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Diktat in Breda

[ ii. boezem ] ; previous episode: [ i. dutch angle ]

october 19, 2007.

We slept few hours that night, in a hostel right opposite the Breda train station. B-lodgings without breakfast, but with headaches from too much BUT wine. It seemed only appropriate. I don't think the hostel had a name; at least, I can't remember one. But its owner or manager had a passion. In the office, in the lounge, in the bar, on the wall, on tables, on cupboards, everywhere there hung and stood framed pictures, all of one and the same little white curly dog. I did not see any live dogs, though. Not when we checked in late saturday afternoon. And not when we left on sunday morning. So it may have been an ex-dog. Maybe it was a dead dog.

We stayed in room number 5, on the first floor. With a generous view on the hostel's backyard, from the room's windows. Which were tightly screwed up. As though one were afraid that we might jump out ... The backyard's pièce de résistance was a blind wall with nothing but a life size poster of Spiderman who seemed to be hanging out the washing. But that must have been a decoy, as I am sure he was there to keep an eye on us ... (Click the pictures to enlarge.)

spiderman washing machine

Though at the hostel there was nothing to be had, a fine breakfast was being served for both crew and artists in Electron, with lots of coffee and freshly baked eggs. Meanwhile the premises were being prepared for yet another BUTFF day. Ah, yummy breakfast! There's nothing like it to bring one back to life ... (There's a peep of our breakfast at Electron at the end of Rébus' BUTFF video report ... fijne vleeswaren, halvarine, filet américain naturel ... "Action!" ... )
It all sums up to yet another hattip for Dorien and her fellow organizers. They were wonderful hosts, and did a marvelous job.

It was a sunny sunday and still early. So there was simply no way that Diktat would leave Breda without trying for a secret outdoors performance here or there, in the spirit of our earlier surprise appearance on the Scheveningen beach the day after our concert in The Hague.
What we had in mind was take our instruments and recorders to a place that Rébus had spotted on saturday, when Dorien drove us along the Academiesingel to check in at the hostel. boezem speakerNone of us others had seen it: on the corner of the Willemstraat bridge across the canal, there is a small square, somewhat hidden by trees, with in each of its four corners a pole of about 2 meters high, topped by a bell shaped loudspeaker. Public loudspeakers, like the ones often used for announcements in public spaces, like on sport fields. Dorien and others from the BUTFF crew knew but a little more. "It is a sound art work," they told us. "You have to stand in the middle, and then there is sounds supposed to come from the speakers in the four corners .. It is not working, though..."
Now that was an invitation if ever we got one ... And so we went there to investigate, trying to find out what's the deal ... (Click the pictures to enlarge.)

diktat @ boezem diktat @ boezem

The framed stone square with its four loudspeakers on poles looked like it once had been conceived as a sort of an open air 'sound box'. In the middle of the square there's a block of concrete, in which, below two foot prints, are carved the word: Boezem and the year: 1975. Probably Boezem then is the name of the artist, and 1975 the year the work was erected, there on the corner of the Academiesingel and the Willemstraat. The footprints must be sort of a manual, a user interface:"Step up here, put your feet into mine; now listen ..." That is what Boezem seems to be telling us.
But nothing happens if one follows this call. I could not help but feeling a bit silly when I stepped onto the concrete block and expectantly pricked up my ears. The four rusty loudspeakers looked down upon me sternly, while remaining dead silent. There was nothing but the ongoing traffic sounds, and the clicking signals that were ceaselessly sounding to aid the blind and those with otherwise impaired eyesight in crossing the street.

Who could have wished for a better spot for a surprise performance? So under the inquisitive glances of passing by drivers, cyclists and pedestrians we started to play, for about half an hour.
Here is Rébus' video report of the event, that unintentionally turned out to be a lot like an action by the Antinoise Brigade ...



Closer inspection of the place where we were suggested that this 'public art work' had been left to its own devices for quite a while. A piece of abandoned public art. Had it really been out there on the corner already for some thirty-two years? How did the work work? What sort of sounds did it bring forth? When and why did it stop doing so? And who is responsible? Will it be left as it is now? An example of public art trash? Prone to invading weeds, moss and rust? Art refuse ... refused art?
If nobody wants it, couldn't I have it? Put it in my backyard? Make it sound again?

Web search suggested that Boezem is Marinus Boezem, a dutch artist born in 1934, who did many works in and for public spaces. Documentation for a number of these are to be found on the web, but I did not find any mention of this 'public sound piece' in Breda.

With so many questions left unanswered I decided I needed to begin looking for answers. And I will continue to chronicle that what I'm able to find out here on this page ... The first thing I did, was see if I could find the name and contact information of someone responsible for 'public art' in the city of Breda. I found the name and email of the head of the section 'culture' of the department of 'maatschappelijke ontwikkeling' of the city council. That seemed to be a good starting point, and on friday october 12th I sent an email, asking for information.
On monday, october 15th, I received a reply:

"Geachte heer Schellinx," the message said, "ik heb uw bericht doorgestuurd naar [de] beleidsmedewerker beeldende kunst en projectleider Kunst voor de openbare ruimte. Zij kan u meer vertellen over het werk van Marinus Boezem."

