the archive in-out center about
pieter l. mol
and the In-Out Center
by Tineke Reijnders

Though he was one of the youngest members of the In-Out Center team, Pieter Laurens Mols (b. Breda, 1946) trajectory could be described as an itinierary with a few detours. Having been kicked out of school at the age of eleven, he became a talented carpenter under the guidance of Roman Catholic brothers. He later tested his luck with architecture, in the footsteps of his father who had died at a rather young age. One and a half years spent at Sint Joost, the art educational institute in Breda, was enough for Mol to realise that his destiny was not in architecture, but in art (though Sint Joost had little effect on his artistic development). The experience had only been fruitful thanks to an older teacher, who revealed the possibilities and intricacies of photography to him. Pieter L. Mol was especially fascinated by its technical aspects a penchant that also surfaced in other domains and the transmission of light, a secret he used in some of his other artworks.

Thus, Mol was a self-taught artist when he came to the In-Out Center, loaded with inspiration from art history and armed with the skills of a professional photographer. In fact, he never stopped researching, and continues to question the conditions of art to this day. In later years, Flemish painting and 17th century Dutch science were also influential for him. At the beginning of the seventies, Mols interests were informed by the heroes of the Italian Renaissance: Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. His high ambitions were translated in a personal way. Mols approach was subjective, with an absence of inhibition, as if it were urgent to intensify his relationship with the masterpieces to appropriate and embody them, letting go of distance or abstraction. 

In The Dying Slave, a photograph of his imitation of Michelangelos most sensual sculpture, Mol exposed his own nearly naked body, which happened to be of such remarkable beauty that it was a genuine reflection of the refined charm and drama of the original marble Renaissance statue. Michel Cardena always said that he fainted upon first glancing at the image when it was shown at the group show in February 1973. There is surely more. Birth, life and death were issues that often appeared in Mols art during these years. In another photograph, he shows his torso with a bandage on his navel, applied to signify  the wound that occurs after the removal of an umbilical cord. This Study for Renaissance (1974) represents birth, perhaps as much as it represents rebirth or renaissance. Birth is a recurring theme for Mol, seen in Casa Natale di Leonardo (shown at Mols second solo show), and also in De Status van mijn Geboortejaar (The state of my year of birth) in 1970, a partially-erased drawing that originally depicted a precisely drawn number: 1946. The work expresses the gradual evaporation of the relevance of ones year of birth, simply leaving a bleak trace of its existence. This work was shown in his first solo show at the In-Out Center. Levensdiagram (1971), also presented at his first solo show, demonstrates this same obsession with the fragility of our existence, representing a line that flies away, up into the air. This work was also part of his first solo show at the In-Out Center.

While Mols interest in the past effortlessly creates a feeling of melancholia, the artist is never reluctant to pursue more light-hearted commentary in other works. A piece by Mondriaan for instance in fact, a postcard is pictured next to a drawing of a field of flowers, mimicking the design and colours of Mondriaan's Bloemenvelden rond de luchthaven van Amsterdam (Flower fields around the airport of Amsterdam). It was made in advance of the 1972 centenary of Mondriaan's birth. Another work presented at the opening was The art of Sawing (1971), a black and white photo of a café chair with pieces of cut wood alongside it. The photo was taken from above, and while the saw is still sitting on the chair, the sawdust on the floor imitates its form. This photo not only refers to Mol's education as a carpenter, but also alludes to the humour in the overpainted photographs made by his friend, artist Teun Hocks, who also lives in Breda. In those days, Hocks owned his own silkscreen equipment, and willingly assisted Mol in producing the openings announcement poster: In-Out Productions opent In-Out Center. 24 november 21.00 uur.

Additionally, Mol had an opening act in mind that failed to be realised because there were objections against its potential destructive effects. He wanted to spread a thin layer of gunpowder all over the floor, with a fuse that went underneath the door. After igniting it from the outside, the explosion would open the door, and the audience would be invited to enter the nebulous gallery space, detecting a strong smell of gun smoke that would result in another outburst of sound by the coughing visitors. The proposed act was titled Het Laatste Nieuws (the latest news), and was the precursor to Mols later preoccupation with the transmission of energy and explosives. 

