With his sunglasses, Latin-American demeanour and indomitable energy for setting up art activities, Raúl Marroquín made a flashy and lasting impression in Maastricht. His fellow students at the Jan van Eyck Academy, where he enrolled in 1971 for his post graduate degree, were impressed by the cosmopolitan, extroverted air he brought with him. Marroquín was born in Bogotá, Columbia in 1948 and studied fine art from 1967 until 1969 at Universidad Nacional in the same city.
Despite his talent for drawing, Marroquín's penchant for communication and publishing became his most genuine artistic domain. His student friends were eager to cooperate with their enterprising fellow student, and assisted with his performances and videos. Even the local Bonnefantenmuseum participated in a particularly dangerous performance, where Marroquín placed two living people in the niches of its neoclassical facade some five meters above street level (Body Monuments, 1973, with Anton Verhoeven and Huub Relouw). Via a hydraulic hoist, the two men were transported to the niches. They stood there for some time, replacing the missing sculptures, helpless but acting as heroes until they were brought down again. The same event was planned for the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, but ended up being forbidden by the city.
Raúl Marroquín is a charming macho with a great talent for getting things done through collaboration. He knows how to tell a good story and how to listen to the stories of others.
Throughout 1972, Raúl Marroquín started Equipo Movimiento with Young Tchong, who was the owner of a video camera – a possession that was usually out of reach for a young artist. Marroquín was acquainted with video, as he had worked with the technique in Bogotá. Wu Young Tchong ("I called him Woo", says Marroquín) had no art training, but was the son of a well-to-do Chinese restaurant entrepreneur, and was fully immersed in his collaboration with Marroquín. The duo had the ability to record anything they liked, often including TV items or a Warholesque take on, for instance, a newspaper photograph of Simone de Beauvoir, which lasted 12 hours and was recorded on four VHS tapes.
Marroquín was the first artist in the Netherlands to take TV seriously, and in later years he set up a grandiose TV Convention and initiated De Hoeksteen Live – a local cable TV station in Amsterdam.
In his second year of studies, the Jan van Eyk Academie started an Experimental Department with professional silkscreen and offset printing equipment. Marroquín immediately grasped its possibilities and shared them with his friends at the In-Out Center.
Marroquín’s first encounter with Michel Cardena occurred at the University of Bogotá, where Cardena, who lived in Amsterdam, passed through to give a guest lecture. “Don't miss it – he is an interesting artist”, said a well-known art critic to Marroquín. He was indeed impressed, and as soon as he came over to Amsterdam he contacted his compatriot. Cardena invited him the following year, despite Marroquín’s student status, to join the In-Out Center group.
While Cardena used the medium of video to register his projects, concentrating on its process or simply on movements, for Marroquín the power of connecting is what motivated his use of video. Perhaps the pure notion of connectedness best describes his impetus to the art.
Soon, Equipo Movimiento had a full agenda, presenting video works and video performances at many venues (Lausanne, Liège, Saint Paul de Vence, Aalst and Bogotà, to name a few). Meanwhile, Marroquín also prepared a publication meant to replace, as he said, the clipping board in the corridor of the art school. The first Vandangos - the magazine that later received cult status - was a newspaper, printed on that paper and obeying its format. At the same time, it functioned as a poster, as only one side was printed on. Marroquín’s girlfriend, Marjo Schumans, along with Young Tschong and many others helped gather the materials together while fellow student Jan Hendrix did the printing. The first Vandangos was issued in December 1973. In a letter to Ulises Carrión dated September 8, 1973, Marroquín expressed his regret that the idea for a periodical or bulletin for the In-Out Center never raised much enthusiasm among its members – nor did any affiches, a couple of which Marroquín made personally. Vandangos 1 looks like a club magazine for the In-Out Center, and its principal content was provided by its members. Anyhow, after the grand opening, Marroquín wrote the IN OUT BOLLETIN. No 1, in which he gave a summary of the opening evening and announced future activities, including Arts' Birthday, an initiative by Robert Filliou that would happen on the 17th of January, 1973 at the Neue Galerie Aachen. The In-Out Center did indeed participate. Of course, the connection between Marroquín and Filliou was indispensable.
Marroquín and Ulises Carrión, a Mexican writer/linguist, knew each other through Cardena from before Carrión decided to definitively settle in Amsterdam – they met one or two times in England. Marroquín was the first to declare Carrión an artist, underlining his transition from literature to visual art, and Carrión was touched. "...un artista, qué digo, Artista, de mi categoria", he wrote on January 11, 1973 in response to Marroquín's reference to an exposition. The two collaborated in several domains. At the Theater de Lantaren in Rotterdam, they performed Simultaneous Actions together with Cardena's Warming Up etc. etc. etc. Company on September 30, 1972. This was already under the umbrella of In-Out Productions, weeks before the opening. In December of the same year, just after the inauguration of the In-Out Center, Carrión presented his very first artists' book, Sonnet(s) (1972), in Agora, Maastricht. The book is dedicated to Raúl Marroquín, and it is probable that it was printed at the Jan van Eyck Academie and received his mediation help.
