“The Absent Clown”

vacuum, 2010




Some years ago I was asked to take part in an exhibition on performance. The organisers wanted me to bring in a clown they had seen sat down on a chair during one of my earlier exhibitions. The problem was that I originally didn't mean the clown to be an artwork at all. I had only brought him in to add a little confusion to my exhibition (see Untitled (Clown)). So I told the curators I couldn't take part in a proper exhibition with the clown as a proper artwork.

What happened next was most peculiar. I proposed to take part in the exhibition without my clown. The curators agreed. I asked the clown if he'd agreed not to be part of the show if he was paid his regular fee. He agreed not to take part. The curators started discussing what would be the best place not to show my piece. Audience was invited, a catalogue-text was written and invitation cards with an image of the clown not on show were sent off.

A few hours before the exhibition opened the clown arrived to install a chair for him not to sit on during gallery hours. He then went to a friend's home, put on his face-paint and clown-suit and waited until the event was over. After the exhibition had finished he took of his suit and face-paint and went to the pub where curators and visitors had gathered for drinking and discussing the exhibition. He received his money, drank a beer and went home.

Someone wrote about my work in a review and another artist thought my work was quite similar to his.

What I found most interesting was that the whole system of taking part in an exhibition remained intact for me, while in fact I had nothing on show. Where there should have been an artwork there was now a vacuum, leaving everything around it functioning as it should.