In the months before the festive opening, the team of the In-Out Center enjoyed Mol's efforts to seriously refurbish the space. The fact that he was a skilled carpenter was welcomed, and on top of this he was extremely precise and prudent. While in those days he still lived in his hometown, Breda, being a member of the In-Out Center group meant that he was in Amsterdam on a regular basis. It was strongly forbidden to sleep at Reguliersgracht 103, so Mol stayed with Hreinn Fridfinnsson and his wife Hlíff Svavarsdottir. In 1974, the couple invited him for a show at their own gallery, Fignal. Later, Mol became a family friend of the Gudmundssons, always ready to use his camera when Siggi Gudmundsson called on him saying he had an idea for a photo in mind. He is a generous man”, explains Mol. It was my pleasure to take on the photography”.

In Breda, Sylvia van Berkel Mols partner at the time organised mini-shows on a small shelf in their living quarters. She received mini contributions from the members of the In-Out Center, as well as from friends in Breda. Gudmundsson contributed a piece of wood with fish hooks to the display, along with a little card that read "the lasts will be the first. In the summer of 1974 (June 11 to June 22), One Year Mijn Galerietje by Sylvia van Berkel was shown at the In-Out Centers group show of 21 participants.  

For his first solo show (March 5 to March 17, 1973), Mol made an illuminated sign for the window that read "All happens inside". Upon entering, there were a number of framed works, such as his conception of an infinite cosmos a drawing that was reduced by photography and subsequently burned, referring to Yves Klein and his notion of immateriality. The State of My Year of Birth, mentioned above, was another wake-up call for an awareness of the contours of life.

In 1973, Pieter L. Mol made a pilgrimage to Italy. He wanted to locate the actual landscape depicted in an early drawing by da Vinci a work now considered by many art historians to be the first image of a landscape in the history of western art. His second solo show at the In-Out Center (February 19  to March 2, 1974) was dedicated to this research. He followed the vestiges of da Vinci while also observing the contemporary Italians. What surprised him was the strange habit of Italian men to scratch their balls every now and then without any restraint in public. This was the subject of his most conspicuous artwork in the show, Scultura Italiana, a film projection of this itching procedure executed by the artist himself. Another exhibited work was Lo Spirito de Leonardo (1973), a black and white photo taken in the house where da Vinci had his first studio, in Anchiano near Vinci. We see a corner of a derelict house with a muddy floor the radical opposite of the circumstances in which da Vinci's masterpieces are now conserved. Behind the wall of the projected film, Mol kept a box with a series of photographs from the same visit, which were discussed with visitors who had a special interest in the project. The whole series was titled La Casa Natale di Leonardo, and the fact that Mol prepared a sort of "conversation piece" was remarkable, as the number of visitors at the In-Out Center after an opening was quite restrained. Since the artists were also custodians of the space, a conversation between a visitor and the artist was often unavoidable, but Mol was well prepared, and he still remembers an interesting conversation with a passing art historian.

Within the framework of In-Out Productions, Pieter L. Mol released a book titled Leonardo da Vinci. With the invitation and mediation of Raúl Marroquín, 150 copies were printed at the presses of Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht in 1974. The book contains 32 signatures, each on a different page, written by the inhabitants of Vinci. The result of a search for tokens of life, the work fuses the existence of da Vinci with his fellow citizens who reside in the region 500 years after his own life and death. 

It was Ulises Carrión who stimulated Mol to make more books after he saw The Three Pyramides of Breda. Initially, the object clearly a book was meant to function as a unique present for his mother, who used to volunteer dispensing library books at the hospital. Now, the hospital itself became the subject of a book. The piece contains sand, partly obscuring the image of the hospital with three pyramid-shaped towers.  Pieter L. Mol turned it into an edition of 15 in response to Ulises Carrión's enthusiasm. 

Texts have great importance in Mol's art. In his titles, sentences usually possess metaphoric value. Some of his colleagues dealt with concrete and visual poetry in addition to artists books, and Mol's multiple Concrete Poetry can be seen as a humorous homage to them. Pouring the four letters of the word 'poem' into concrete, he bound them together with a piece of hemp rope and iron wire. The work was appreciated and receive well, and Ulises Carrión promoted it at Other Books and So, while G.J. de Rook used the image for the cover of his visual poetry anthology in 1975. As such, Concrete Poetry is a wonderful summary of Pieter L. Mol's involvement with the In-Out Center.

© Tineke Reijnders, 2017