For those that do not read dutch: it says that my questions have been forwarded to someone that should know the answers. But no answers so far.

I guess that Marinus Boezem will know.
Shall we track down Marinus, then ...?


march 30, 2008.

Tracking down Marinus is precisely what I did. It was not so difficult.

I contacted an art galery in Amsterdam representing Boezem and his work. It is there that I got his address and telephone number. So I wrote him a letter, and somewhat later I phoned him up.

He told me that in the Tête d'Or parc in Lyon there is a replica of the work in Breda, installed on the terrace of a renaissance villa, and overlooking the parc and the lake. "There every morning someone still puts the plug into a wall socket, and it works ..." ( * )

boezem sculptuurThe work is called 'Visual Sound Project'. Boezem's drawing (click to enlarge) of its replica in Lyon goes by the name 'Sculpture Panoramique'.
The picture of the drawing is taken from the Catalogue Raisonné of Boezem's work that appeared in 1999 ( ** ). The 'Visual Sound Project' in Breda was commissioned by the City of Breda and the Dutch (then) Ministry of Culture, Recreation and Social Work (CRM). It was, Marinus told me, among the very first art works in the Netherlands that employed sound.

This is how it (is supposed to) work(s): as soon as someone steps in the middle of the square podium onto the small bluestone platform - on which, as you can see in Rebus' video, two footprints are sandblasted, together with the text 'Boezem 1975' - a sound tape begins to play. Upon leaving the podium the tape stops. Marinus told me that, technically, the switching was done "with radar", but the precise functioning still remains unclear to me ( *** ). Where, for instance, in the Breda installation would the tape machine be placed? And was it a looped cassette tape? A looped reel-to-reel tape? A tape cartridge? Or maybe something else? Nowadays there are obvious and simple technical solutions, but in 1975?

On the original sound tape used in the Breda installation, Boezem read aloud the Latin names of the trees in the Valkenberg Park, which is the park that one overlooks when standing on the podium. In the background of the recording one hears the twittering of birds. Boezem's voice read the names of the trees - and in passing mentioned also the Wilhelmina monument - from the left to right, and zoomed "in on the trees like a camera lens: the louder, the closer the tree, the softer, the farther away" [126, 238], thus rendering, in a way, the visible panorama audible.

Earlier this month I received a letter from Marinus, together with the bulky (500+ pages) Catalogue Raisonné of his work. Both were real surprises.

In the letter he told me that, largely thanks to Diktat's action on his 'Visual Sound Project', our subsequent curiosity, and our contacting him and the city of Breda, the responsible city services had taken up the restauration of the work, and he had been assured that soon the 'Visual Sound Project' would be functioning again.
....
But will the restaured installation still work with 'radar'? and with a sound tape? And even if it does not, will it not be absolutely necessary for Diktat to go back there, as soon as Boezem's vocal rendering of the Valkenberg Park is audible again on the corner of the Academiesingel and the Willemstraat, and perform on Boezem's podium, but now together with his recorded voice?

( ___ The picture below is part of the photographic record of Boezem's 'Signing the boezemluchtsky above the port of Amsterdam with an aeroplane', from 1969, in which "a skywriting aeroplane writes the word 'Boezem' with condensation trails in the cloudy sky above Amsterdam's harbour". But of course, "after some time the word begins to blurr, and ultimately disappears behind a cloud bank" [94.1].

Air, weather and wind are the major elements in the works that make up Marinus Boezem's impressive oeuvre ___ )


[ Kunstwerk Boezem na jaren weer aan de praat - BN De Stem, 8 februari 2008 ]


[ added june 4th, 2008 : Rébus uTube report, Diktat & Boezem, (embedded above) was selected for inclusion in the Noisebox section of the second edition of Filmer la Musique, a "film festival to be experienced as a rock festival", at the Point Ephémère, Paris X (june 3-8, 2008). ]


notes __ ::
(*) In the Catalogue Raisonné of Boezem's work (see next note) there is mention of a replica that was temporarily set up on the steps of the Villa Gillet in the Parc de la Cerisaie in Lyon, in 1988. "The steps afford a panoramic view over the park. With the aid of the gardener at the park a new, adapted audio tape was made for the installation." [277.2] Boezem's drawing of the installation ([127], see above) mentions, handwritten, the Parc Tête d'Or in Lyon, and shows a panoramic view of a lake. (In this SoundBlog entry, numbers between square brackets all refer to the numbering of Boezem's works in the Catalogue Raisonné.) [ ^ ]
(**) Edna van Duyn, Fransjozef Witteveen - Marinus Boezem: Catalogue Raisonné. Uitgeverij Thoth, Bussum (the Netherlands, 1999). ISBN 90 6868 222 9 [ ^ ]
(***) As a conceptual artist, Marinus Boezem is a man of ideas, who indeed (as one may learn from the Catalogue Raisonné) often was not involved at all in their practical and technical realisation. It is therefore not unlikely that Marinus simply does not know how the installation worked precisely. (I will ask him next time). [ ^ ]

tags: Breda, diktat, Marinus Boezem

# .247.

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