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Offline nikesasasassa

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The artist who sailed to oblivion
Richard Dorment is surprised   and captivated   by a heartbreaking exhibition of works by conceptual artist Bas Jan Ader, who was mysteriously lost at sea
In Search of the Miraculous, the last and most poignant work by the Dutch born artist Bas Jan Ader, was intended to be a performance in three parts. On the afternoon of July 9, 1975, the 33 year old artist said goodbye to his American wife and set sail from Cape Cod on a solo voyage across the Atlantic. His boat, the Ocean Wave, was only a little over 12ft in length, the smallest craft in which such a feat had ever been attempted.
On the night before his departure, he arranged for a student choir to sing sea shanties around a piano in the gallery of his Los Angeles dealer. The voyage was to be the central element in the performance. To end it, Ader planned a second sing song when he reached Falmouth eight to 10 weeks later.
But, after three weeks, radio contact with his boat was lost. Although it was spotted 60 miles out to sea and again near the Azores, he was never seen again. To this day, no one knows whether Ader was swept to his death by a freak wave, became disorientated and jumped overboard, or whether, from the first, his intention in staging his last work had been to commit suicide.
The body of work Ader left behind is extraordinary, but it isn't extensive   only a few short films (most of which were made in a single weekend) plus some photographs and several performance pieces. In short, he is a classic cult figure, an artist's artist. His work was enormously influential, but of limited popular appeal. At least, that's what I thought until I saw All is Falling, the heartbreaking retrospective of his work at the Camden Arts Centre.
I can't remember another exhibition that so completely transformed my understanding of an artist's work. Before I went to this show, I thought of Ader as a conceptual artist in the mode of Chris Burden and Bruce Nauman, unusual only in that he was such a romantic figure   young, handsome and melancholic. Now I realise his life and work were tragically intertwined in ways that remind me of Egon Schiele or Vincent van Gogh.
In his few silent black and white films, he performs a series of actions that are both dangerous and clown like in their absurdity. In one, he sits on a chair balanced on the pitched roof of his house and allows himself to fall off. In another, he hangs from the branch of a tree until his strength fails and he drops into a muddy stream. And in a third, he steers his wobbly bicycle into an Amsterdam canal. In these falling pieces, Ader's medium is the force of gravity, which launches him into the unknown   much as Yves Klein had done in his famous photograph of 1960, Leap into the Void.
Thematically, Ader sets himself up for failure in these works, presenting himself as hopelessly incompetent, unable to hold on, to keep his balance, or to stand upright   the artistic heir to Buster Keaton. All this is charming enough, but, taken at face value, it's a little too whimsical to be the stuff of great art.
At first sight, Ader's photographs and installations feel similarly slight. In one of his best known works, he photographed all of his clothes chaotically spread out on the roof of his house. Another piece consists of two photographs shown side by side. In the first, he stands in a forest clearing looking directly out at us; in the second, he lies prone on the forest floor.
His films and photos combine an element of slapstick with an undertow of melancholy. Only a few express grief outright. In I'm too sad to tell you, we see him in close up weeping uncontrollably for a full 10 minutes, a Man of Sorrows.
In one of his installations, he scrawls the words "Please don't leave me" on to the gallery wall.
What the Camden show reveals is that the terrible events of Ader's early life inform the art he was to make as an adult. Ader was born in 1942, the son of a Calvinist minister living in northern Holland. His idealistic parents had turned their home into a refuge for Jews, hiding them from the Nazis and so saving their lives. When Ader was a few months old, his father was arrested, imprisoned, taken into the woods and shot. Suddenly, the photos in which Ader stands in the forest and then falls down look like a re enactment of his father's execution.
Ader's mother wrote a book about her experiences during the war, in which she recalled that when her young son realised his father would never return, he said, "Mama, please don't leave me"   the title of a later artwork. When the Germans gave her 15 minutes to gather her belongings and leave the family home, she rushed through the house, flinging the family's clothes out of the windows into the garden, intending to come back later to retrieve them. Knowing this, the photo of Ader's clothes thrown on to the roof of his house no longer looks like a piece of whimsy, but an act of homage to his mother.
And the film of Ader weeping uncontrollably is surely about a sense of mourning and loss so great that it cannot be articulated. Death haunts this work. In his film Nightfall, he lifts a concrete paving slab and allows it to fall on to the only light source in a dark interior, a cluster of light bulbs   an act symbolic of sudden and violent death. A psychoanalyst might say Ader's work documents his attempt to find his irretrievably lost father within himself. I'd go van cleef clover bracelet knock off further. In some works, it feels as though Ader is trying to become his father, and that for this reason his early death was entirely predictable.
Whatever else is true about Ader, I think it is safe to say he was a profoundly depressed man. It is in this light that we should see the films van cleef and arpels bracelets fake in which he falls from a roof, a tree or into a canal. In order to fall, you have to let go, to lose control   just as you must if you allow yourself to feel the full force of overwhelming grief. In a superb documentary film Rene Daalder has made about Ader's life and work, it is suggested that the act of crossing the Atlantic in such a small boat was another way to lose control, to place himself at the mercy of a force greater than himself. Perhaps he let go of the steering wheel, surrendering himself to the ocean as he bracelet van cleef and arpels replica had surrendered to the force of gravity. We will never know.
For some, I realise, such a biographical interpretation diminishes Ader's art, which should be allowed to stand on its own. But I think it makes it richer by adding another layer of meaning and resonance to work that was already original, touching and meticulously executed. Try to get to this exhibition, but if you can't, the catalogue   and particularly its introductory essay by Erik Beenker   is outstanding.
 
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