Sunday, March 29, 2009
In Search of the Miraculous
There is one artist that feel comes to mind a lot, dutch artist Bas Jan Ader. I thought of him when we were talking about Allen Lightman's book "Einstein's Dreams" and when we read about Ray Johnson. Bas Jan Ader is a conceptual artist who was a performance artist, photographer and filmmaker and his work became popular during the early 70s. A number of his performances are videos of him slowly allowing himself to fall. He falls from a chair placed on a rooftop, he falls from a tree branch, he falls into the river on a bicycle. The falls are so simple and deliberate they seem very elegant and affecting.
One of his best know pieces is a short film called “I’m too sad to tell you” where Ader cries in front of the camera for a little over 3 minutes. I feel like a lot of his work plays with the line between theatrically and sincerity and leaves you wondering what your response to him should be.
What I find the most fascinating about Bas Jan Ader was what I suppose you could call his final piece. In 1975 he set off on what he called “a very long sailing trip.” The trip was a part of a piece called “In Search of the Miraculous” in which he would attempt to cross the Atlantic by himself in a 12 ft sailboat. He hoped to make the trip in 60 to 90 days, but three weeks after he set off he lost radio contact and was presumed lost at sea. 6 months later his boat was found off the coast of Ireland, but Bas Jan had vanished, and his body has never been found. I feel like this story is a really good example of art and life merging. His disappearance is similar to Ray Johnson’s suicide, but it is less clear what Bas Jan’s intentions were and where circumstances took over. When we were discussing the different time scenarios we talked about being able to choose the moment of your death or at least being able to decide that this would be an acceptable time to go. I think that Bas Jan Ader being lost at sea was a really appropriate ending for him; it almost makes him seem mythical, more like a character from a legend then a real human being.
His website his a lot of his films and more information about the sailing trip.