With A Colleague's Regards
Louis van Gasteren (1922-2016) was filmmaker, visual artist and "seismographer of his time". My first encounter with Louis van Gasteren's oeuvre is the documentary 'Hans Het Leven voor de Dood'. It was around 1983 that I saw the movie in a filmhouse in Leiden.
The film sketches a touching portrait of the generation from the turbulent fifties and sixties in the city of Amsterdam on the basis of the montage of interviews, in which the short life of poet and composer Hans van Sweeden is highlighted.
Completely captivated by the film and 'begeistert' from the soundtrack, I sat right behind the piano at home and played for hours, trying to get in the fingers the monotonous succession of sounds, which Misha Mengelberg pressed and pushes as it were out of the keys. And even now, when I hear the melody 'On Some Faraway Beach' by Brian Eno again, I see the city in a bird's-eye view - through the lens of Louis van Gasteren.
Personal contact began in 2011. Louis van Gasteren rang me up to meet, in response to my contribution to the call for preservation and renovation of the original artworks at the renewal of the Amsterdam metro stations Oostlijn.
Louis Van Gasteren created the Gesamtkunstwerk 'Greetings from the Nieuwmarkt' in the metro station Nieuwmarkt with Jan Sierhuis, Bert Griepink, Roel van den Ende and Tine Hofman.
During the inspiring conversation in the house at the Kloveniersburgwal, no further than a few canals from the studio from here, I also took a look at his archive. The archive contains visual material of all kinds of public artworks, which have been executed, or proposed as a concept. And then I think; a wealth of design drawings of projects and works of art by Louis van Gasteren that could be realized, again or for the first time, at a specified location.
After our meeting we would keep in touch to inform each other about the progress of the Nieuwmarkt artwork. In the period that followed, Louis van Gasteren also surprised me several times with a notice by telephone or extensively by letter, that he had seen and visited on the spot one of my artworks in Amsterdam: 'The Key Is Under The Doormat', 'You Have Ten Saved Messages' in the Synagogue LJG, and the floor-piece 'Tomorrow Everything Will Be Alright'.
"Yes, Martijn, I call my driver and we go by car, as an invalid to Plein Kraaipan, near the Afrikanerplein. And then the curtains are pulled aside on that little trip, and we're back in the middle of The Second World War. All those drawers are opened again, while on the way to your floor artwork.
With that 'tomorrow' it is assumed that this happens and that we experience it in our lives. But goddamn, it only happens after our death and we have to stretch the time to tomorrow, and should have faith that post mortem everything will be alright.
What would you say to elevate your floor artwork to a space where we can keep a Service? A church without walls and roof, a floor only. And you made that floor, and a message emerges from that floor. And on the cathedra, the lectern, there are three or four speakers. And that there will be a lecture about the issue and the thesis that you postulate between those two blocks of houses: 'Tomorrow everything will be alright'.
So there they are, three heavyweights that examine the course of time: your staircase, the synagogue and now this square.
I think that both your artwork and your message require a verbal justification of the institutionalization of the optimistic message. In other words, dear Martijn, we are going to uplift that floor. With a colleague's regards, Louis"
We had to "drink a glass soon", and then I could immediately pick up the order for his recently released film 'Nema Avonia za Zagreb'. Afterwards, the dvd was given together with a publication of the script.
It is the last film by Louis van Gasteren. A retrospect on his life, including the beautiful scene, shot in Abcoude, - a Dutch village with two churches, located at a distance in each other's extension -, where the disappearance of the one tower behind the other tower is masterfully portrayed.
Martijn Sandberg, Amsterdam, 1 March 2018
Click here for text in English, as PDF.
Click here for text in Dutch, as PDF.
Louis van Gasteren, portrait in mirror. Film stills and scenario 'Hans Het Leven voor de Dood', 1983.
Louis van Gasteren and Jan Sierhuis installing 'Groeten uit de Nieuwmarkt'. Archive photo 1978-1980.
'De Wortels van de Stad', Louis van Gasteren, station Nieuwmarkt. 'Van Metro tot Beeldbuis', 1980.
'Nema Aviona za Zagreb', Louis van Gasteren, cover, publication. Spectrum Film, Amsterdam, 2012.
'Nema Aviona za Zagreb', Louis van Gasteren, stills and scenario. Spectrum Film, Amsterdam, 2012.
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