Personal Structures: Introduction
Personal Structures ist ein Projekt mit dem Ziel, eine Reihe von internationalen Künstlerinnen und Künstlern in Wort und Bild vorzustellen, die unseres Erachtens in ihren Intentionen viele Berührungspunkte und Gemeinsamkeiten aufweisen.
Die Beobachtung, dass in verschiedensten Teilen der Welt unabhängig voneinander an nahverwandten künstlerischen Problemen gearbeitet wird, hatte zu der Idee geführt, einige dieser Künstler zusammenzubringen, die Kommunikation mit und zwischen ihnen in Gang zu setzen und ihr ein Forum zu bieten.
Personal Structures ist keine Künstlergruppe, zumindest nicht im Sinne der Künstlergruppen der klassischen Moderne. Diese waren in aller Regel durch eine verbindliche Programmatik gekennzeichnet und nicht selten auch durch bestimmte Zugehörigkeits- bzw. Mitgliedschaftsregeln organisiert. Die ideologische Festlegung von Kunst, die Bekenntnisse, Manifeste und Kampfschriften waren Ausdruck eines Avantgardebewusstseins, das unmittelbar an die Vorstellung einer linearen Fortschrittsgeschichte der Kunst gekoppelt war. Diese teleologische Geschichtsauffassung hat sich längst als fragwürdig und unfähig erwiesen, einer immer komplexer werdenden pluralistischen Welt und ihren vielfältigen künstlerischen Haltungen gerecht zu werden. Personal Structures ist also keine Gruppe, sondern gleicht eher einem offenen Forum, auf dem sich unterschiedliche Individuen treffen und kommunizieren.
The making of PERSONAL STRUCTURES, 55th Venice Biennale 2013
2002 the Dutch artist Rene Rietmeyer initiated the project PERSONAL
STRUCTURES, an open platform, where artists can present their work and
thoughts in exhibitions, symposia and publications.
exhibiting in Asia, North America and Europe, Rietmeyer met several
other artists who were also working with Time, Space and Existence.
These encounters made it feel logical to bring these artists together in
a try to make the more philosophical topics “en vogue” in the world of
contemporary art. Beginning in 1999, Rietmeyer contacted several artists
and explained his ideas to create a project with them and in 2002 he
had brought together a loose grouping of “young” artists from different
parts of the world.
project title was chosen as a reaction upon the exhibition Primary
Structures from 1966, of the ‘minimalists’ Donald Judd, Carl Andre and
others, who, at that time, were claiming to create ‘non-subjective’
art; art without the “touch” of the artist; non-personal. Rietmeyer
however claims his work is subjective, ‘personal’. His Boxes, as well as
all other artworks are PERSONAL STRUCTURES.
2003 the first book “Personal Structures: Works and Dialogues” was
published, containing interviews with 16 artists by the German
art-historian Peter Lodermeyer and exhibitions were held in Japan, USA,
the Netherlands, Austria, Hungary and Germany. The first symposium was
organized at the Ludwig Museum in Germany; the project became larger
and more complex. Rietmeyer, who did all of the organization by
himself, needed assistance and started looking for a curator.
February 2005 I, Sarah, met Rene Rietmeyer at the Rotterdam Art Fair. I
had just finished my Masters in Art History and I was working as an
assistant curator for the Caldic Collection in the Netherlands. Rene
gave me a copy of “Personal Structures: Works and Dialogues” and told me
to contact him. I was 26 years old at the time and this seemed an
interesting opportunity: to be able to organize exhibitions and have
the chance to work at an international top level. We started to
liked the idea of organizing more symposia, where artists can speak for
themselves, and wanted to publish the spoken thoughts in significant
publications. We felt that there was a necessity to do so; according to
our opinion words from a direct source give a better insight than
interpretations of an art historian. So we decided to ask artists
whether they would be interested to participate in future symposia which
we were to organize.
