All its founding artists covet wonderful memories of the In-Out Center. They were young and talented – mostly expats who were very happy to find themselves an artistic home in Amsterdam: a centre where they could meet other artists and curious visitors, all while seeing surprising art. There was art they had never seen before, and art that was not always recognised as art by others.
The grand opening on November 24, 1972 deeply stirred the Dutch art world, and the In-Out Center became a hub that attracted international interest. Of course, Amsterdam had its Stedelijk Museum – an applauded forerunner with unprecedented exhibitions. There were also some pioneering galleries like Galerie Swart, Art and Project and a couple of short-lived spaces, such as Galerie Booker and Galerie Tor, in addition to the special Galerie 845. But there were no other places similar to the In-Out Center, with its sense of cooperative energy and uninhibited experimentation. "There was no competition", says Sigurdur Gudmundsson, explaining its attractive power.
The pressure on the space was heavy. Exhibitions started on Saturdays, while shows included Fridays. Therefore, the previous show had to be packed up during at night, and the new show had to be installed more or less simultaneously. No breaks were accepted, and even on Christmas and New Year’s Eve the gallery was open and had to be overseen.
If one of the founding artists invited a colleague, usually from another country, he or she was responsible for everything that was needed by the guest, including lodging, technical assistance, materials, the layout of the invitation, the printing, the distribution, drinks, snacks, presence in the gallery, and so on. Guests were happy to come to Amsterdam, as it was a city with magnetic appeal to international youth.
While all the male members applaud their enthusiastic experiences with the In-Out Center, Hetty Huisman had some reservations. She was the only woman, and forty years ago women had hard times amongst a majority of ambitious men. She was established in Amsterdam longer than the others, so she knew where to find what was needed, including a notary. Usually, an art organisation starts with establishing a foundation, but here it started with ideals and became a foundation after its closure – all in order to create a fair financial liquidation of the successful time that ended with a deficit. Nevertheless, Hetty Huisman enjoyed a wonderful incentive for her conceptual approach to ceramics. She also shared the same sense of humour as her colleagues, as well as the same feeling for deeper thoughts in art. She was both a character and a generous and stimulating person.
Amsterdam – in those years referred to as Magic City – was well-known for its free and playful atmosphere that attracted many artists from other countries. The movement of Provo (1965-1967) paved the way for creativity that blew every vestige of bourgeois thinking away. Perhaps for the first time after the second World War, freedom meant a complete liberty of imagination.
It was exactly at the apogee of these relaxed societal times that the In-Out Center was able to blossom. Soon, everything became a bit more regulated until, by the end of the seventies, the squatters changed the outlook of the city. A host of new artists' initiatives, mostly established in oversized post-industrial buildings, set other standards. But in the first years of the seventies, the mindset was pure, genuine, honest and separate from cheerful irony – there was no sarcasm or jealousy at play. Decisions were made in a democratic way. Michel Cardena did have a penchant to dominate (he loved being assisted by his students), but he did not impose his will. After a while, it was Ulises Carrión who took it upon himself to organise the sequence of the exhibitions. In 1992, in his archives, which he entrusted to Juan Agius in Geneva, I found the documentation file of the In-Out Center, now in the archives of Hetty Huisman.
Each of the founding artists have enjoyed a great career. Their CVs sparkle with exhibitions at important spaces and great commissions. While the artists from Iceland and Pietr L. Mol have always figured on prominent stages, over the last few years the hunger in South America to exhibit the work of Cardena, Carrión and Marroquín has become insatiable. Marroquín, unrelentingly active, had the opportunity to realise some "grands travaux".
All the Latin Americans remained in Amsterdam, but Kristján Gudmundsson returned to Iceland in 1979, and his brother Sigurdur divides his time between China, Iceland, Sweden and Amsterdam. Hreinn Fridfinnsson stayed in Amsterdam, while Gerrit Jan de Rook, a regular visitor of Amsterdam, lives in The Hague and Pieter Laurens Mol lives in Brussels. To my personal regret, Hetty Huisman recently died and Michel Cardena passed away in 2015. Ulises Carrión has been missed since 1989, in the midst of a period when AIDS was fatal for many great artists.
