the show although I would have liked to take part some way. That is why I asked the curators of the exhibition if it was possible to not show my clown. I would ask the clown if he'd agreed to be not included in the exhibition if I paid him properly for that. All parties agreed to not include him in the show. The curator started to send me photographs of the space where I could possibly not install my installation with the clown. I wrote a little text for the catalogue about "the Absent Clown". I agreed with "my" clown that he would go to the exhibition a few hours before the opening and would place a chair in the gallery for him not to sit on during the opening-hours. He did and then went to a friend of his that lived nearby, dressed up in his clown-suit and put on his face paint. During the opening-hours of the exhibition-night he was dressed up as a clown at his friend's home while the audience looked at his empty chair in the gallery. After the opening-night had finished he took off his clown-suit and face paint and went to the bar where the audience and curators had gathered for drinks. With traces of paint still on his face he collected his cheque, drank the beer that was offered to him and went home.

Someone wrote a review about the show, took photographs of my work and another artist approached me to tell that he thought his and my work were related.

What struck me was that the whole system of taking part in an exhibition had still existed even though the centre-part of it, the art-work, was missing and replaced by a vacuum.

I had to think about a famous John Cage music performance piece, called "4'33" in which an audience sits in front of an orchestra that play 4'33 minutes of silence, written as a score. It emphasises everything that happens during performances, everything that surrounds it, including the audience's coughing during the "breaks". I also had to think of a dance-piece by the French choreographer Jerome Bel ("the Last Performance"), who copied a solo-dance from another choreographer and had it repeatedly performed by several different dancers before performing it behind a black piece of cloth that obscured the view of the audience. Although you didn't see dance, the structure of a performance was still intact, with light, movement on the stage, music and an audience that was watching and imagining the piece they'd seen copied several times before.

I wondered if it was possible to emphasise or highlight structures and constructions of events by inserting vacuums in the centre, just as John Cage and Jerome Bel had done and just what I had done at my exhibition without a clown. So recently I have worked on a remake of the most famous and quoted movie-scene ever: the shower-murder of Hitchcock's "Psycho".  I made an exact replica of the set, made out of scrap wood. With friends I reconstructed the scene three times, every time with different actors. The fourth time I reconstructed the scene with no actors at all so that there was nothing left but set, light, camera movements and sound. Where there should have been acting was now a vacuum, emphasising everything else that helped constructing the scene.

I have to think of “the void”, a theme that occurs in the arts sometimes. Think of Charles Yves' “Leap into the Void”, Anish Kapoor's “Descent into Limbo”. But especially Kazimir Malevich's “Black Square” painting. Jerome Bel's performance with a black piece of cloth even looks a bit like that painting. When Malevich's “Black Square” was painted one could read it as the death of painting in general. If one concludes that a black square, absorbing all light, not giving anything back, is the only thing left to paint, then what else could follow from that? But instead it turned out to be not the end but the beginning of a whole new movement, suprematism and in a way also minimalism. It even marked a distinctive moment in time preceding the Russian revolution of 1917.

Malevich placed his Black Square in the corner of an exhibition room, just underneath the ceiling. This place is in Orthodox tradition reserved for religious iconography. You can easily see the statement he made with that, placing a void at the traditional place of the divine, between religious icons, suggesting it had similar importance.

My film JANET LEIGH places a similar void amongst icons of Western filmography, most notably the shower scene of Hitchcock's “Psycho”.

Yours, Jeroen Offerman