1 July 2006, when Rene and I were on our way to Moordrecht in the
Netherlands for an erotic evening, Rene explained to me why Time, Space
and Existence are the most fundamental subjects he can think of and
that they are essential for his work. Time, Space and Existence not only
seem to be the most interesting philosophical subjects of mankind, but
probably even long before these topics were discussed under a Greek
olive tree, the thoughts about these concepts have been visualized in
art works. So, driving in the car, we decided to continue to organize
symposia, to which we would invite artists. Shortly after, one evening
whilst sitting in a bathtub, we decided to separate the topics,
organizing a symposium about Time in Amsterdam, Space in New York City,
and Existence in Tokyo.
were able to arrange a symposium and exhibition date at the oldest art
society in Amsterdam, Arti et Amicitiae. However, to get heard with a
group of young artists was not easy. Better would be to ‘glue’ some
others to the project who already established a name for themselves.
Over the years, Rene had met in Japan a.o. Lawrence Weiner and Joseph
Kosuth and both liked the idea to speak about Time.
winter, 2006-2007 we stayed in Miami Beach, Florida, USA, where at that
time Rene had one of his studios. Besides some exhibitions we had
organized in Florida, we had to be present at the art fair in Miami, in
order to earn extra money to finance our project. The finances would
solely have to come out of the sales of Rene’s artworks.
usual money was scarce, but we started nevertheless, and back in
Europe, we had a meeting with Joseph Kosuth in Vienna, Austria. Besides
contributing to our Time symposium, Joseph said that he would be
interested in coming to Tokyo and speak about Existence. He suggested to
organize the symposium in 2008 during Sakura, the cherry blossom time.
before going to Japan, we had to realise our first symposium in
Amsterdam, which was scheduled for 15 and 16 June 2007. One month before
that symposium, I, Karlyn, joined into the project—after responding to
an ad on the website of Leiden University in the Netherlands, where I
was doing a Research Master in Art History at that time. With the
upcoming symposium series, Sarah and Rene knew the project would be
expanding even more and were therefore looking for an additional
curator. It was 14 May when I met them for the first time and I
immediately took my chance to become part of PERSONAL STRUCTURES.
day of the symposium came. Lawrence Weiner, Roman Opalka, Jo Baer, Henk
Peeters, Klaus Honnef... It was very special to bring all these sincere
people together and to hear them speak about the passing of time. Now,
almost two years after the death of Roman Opalka and the death of Henk
Peeters last week, it feels even more special.
the Amsterdam symposium, we kept in contact while I, Karlyn, finished
my studies and went to Italy for three months, to work at the Venice
Biennale. I remember well, that one evening in September 2007, the three
of us met in Venice. While walking over the quay along the Bridge of
Sighs to San Marco square, we spoke about the future. Sarah and I had
just visited some Biennale exhibitions together and discussed the
possibility of organising our own PERSONAL STRUCTURES exhibition some
day as an official part of the Biennale. At that time, it was just a
our money went always into our project, the interviews, the symposia;
we could only survive because the Belgian collector, Andre Carez, bought
a large installation from Rene’s work. In March 2008, we flew to Tokyo
together. Google had showed us that in Tokyo the cherry blossom time was
most likely to begin in the first week of April, and we were able to
get a symposium date scheduled at the Setagaya Art Museum for 2 and 3
had rented a traditional Japanese house with sliding doors, paper walls
and an old Japanese toilet and bath system. Japan was a completely
different experience. During the whole period when we were in Japan
preparing our symposium, it had been very cold and wet and the trees did
not show any sign that they were to blossom soon. Also, for some weeks
we had not heard from Joseph Kosuth. I, Sarah, was very happy when on 31
March, my cell phone rang and I heard Joseph saying “I am in Tokyo,
let’s meet”. The next day, out of nowhere, the cherry blossoms opened up
everywhere: Sakura had started.
two days of the symposium were unusual. We were unable to understand
most of the contributions because our speakers mainly spoke Japanese.
Also we noticed that what we consider to be logic is not universal. All
the more, we were confirmed that also these—for us often unusual—points
of view are very interesting and need to be heard just like other
opinions that might be more conform our own point of view.
we remember most from those two days was Toshikatsu Endo, who
represented Existence merely by the sound of his voice and his being—and
the lunch breaks with everybody eating sushi in the museum park under
the cherry blossoms. In the metro on the way back to our Japanese house,
discussing Endo’s speech and his interest in Hermann Nitsch, we decided
to minimize our own judgements and document artistic achievements
regardless our own personal visual taste. To enrich our project also
with artists whose works visually seemed very different, but who are
clearly concerned with Time, Space and Existence, in their own personal
way. Shortly after we would have the first contact with Nitsch.
as usual we went back to the USA. We recovered financially, but in
September 2008 the art-world almost came to a financial standstill.
