"I do not make body sculpture, body art or body works. When I fell off the roof of my house or into a canal, it was because gravity made itself master over me." --Bas Jan Ader
I was first introduced to the work of Bas Jan Ader in June 2006 at the Camden Arts Centre in London, where they were mounting the first solo show of his work ever in the UK. I was practically hard-wired to fall deeply in love with his work, steeped as it is in a very Dutch sense of humor and irony and melancholy, and this was even before I learned he had been lost at sea in 1975 in his ultimate artistic project, In Search of the Miraculous. In his documentary Here Is Always Somewhere Else filmmaker (and Bas's friend) Rene Daalder sketches out Ader's career and thoughtfully explores the possible motivations for his attempt to cross the Atlantic in a too-tiny boat. The boat was found off Ireland; Ader never was. Along the way Daalder interviews the artist's widow, his best friend Ger van Elk, and contemporary artists who have been influenced by his work like the always-amazing Tacita Dean. Daalder's film screened Friday night at the Berkeley Art Museum in conjunction with their awesome State of Mind exhibition (more on that in a future post), and it was incredibly moving to hear Ader's friends and family give their first-hand accounts of his artistic vision. From Jonathan Monk's essay in the Camden Arts Centre's Bas Jan Ader "file note":
He made very few pieces in his short lifetime, all though, very beautiful and precious. He was (and is) an important teacher and many of his students (us all) sometimes cannot deal with his/their loss, fantasizing all kinds of scenarios and even his eventual safe return. I also hope he is still alive, living on an island in the South Seas, watching from a distance, his work magically continuing without him... the artist as consumer of extreme comfort.