Experimentation in art was not solely the prerogative of the In-Out Center. Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum was, during this time, the internationally acclaimed, radical pioneer of this movement. There, Wim Beeren developed the seminal Op losse schroeven / Situaties en Cryptostructuren in 1969, and from 1970-1971 a travelling exhibition of visual poetry called sound texts / ?concrete poetry / visual texts preceded the In-Out Center’s interest in visual and concrete poetry. Additionally, in 1971 Robert Filliou lived, worked and collaborated with the Stedelijk Museum.
Additionally, non-institutional presentations for a limited public audience – organised by CeragenetiCs/Hetty Huisman in her studio in Anjeliersstraat 153 – took place for some time before the establishment of the In-Out Center. The early Fignal Galerie (1970-1975?) was also of great importanc, and its reputation exceeded its tiny space, which was the upstairs corridor in the house of Hreinn Fridfinnsson and Hlíf Svavarsdottir. Though it was small, its exhibitions and concerts emanated with great radiance.
Paradoxically, the more "official" Galerie 645 followed, in a certain sense, an alternative and inspiring vision. Most of the founders of the In-Out Center exhibited their work at this gallery, but the opportunity to present a second show was rarely offered. If an artist sold an artwork, they were definitively not invited to exhibit again, as the gallerist – Dolly Melchers – adhered to clear Marxist principles. Thus, Galerie 645 was a faulty but necessary predecessor for the In-Out Center.
The enthusiasm that accelerated the heartbeats of the In-out Center’s young artists was built on a shared awareness of independence and autonomy. The artists wanted a space to develop their own cultural context and communication. They themselves dictated what was presented, as well as when, how and by whom. These decisions were made in a direct and intuitive manner, as the artists all shared a perpetual attraction to unforged paths and irregular art forms. The magic of Amsterdam was reflected in the In-Out Center. At the openings, the audiences arrived with unbridled curiosity, as most of the artistic genres had never been seen before. The performances, presentations of films, video works, slide projections and communication art made unforgettable and lasting impressions.
This spirit proved to be contagious.
De Appel is viewed as the principal heir of the In-Out Center. Wies Smals founded De Appel in 1975 after some preparatory activities in 1974, during the lasts months of the In-Out Center’s formal existence. She made De Appel into the European center for performances, time-based projects and video – the exact disciplines that inspired her at the In-Out Center. Smals collaborated on multiple occasions with Michel Cardena and Hetty Huisman, and invited Ulises Carrión and Raúl Marroquín to develop several projects throughout the years, many of which are grounded in significance that still resonates today (such as Carrión’s Gossip, Scandal and good Manners from 1982 and Marroquín’s (Artists) Talking back to the Media from 1985).
Wies Smals, together with her friend Helen van der Mey, was seen regularly in the line of specialists at the In-Out Center’s openings. As the interior space was extremely limited, the audiences that flocked to these events waited on the stairs leading up to the main floor, or in the street along the canal. Both women were active with Seriaal (1968-1975), an idealistic gallery started by Smals herself with Mia Visser, which aimed to provide affordable art for all. They commissioned graphical works from the best western artists.
While Smals contributed a great deal to the careers of the Latin American artists and their penchant for theatre, van der Mey preferred using a commercial gallery to present the reflective work of Hrein Fri∂finnson, Sigurdur Gudmundsson, Hetty Huisman and Pieter Laurens Mol before later exclusively focusing on Sigmar Polke.
Ulises Carrión was searching for a printer to take care of his books, and the day he entered Het Drukhuis, a non-profit organisation with all kinds of print facilities for students and artists, he met the artist and printer Bart Boumans, who also offered him – without hesitation – their exhibition floor. Carrión immediately accepted the offer, especially since he previously expressed, in a letter to Pieter L. Mol, his desire to engage in more active relations with visitors than he was permitted as the passive custodian of the In-out Centre.