Different people advised us that it would be wise to postpone the last
symposium and the printing of our book Personal Structures:
Time-Space-Existence number 1, but we felt that if we would do that, we
might never be able to continue. So, all of us decided not to stop, but
spend privately as little money as possible and continue to give this
project our best efforts, the maximum of our capabilities.
meetings with possible speakers for our New York symposium we drove by
car from Miami to New York. On the road we discussed more in detail also
another facet of PERSONAL STRUCTURES that would run parallel to our
exhibitions and symposia: the series of Art Projects. We wanted to make
special edition books of documented Art Projects, to centralize the work
and ideas of specific artists; to be involved and learn from the inside
what their work is about. We had already started with the On Kawara
project, and we were now trying to create projects with Lawrence Weiner,
Roman Opalka, Joseph Kosuth, Hermannn Nitsch, Hamish Fulton and Lee
next symposium about SPACE was held on 3 and 4 April 2009 in the New
Museum in New York. Although Sarah and Rene were not able to join
because the US immigration considered speaking at your own symposium to
be work and they had no work permit, with serious contributions from
a.o. Richard Tuttle, Keith Sonnier, Peter Halley and Robert Barry, the
New York symposium became a great success.
we had completed three symposia and had recorded a lot of spoken text.
It was time to settle down somewhere in Europe in order to finish our
publication. Rene had been invited to participate at the 53rd Venice
Biennale, therefore we decided to rent in May 2009 an apartment in
Venice. Also, we had been asked to organize a small symposium during the
opening of the Biennale, we invited a.o. Marina Abramović. Being so
closely involved, we learned several aspects of the Venice Biennale.
took us several months of non-stop work, but in October 2009 we
completed the publication PERSONAL STRUCTURES: TIME-SPACE-EXISTENCE
number 1 and it became time for new projects. Rene, Sarah and I had
started living together in Venice and the idea of organizing an
exhibition as part of the Venice Biennale came to the foreground again.
With hundred thousands of visitors, it seemed the right surroundings to
pursue our wish to create a more widespread awareness about Time, Space
the years since we had joined PERSONAL STRUCTURES, Sarah and I had,
however, never really organized a very large and complex exhibition.
The city of Bregenz in Austria gave us the chance ‘to learn’, and in
January 2010 we organized an exhibition there, presenting 27 artists. It
became a wonderful exhibition in a large beautiful Palais and although
not many people visited our exhibition, we learned a lot.
the opening in Bregenz, we drove to the Netherlands and met with
Lawrence Weiner for our first PERSONAL STRUCTURES ART PROJECT: we stayed
24 hours on his boat Joma in Amsterdam. Having survived the cold and
experienced Lawrence, we returned to Venice where we took the first
steps toward our own Biennale exhibition: an appointment with Paolo
Scibelli, director of Collateral Events at La Biennale. It was a very
promising meeting. He gave us all possible support and said: “First, you
need a space.”
was this Palazzo which had the potential to fulfil Sarah’s and my
dreams: a prime location, a beautiful building with a rich history and
the potential of an incredible exhibition space: Palazzo Bembo.
However, there were some difficult aspects: the rent was very high and
the building was in a very bad condition, but nevertheless we loved it.
May 2010 we went to Naples in Italy for our second Art Project with
Hermann Nitsch, in which we were crucified and ‘fed’ blood. It was an
intense week, with many unusual experiences. Immediately after that we
needed a break and the three of us drove with our old car to Sicily.