The notion of avant-garde is too bleak to depict the daring enthusiasm in 1972 that gave rise to new expressions like performance, video art, artists' books and visual poetry. The barriers between former disciplines disappeared – something that was normal for Fluxus artists, but taken with some reservations by others. In the magazine Opus, J.C. Lambert, a French poet and writer who wrote about Cardena and performed with him, called such artists "arteurs" instead of artists. "Filliou, Constant, tous ‘arteurs’, les habitants de New Babylon!", he writes in an email. Anyhow, he is right to mention the painter Constant, a creator of new models for a communal society, and a thinker who contributed to Provomagazine while being involved in the Situationniste Internationale, bridging Provo with the cultural revolution of Paris '68.
Fluxus may have been of influence in Iceland through Dieter Roth and through Flux Shoe in the United Kingdom, which the peers of Beau Geste Press organised, but it did not become a dominant feature. Fridfinnsson encountered early conceptualism during his studies in England, and conceptualism mixed with poetry and some absurdism can be viewed as a common denominator for him. Even if the artists at the In-Out Center underlined their individuality, some interests did arise under the same star. Natural phenomena like a (frozen) cube that is transformed into a circle are seen in the art of Kristján Gudmundsson, as well as by Michel Cardena. Photography or slides used to fixate a performance is the practice of Cardena, Sigurdur Gudmundsson and Mol. Video, a new technique at the time, was a favourite tool for Marroquín's Equipo Movimiento, as well as for Cardena – though their approaches were quite different. The body was a repeating issue, mostly in an existential sense, and identity or the exchange of identities recurred regularly. Gravity and materials from the earth played a role in Huisman’s art, and the wind, geological aspects and the process of time were important in the works of the Icelandic artists. De Rook and Carrión were fascinated by visual poetry and book works.
It comes as no surprise that their guests – often friends – operated in the same vein. Michael Gibbs from England was as multitalented and versatile with poetry and the alphabet as his friends, and he called his show at the In-Out Center language operations. Native speaker Gibbs was, at the same time, helpful with questions regarding proper English. Jan Voss from Düsseldorf, Germany adorned the space with a roll of paper, on which he drew waves consisting of water and a poetic text, Treibsatz, that he subsequently turned into a book. In the eighties, he returned to Amsterdam and founded Boekie Woekie with colleagues, which still exists today as a specialised gallery/bookshop for artists' books.
Michael Druks, a friend of the artist and printer Bart Boumans, came from Israel with his family and stayed for a year. He filled the walls of the In-Out Center with his Punishment lines, written in regular handwriting with his left hand, and made naughty boy scribblings in the corner. Englishman John Liggins titled his show Elemental Actions. He worked with words and made some artists' books. He was dedicated to the In-Out Center, but is the only one who left the art scene, happy to work a 9 to 5 job. Marten Hendriks lived in Velp and collaborated with De Rook on the publication Specimen, a collection of various artists' contributions. At the In-Out Center, Hendriks subjected his body to questions about its spatial and existential conditions.
The American Jim Melchert, a ceramist and colleague of Hetty Huisman, organised an outdoor performance at the Museumplein. He involved the artists from the In-Out Center in a play with rope-lines, inviting them to make mysterious movements. One can tell from the documenting photos that the Icelandic artists were no acrobats. Melchert's activities continued more often in the studio of Hetty Huisman. His Clay Dip Performance was talked about at great length.
Nicolaus Urban from Hungary, who came to live in Amsterdam via Germany, used photography for condensed performative narratives, demonstrating a somewhat surreal and aggressive impetus. Additionally, Bruno Bussmann, in fact a painter, also used photography at the time – for instance in the triptych The image and the limits of representation. Smoking three different Tabaccos (Grünband / Heerenbay / Rode Ster) as well as for a bodywork, where the artist himself was hidden under the grass of a meadow in Iceland, called Grassbed.
