In the summer of 1972, Michel Cardena had the opportunity to rent the main floor of a small canal house in Amsterdam, and invited eight fellow artists to collaborate with him on an artist-run center. The artists – three from Latin America, three from Iceland and three from the Netherlands – enthusiastically agreed to participate by each paying for one month’s rent of the space, using their time to not only present their own work, but to also invite a guest to do the same, ultimately dividing each allotted time into two parts. The resulting name of the initiative, the In-Out Center, fit the inclusive mandate so effortlessly that nobody remembers who thought of it first.
The formula worked wonderfully. In its short existence from November 24, 1972 until its official closure on January 8, 1975, some 44 shows and events were programmed, encouraging intensive creative exchange between many international artists.
The openings were crowded, and audiences were anxious to witness the daring, uncommon, surprising exhibitions put on by the young artists who notoriously worked with new methods and technologies, including video art, photography, performance, visual poetry, artists’ books and drawing. Fully independent, the artists did all the organisational work by themselves in addition to creating the artwork, and each detail was decided upon in a democratic fashion by the In-Out Center’s founders.
Michel Cardena came to know most of the other artists through their shows at the local Galerie 845. Living on the floor above the popular street level gallery, he never missed an opening, and once showed his own work there. The space’s gallerist, Dolly Melchers, was a special character. Coupling the commercial obligations that come with owning a gallery with a Marxist attitude, she ensured that the artists who sold a piece at her space were never invited to show their work again. The incentive to continue exhibiting his work on his own terms prompted Cardena to call on his other artistic peers. By that time, the artist was quite settled in the Netherlands, having had a teaching job since 1970. He also obtained a Dutch passport at the same time the In-Out Center first opened its doors.
The nine leading participants at the In-Out Center were not a cohesive grouping, in the sense that they did not seek to assert a common artistic decree. Instead, they shared a mentality favouring playfulness and DIY methods, driven by their ambition and a resonant belief in the unpredictability of an artwork in progress.
Of course, the works made by the Icelandic Hreinn Fridfinnsson, Kristján and Sigurdur Gudmundsson differed in tone from those made by Colombian artists Michel Cardena and Raúl Marroquín and Mexican artist Ulises Carrión. While the first three were influenced by the poetic, intimate, mysterious and magical scenery of Iceland, the Latin American artists created work that was theatrical and communicative in its character. Dutch artist Hetty Huisman was one of a kind, introducing a conceptual approach to ceramics, while visual poetry, wordplay and artists’ books were the preferences of Dutch artist G.J. de Rook and the aforementioned Ulises Carrión. Dutch sculptor Pieter L. Mol also made some books, as did Raúl Marroquín, who is best known for his periodical, Fandangos.
This linguistic interest had a definitive power at the In-Out Center, and was followed by Carrión's initiative Other Books and So in 1975, preceded by G.J. de Rook's publishing activity with his project exp/press. This obsession with language was no less noticeable in the work of their colleagues, alluded to in their selection of metaphoric titles. Another common thread manifested, on an existential level, through the body, resulting in both performances and photo-works that touched on the artists’ interest in identity.
For the grand opening of the In-Out Center on November 24, 1972, audiences flocked to the space in large numbers, and it was nothing short of an immediate media sensation. Even the National TV broadcasted images of the event, and the local Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool published a review of the opening with a photograph depicting Michel Cardena in his logo-adorned leather jacket.
Cardena did not disappoint the public, who were exhilarated by his creative efforts to warm up the water of the Reguliersgracht. An industrial heating device – attached to a fishing rod – was dipped into the canal until its water started to steam. His performance was executed by his artistic alter ego, Cardena's Warming up etc. etc. etc. Company. Many of his personal warming-up performances were developed since 1969 under the same moniker, preceding the later notion of business art. All of Cardena’s warming-up performances were derived from erotic longing, as the artist created art incessantly characterised by homoerotic references. On the other hand, it is interesting to consider that the artist warmed up the atmosphere, setting the tone for the In-Out Center to reach its zenith.
Equipo Movimiento brought together the work of Raúl Marroquín and Young Tchong, who showed a pre-recorded interview on a video screen, complete with selections regarding art history and television. That same evening, Marroquín staged a performance with Ulises Carrión and painter Anton Verhoeven, who was also a friend of Marroquín’s, in which they carefully undressed Verhoeven, just to dress him again with the same care.
Fluxus musician Joe Jones of Deaf Tone Music Machine also participated by playing live music on his self-made music machine no 37. Having just finished composing music for Yoko Ono’s 1970 film Fly, Jones moved from New York to Europe, and would later settle down in Germany. Jones was a regular collaborator with Yoko Ono, and a the In-Out Center he played some of the music he composed for Fly.
The refurbishment of the space took a great deal of energy, but real progress was made when Hetty Huisman got hold of a batch of linen wall fabric, left over at the studio of an interior designer who had used the material for decorating the Stedelijk Museum.
Additionally, some events were coordinated under the umbrella of In-out Productions, such as performances by Raúl Marroquin and Ulises Carrión, as well as a production by Cardena's Warming Up etc. etc. etc. Company at the theatre De Lantaren in Rotterdam on September 30, 1972.
The space at Reguliersgracht 103 was quite modest, so the group’s gatherings were often hosted by Hetty Huisman in her studio at Anjeliersstraat 153, where she also regularly organised other events and exhibitions. It was forbidden to sleep at the In-Out Center, so the participating artists from other cities and countries stayed with the Fridfinnssons, the Gudmundssons, or with Carrión and Van Barneveld. Pieter L. Mol lived in Breda, while Marroquín lived in Maastricht and G.J. de Rook resided in Utrecht. During the openings, the street along the In-Out Center’s canal and the stairs leading up to the space afforded substantial space for the attending audiences.
Between openings, the number of visitors was limited, which meant that conversations about the artworks were easily had between the artist and the visitors. Those who didn't receive a direct invitation were able to see the event announcements in the Amsterdam Uitkrant.
© Tineke Reijnders, 2017