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Marinus Boezem in the Oude Kerk

Published 10 Nov 2016 at 12:26 by Lotte van Geijn

Artist Marinus Boezem had been lingering on Oude Kerk director, Jacqueline Grandjean’s wish list for a while. In 2014, she met him in his studio in Middelburg and they spoke about their fascination for gothic art. Two years later, it’s finally happened, Boezem’s exhibition in the Oude Kerk.

The Old Church is the oldest preserved building in Amsterdam. More than seven hundred years ago the originally wooden chapel was built on the present site, which is now located in the middle of the Red Light District. The church is considered one of the Dutch Gothics and boasts the largest medieval wooden barrel vaults ceiling of Europe. Now, the Old Church is an exhibition space.

The church building as muse
Marinus Boezem (1934) put conceptual art on the map in the ‘60s. It wasn’t the object that was most important, but the idea was given the leading role. Boezem’s work is typified by a certain lightheartedness. He works with unusual non-materials such as wind, light and transparency. What’s noticeable is his fascination for churches and church buildings. Boezem seems the gothic cathedral as the ultimate metaphor for the human desire to ascend, leaving the earthly behind them. The ‘church building’ has been his muse for years.

Art made of trees
Boezem’s most recognisable work is his landscape artwork De Groene Kathedraal (‘The Green Cathedral’) in South Flevoland. In 1978, he had 178 young poplar trees planted, mimicking the blueprints of the Reims Cathedral. Next to it the same plan of the cathedral has emerged through the omission of trees in a newly landscaped forest. A perfect yin and yang. The artwork was only opened to the public in 1996, when the trees had grown tall enough and the paths, which represent Gothic arches, were finished. However, this type of poplar slowly dies after growing over thirty meters, higher than the real Reims Cathedral. Not until only the memory of the artwork remains, when the Flevolanders speak of ‘there was once a cathedral here’, will the new province have acquired its own history.

Marinus Boezem - De Groene Kathedraal

Marinus Boezem – De Groene Kathedraal

In 1979, Boezem slipped into a strange aviator suit on, with a stray bird feather stuck to it, and became L’Uomo Volante (The Flying Man). In the Middelburgse exhibition space De Vleeshal, he used ropes to pull a giant mirror into the room. The mirror had the same weight as his body. When he could no longer hold the mirror, he dropped it suddenly and it broke into countless shards. De Vleeshal is also located in an old gothic building, the former town hall. The arched ceiling became visible, in fragments. One of those moments that you think: you should’ve been there to experience it! Thirty seven years later, Boezem still performs the same performances, now using his aged body, but now in the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam. A joyful event! This will be a key piece in Boezem’s oeuvre. His mirror image disappears, the bird has flown off. It symbolises the desire to fly, a universal human dream.

Marinus Boezem - Performance L'uoma Volante - De Vleeshal, 1979

Marinus Boezem – Performance L’uoma Volante – De Vleeshal, 1979

And fly we will. The most exciting work in the upcoming Oude Kerk exhibition in into the air (2016). A bellboy will help you step into the life and then you will be lifted up in a construction lift. Fifteen meters high, into the ridge of the Oude Kerk. There, Boezem has left a personal message for you. Far above the small and insignificant existence below.


We Are Public members are welcome to experience Marinus Boezem’s exhibition in the Oude Kerk on 24 November during the Amsterdam Art Weekend.

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