Géza Perneczky, at the time from Hungary but who later lived in Germany, presented the photo sequence Yes and No at the In-Out Center, in addition to his famous series in which he is seen blowing bubbles, titled Art-ball series. The opening was at a remarkable time: on Monday the 22nd of October, 1973 at 1:00 p.m. Dutch artist Mike Quee is fascinated by Chinese wisdom and is a dedicated reader of the poetry by Li Po. He had Hreinn Fridfinnsson pose for him, hidden in his photograph, titled Hreinn Fridfinnsson as Li Po.
The Canadians Clive Robertson and Su Clancy worked under the name W.O.R.K.S. – a collective that received two catalogues from gallery Súm in Reykjavik. Thus, they were informed about the international exchange of process works and included the In-Out Center in their 365-day project called A year Of..f. Robertson also executed a.o. Drumwash of John Danvers. The 365-day project was recorded in the book w.o.r.k.s.c.o.r.e.p.o.r.t., which was printed by Felipe Ehrenberg and David Mayor, of the befriended Beau Geste Press.
On more than one occasion, Ehrenberg and Martha Hellion came over from Devon to the In-Out Center and executed, for instance, the performance Condition-connection interrelatedness – a string event also called "The art is just an excuse", executed with a connecting string, making their mutual contacts concrete. A different document of this relationship can be seen in the series of photographs that Rod Summers showed. The photos were taken at the Verwood market in the neighbourhood of Cullompton – where Beau Geste Press was established – during a visit with Marroquin and some students from Maastricht. Marjo Schumans – Marroquín's girlfriend at the time – presented Prints, predominantly made of fingerprints. The artist was also engaged in the magazine Fandangos, and her presentation at the In-Out Center underlined the narrow relationship between the Jan van Eyck Academie / Agora Gallery and the In-Out Center.
The Zoo Group / Antibodies, which consisted of Charles Garrad, John Danvers and Ken Hickman, travelled from London to set up a performance, which included the direct neighbourhood. Sculptor and designer Helfried Hagenberg from Germany made a beautiful show, presenting balls in a chance order on the floor of the gallery. The balls were made from a weighty wood inlaid with a copper arrow, ready for a disturbance of the indicated directions.
A performance by the German Thomas Niggl ended badly. He sat undressed behind the window glass, not unlike the barely-dressed prostitutes in the nearby Rembrandtplein area, testing the degree of social tolerance, and locked the door. The police came to stop the performance and broke the lock. This was expected, as the sous terrain under the gallery was the studio of Jorgos Chronis, a fellow student of Marroquín, who documented the whole event with his camera.
One of the most sympathetic group exhibitions was Eén jaar mijn galerietje (One Year my little Gallery), a project by Sylvia van Berkel. In her and Pieter Mol's house in Breda, she reserved a small wooden shelf for tiny installations. Friends from Breda like Sef Peeters and Teun Hocks, as well as all artists from the In-Out Center, participated in the project, which received notoriety through the "silences" artwork by Carrión.
All 44 exhibitions and events were announced with a card or a sheet of paper created by the exhibiting artist. What enhanced the spread of the programme was de Uitkrant, Amsterdam’s monthly cultural magazine. Lily van Ginneken, the art critic for the newspaper De Volkskrant, convinced de Uitkrant to dedicate a page to the exhibitions in the city, and she personally looked after the exact information about the In-Out Center. Lily van Ginneken was appreciated by all the founding artists.
Indepence enabled the artists to create In-Out Productions, a humorous take on a production organisation. The first event was Simultaneous actions in Rotterdam, which took place on September 30 at De Lantaren. The second was an information stand with documentation about the activities performed during the opening of the In-Out Center in November 1972. The stand was set up in Maastricht, at the Jan van Eyck Academie, to complete an exhibition of works by the students Jan Hendrix, Servie Janssen, Sef Peeters and Arild Bergström.
The artists' books that were published under the imprint In-Out Productions were of great importance. The first was Sonnet(s) by Ulises Carrión.
© Tineke Reijnders, 2017