Important artists like Robert Filliou and Joseph Beuys were invited, from Düsseldorf, to lecture in Maastricht at the suggestion of Marroquín. The second issue of Fandangos was printed at Filliou Green. Additionally, some fellow artists from Amsterdam played a part in the programme at the Jan van Eyck Academie. Apart from these lectures, the foreign artists were also contacted for Fandangos – not only for written interviews, but also for taped versions. In this way, Marroquín documented important chapters of contemporary art history.
Soon after, Marroquín's activities were backed by Agora Gallery (later called the Agora Foundation) in Maastricht – initiated by Theo van der Aa, a social-cultural worker, and Ger van Dijck, a painter. It opened during the same period as the In-Out Center. Agora became crucial for contact between artists from Pologne and other communist countries. Though Agora functioned as the administrative address of Fandangos (which has been written as Vandangos, Fundangos, etc.), it does not mean that the gallery had any influence on its format or content, as is often assumed. But the gallery has always been extremely helpful and active, and the official editor was Ulises Carrión.
"Colombia was too small for me, as it was for Cardena, and like Mexico was for Carrión", said Marroquín. So, he opened Maastricht up to the world. During the limited span of time in which he created the subsequent issues of his magazine – he used the print machines after the end of his studies in 1974 for an extra two years – he included an incredible spectrum of international artists, musicians and writers within it. Well-known personalities were mixed with local friends – all with an alternative, deviating or simply avant-garde signature, including Mohamed Ali, Ben d'Armagnac, Anna Banana, Costa Gavras, Pierre Cardin, David Garcia, Philip Glass, Felipe Ehrenberg, Nan Hoover, Antoni Muntadas, Dieter Roth, Nam June Paik, Klaus Staek, Rod Summers and Ulay, to name a few.
Eventually, Fandangos acquired the look of a magazine. The combined issue 8, 9, 10 and 11 bore a photograph of Cardena on its cover, undoubtedly an homage to the godfather of video and the In-Out Center.
There was a close connection between the artists who set up Beau Geste Press in Devon – Felipe Ehrenberg, Martha Hellion, David Mayor and others. A group of students went to visit them: Servie Janssen, Jan Hendrix, Rod Summers, Marjo Schumans and Raúl Marroquín. The visits were reciprocated, as Ehrenberg was printing at the Jan van Eyck Academie as well, and Martha Hellion stayed at the Jan van Eyck Academie for a longer period of time.
The first solo exhibition by Equipo Movimiento at the In-Out Center was titled Documentation of Reality. It lasted from April 3 until April 13, 1973, and Marroquín designed his own invitation (different from the standart A4) and "catalogue" for it. The first consisted of a torn-out piece of paper with a stamped text, and the second consisted of an A4 paper, also with many stamps and a handwritten programme announcing what was presented at the show: different kinds of contemporary picture techniques like super 8 film (The Park of Maastricht), a photographic piece (the door of the church of Verona), a slides piece (Sunset in Maastricht), a polaroid picture piece (The counting piece) and a magazine piece (The Bankrobbery).
This feel for homemade images was followed up in the next show by Equipo Movimiento at the In-Out Center, which lasted from December 17 to 28, 1973. Though titled Paintings Sculptures etc., photographs in combination with typewritten texts were shown. For instance, two portraits of Rod Summers – one black-and-white and the other coloured - were accompanied by the caption "Transformation of Rod Summers as Charlemagne at Christmas by the use of a paper crown. Technique: color on photographe." It calls to mind the booklet Changing personalities, which Marroquín made with Anton Verhoeven, accentuating the power that public images have for disturbing our sense of identity by mixing fiction with reality. But it also refers to cheap magazines, as the logo of Mad Enterprises came into use, in addition to Marroquín's Superb*man.
It was Wies Smals who urged Marroquín to switch to Maastricht from Amsterdam. She grew up in the city, and her father was a doctor. Establishing De Appel meant new possibilities for Marroquín. But with or without De Appel, his creations have never been confined by frontiers – or oceans. Marroquín is by far the most present artist. Today more than ever, the map of the world is crisscrossed with presentations by him. His gift for connecting people to one another emanates from every single piece, even if it has the dimensions of a skyscraper, which was recently the case in Bogota – a skyscraper coated with falling snow.
© Tineke Reijnders, 2017