There, overlooking the Mediterranean, we decided to continue also
privately together, and, although we did not have the money for it, to
take the risk and to rent Palazzo Bembo.
before we could start our Venice project, we got a unique opportunity:
our third Art Project with Roman Opalka. We could document a day in his
life, while the minutes were ticking away. From Sicily, we drove almost
directly through to Beaumont-sur-Sarthe, the house and studio of Opalka,
two hours South-West from Paris, France. It was very unique, to watch
him paint and to hear him speak his numbers in Polish. To see the
emotion in his face and his body, it was very special.
in Venice, we started step-by-step the process of securing Palazzo
Bembo for our exhibition. By the end of October 2010, the first artist
came to see the space: Roman Opalka. The Palazzo was still in a
disastrous condition. But Opalka seemed to have ‘Venice experience’ and
said that this was quite ‘normal’. Days later, we explained Joseph
Kosuth our plans for Venice in his Rome studio. He did not say “yes”,
but he did not say “no” either. Instead, he suggested to, just in case,
reserve a space for him. And after all deadlines had past, Kosuth wrote
us “…in any case, do know that I will participate in your show. This is
what I’ve been wanting to tell you.” Shortly after, Lee Ufan was to
visit Venice. He climbed over scaffolds, slid through narrow hallways,
until he chose a ‘corner room’, which he wanted to cover with white
marble split on the floor, combining it with a painting and a ‘medium
size’ stone. And in between, we had to drive to Austria, where we
visited Nitsch in Prinzendorf to show him our special edition “HERMANN
NITSCH: UNDER MY SKIN” and proposed our idea for PSAP #05 to Arnulf
the upcoming deadline for the Biennale application, the organizational
work became more intense. We had no ‘Venice experience’ yet and there
were many new aspects we had to deal with, they all seemed necessary
steps in order to get to where we are today. At the end of December
2010, we were ‘prepared’ for the Biennale, but we needed money
urgently. With the help of the collector Andre Carez, Sarah was able to
place several of Rene’s installations by different collectors. Now, we
were financially stable enough to start losing money again on our
Palazzo Bembo project.
the beginning of January 2011, the three of us went to Tenerife for our
fifth Art Project. As requested by Arnulf Rainer, we had made photos,
on our bed, showing us ‘veil dancing’ together, naked. After giving
Rainer the photos, he had new requests, many more requests, and he did
not stop until today. He understood that with the two of us, he could
live out all his artistic fantasies. Unfinished into Death.
had taken eight months of negotiations, until we finally signed the
lease contract for Palazzo Bembo in February 2011. Looking back, the way
we financed our project was very unusual, we had to do everything
necessary and we still wonder how we financially survived this.
Fortunately, we also got a lot of support from the artists, especially
those who knew our project well and who had already worked with us
before, were very generous. Lee Ufan for example allowed us to sell one
of his paintings whereby giving his share to our GlobalArtAffairs
Foundation. Hermann Nitsch and Arnulf Rainer made editions with us from
the art works that came forth out of our Art Projects. The money earned
with selling these PERSONAL STRUCTURES ART EDITIONS came also to the
benefit of our Foundation.
the weeks before the opening several artists came to Palazzo Bembo to
create their work: Yuko Sakurai arrived from Paris, Judy Millar from New
Zealand, SASAKI came from Los Angeles, Toshikatsu Endo from Tokyo,
Andrew Putter from Cape Town and Johannes Girardoni from New York. They
all came to create their individual installations. Rene painted his
Boxes in his room and finished just before the arrival of his
intellectual ‘sparring partner’ Joseph Kosuth. Lee Ufan came to place
his stone, painting and metal plate and arranged the lighting. Everybody
came to Palazzo Bembo: Peter Halley, Arnulf Rainer, herman de vries and
Tatsuo Miyajima, all seemingly from different worlds. Encounters
between artists who had never met before or had not seen each other for
many years. It was beautiful to see our exhibition grow with the active
participation of all these artists.