After circulating a crowdfunding letter among his friends asking for 100 guilders in exchange for a certificate, Other Books and So was launched in April 1975. The gallery and bookshop sold not only artists' books and magazines, but also functioned as a beehive of activities. Carrión organised – with the help of Aart van Barneveld – exhibitions, events and mail art projects, as well as exchanges between Guy Schraenen in Antwerp and Two or Three Gallery in Curaçao – another initiative by Hetty Huisman, who lived in the Caribbean for a couple of years.
Other Books and So was closed by the end of 1978, but Carrión maintained his contacts with artists through the Other Books and So Archive, initially located at Bloemgracht 121 where Time Based Arts (an offshoot of De Appel) was meant to be housed. The archive was later based at Carrión’s private address, Ten Katestraat 53. In 1989, he passed his archive on to Juan Agius, an artist and gallerist of artists' books in Amsterdam at Da Costa Galerie, who later moved to Geneva. After the death of Ulises in 1989, the Other Books and So Archive was brought to Geneva. Since accepting the responsibility, Agius occupies himself on a daily basis with spreading the spectacular conceptual characteristics of Carrión’s work.
Jan Voss, a fervent draughtsman and maker of artists' books, filled the In-Out Center with the undulating lines of Treibsatz, a visual song about high and low tides, from January 1974 (later condensed into a book). He lived in Düsseldorf and frequented Iceland as student assistant for Dieter Roth, who chose to live in Iceland from 1957. Voss continued to visit Amsterdam, taking substantial pleasure in Other Books and So.
From the moment he decided to settle in Amsterdam, Voss realised his desire to create a follow-up to Other Books and So. Boekie Woekie, founded and run with befriended artists, still exists today thirty years after its creation – first at Gasthuismolenstraat 16, and then at Berenstraat 16, its current location. The shop preserves the spiritual memories of the In-Out Center, and visitors often have the chance to meet one of the artists, or at least find their books there.
While it wasn’t exactly an artist-run space like the In-Out Center, Gammaa was a presentation space in operation from 1977 to 1978, run in Utrecht by Gerrit Jan de Rook and the antiquarian André Swertz. Since 1968, the artist and visual poet published visual and concrete poetry under the imprint Exp/Press, and also published Conjugations for Ulises Carrión.
Inspired by the In-Out Center, where Clive Robertson and Su Clancy did their W.O.R.K.S. performances on August 13, 1973, Robertson founded a home-gallery called The Immediate Gallery at his home in Calgary, Canada. He primarily displayed artists’ books received by the gallery from Eastern Europe. By 1975, Robertson set up an artist-run space called Parachute Center for Cultural Affairs, a rich melting pot of performance, video works, publishing, archives, the audio cassette magazine Voicespondence, and the print magazine Centerfold/Fuse. The famous video work Porta Filliou was created in 1977.
In 1975, Beau Geste Press published the book w.o.r.k.s.c.o.r.e.p.o.r.t., which documents the 365-day project A Year Of..f, including a passage about W.O.R.K.S. at the In-Out Center. Documentation on the In-Out Center’s Icelandic artists came in the form of two catalogues from Galerie Súm in Reykjavik, which had been sent to W.O.R.K.S. in 1972. Publications from the Parachute Center were sent to Other Books and So somewhat later.
In 1999, Ineke Gudmundsson, together with professor Xin Jian of Xiamen University, founded the non-profit gallery Ceac in Xiamen, China. This Chinese-European Art Center acts as a crucial bridge between Chinese and European artists who want to learn more about and intermingle with their respective reciprocal cultures, and was the first gallery of its kind in China. Young Chinese artists are provided with the opportunity to present their work through an international platform, while artists from Europe are invited to carry out residencies. The open mind and easy intercultural attitude is similar to that of the In-Out Center, the main difference being that it's not a group, but the director, who makes decisions.
A recent and authentic offshoot of the In-Out Center is Nothing Gallery in Xiamen, founded by Sigurdur Gudmundsson in 2014. Here, the same rules are observed as in the original In-Out Center: each artist is responsible for one month of provisions and programming. The month is shared with a guest, and the artists act as custodians. Gudmundsson spends part of each year in Xiamen, where he also promotes the non-profit gallery CEAC.
© Tineke Reijnders, 2017