the exhibition, we were present every day to speak with everybody about
PERSONAL STRUCTURES; it was fantastic to see over 70,000 visitors
coming to see our exhibition. Ministers, presidents, Trustees from many
different museums, such as from the Guggenheim New York, K21
Düsseldorf, the Städel Museum Frankfurt and Fumio Nanjo with the Board
members from the Mori Art Museum Tokyo, and many more. Besides the
enormous financial pressure, we had a glorious time: a Palazzo on the
Grand Canal by the Rialto bridge, an exhibition with world-class artists
and artworks, and wonderful reviews in the press. Particularly special
was the day we had organized a brunch for Andre Carez and his friends
from Belgium, who had financially rescued us last December. While we
were drinking a Bellini on the balcony overlooking the Grand Canal, the
collector Gerhard Lenz and Roman Opalka joined us. It would be the last
time we would see Roman before he died a few weeks later on 6 August
the meantime, we had established a good relationship with the owner of
Palazzo Bembo and we had created an excellent operational team, mainly
students from the University of Venice, amongst them Davide De Carlo and
Valeria Romagnini. With such a great team, a flexible Palazzo owner, a
perfect location in Venice and an excellent exhibition space, we
decided to continue with ‘our’ Palazzo.
large art exhibition in 2013 and 2015 seemed very well possible, but
2012 and 2014 looked much more complicated. It were Manuela Lucà-Dazio
and Paolo Scibelli, the two directors from La Biennale who encouraged us
to organize also an exhibition during the Architecture Biennale. The
idea of including architects in our project had been often thought
about, especially in 2009 when we organized our symposium about SPACE in
the New Museum in New York.
exhibition with a similar setup as PERSONAL STRUCTURES was a logical
choice: exhibiting architects of many different countries, combining
young and upcoming with well-established architects. We also invited the
Chinese artist Ying Tianqi, who in his artworks often uses
architectural ‘ruins’ to question subjects such as the passing of time
and our relationship to the past. With the help of Valeria Romagnini in
the organisation, the exhibition became an interesting cross-over
between art and architecture presented by 57 architects, raising all
types of questions about time, space and architecture that were also
actively discussed in a symposium about Chinese Art and Architecture on
28 August 2012.
Davide De Carlo and Nicolas D’Oronzio, who had joined in January 2012,
now overseeing all works needed at Palazzo Bembo, and them even handling
the ‘Venice International Performance Art Week’ which we hosted in
December 2012, we could begin with the organisation of our new Art
Biennale exhibition. We started exploring the art world also with the
help of Google, looking for artists ‘hidden’ in ‘far away’ parts of the
world, but who are also sincerely concerned with Time, Space and
Existence. With the help of several artists, we managed to find
financial support from governmental institutions and all kinds of
different sponsors. Since I, Karlyn, had re-started to paint, I wanted
to be present in the exhibition as an artist and I would be responsible
for the catalogue and the next big book, while Valeria and Sarah would
curate the exhibition together with Francesca Crudo and Carol Rolla, who
both had joined our Foundation in September 2012. It were tough months
for them filled with endless emails and telephone calls, but on 15
December 2012, we handed in our proposal for a new PERSONAL STRUCTURES
2013 exhibition to La Biennale.
now some ‘Venice experience’, we decided that besides organising our
own PERSONAL STRUCTURES exhibition, we would expand our organisation and
host five other exhibitions during the 2013 Venice Biennale, with which
we hopefully will earn enough money to pay for our own exhibition and
publications and whereby we can give many more young people a chance to
get involved in the art-world.
the meantime, we have published our sixth Art Project, with Lee Ufan,
and PSAP #07 Ben Vautier and hopefully PSAP #08 Yoko Ono are in the
making. From the beginning of our series of Art Projects it was clear to
us that we did not want to only publish them in exclusive limited
editions. To make our projects available to a larger public, at least an
excerpt had to be printed in our next ‘Big Red Book’: PERSONAL
STRUCTURES: TIME SPACE EXISTENCE, number 2. For this publication again
all artists were very supportive: Marina Abramović, Otto Piene, Arata
Isozaki, Li Chen and Carl Andre all gave last-minute interviews, to make
sure that this book can be ready and printed before the opening of the
Venice Biennale 2013.
Rene, Sarah and Karlyn, are living the PERSONAL STRUCTURES project. And
like us, like our lives, the project develops, keeps changing. This
exhibition is therefore different from our 2011 Venice Biennale
exhibition, and of course, if we would have tried harder or if the
situation of the past 3 years would have been different, we might have
been able to do ‘better’ or include more artists, but at the moment this
is what it is: PERSONAL STRUCTURES at the 55th Venice Biennale, at