post reading/looking

March 17th, 2008

Bas Jan Ader/ I am too sad to tell you.


I’m Too Sad To Tell You (1971) is a three minute and twenty one second video of the artist, Bas Jan Ader, inexplicably crying. The fact that we’re not told why he’s crying puts our own reaction to the work on very shaky ground. Generally, it’s the audience that’s supposed to weep in front of artworks, not the other way around.
Bas Jan Ader practiced a romantic kind of conceptual art which involved ideas of falling, failure, sadness, and the sublime, among other things. His last project, part of a three part work entitled In Search Of The Miraculous, involved a sailboat trip from Cape Cod to England in July of 1975. He lost radio contact three weeks into the trip and wasn’t heard from again. Less than a year later his body was found off the coast of Ireland.
I’m Too Sad To Tell You is part of an exhibition of currently showing at Perry Rubinstein Gallery in New York. It’s up through the 22nd of December.

Legend of the fall – photographer Bas Jan Ader
ArtForum, March, 1999 by Bruce Hainley

The artist is crying and too sad to tell anyone why. A postcard with the dated note – “Sept. 13 1970. I’m too sad to tell you.” – shows Bas Jan Ader racked by tears. Whatever caused the tears to flow (the artist never publicly stated the reason) is ultimately beside the point. And yet Ader reenacted his private sadness, restaged it, photographed it to mail to others. While his piece retains a “real” sadness, it keeps vital the artifice and melodrama inherent in placing himself before his own camera while crying. Almost all of Ader’s work pulsates with a crisis of some personal intensity. His sincerity is sincere – until it’s not only sincere. Certainly connections exist between the postcard’s sad note and the ominous and purely theatrical qualities of some of his early, simple wall texts (“Please don’t leave me”; “Thoughts unsaid then forgotten”) and carefully chosen titles, like Farewell to Faraway Friends, a photograph of a lone Ader standing on the coast, framed by the setting sun on the horizon – a photo whose sincerity is toyed with by the kitschy, touristy “sunset” colors. To look at this another way, consider for a moment: If I told you that during the month I’ve been thinking about Ader I cried several times, and that I’m crying right now, would you buy it?

Ingres’s Comtesse d’Haussonville





19th century neurologist who worked with electricity to stimulate/simulate emotion. Also published a collection of photographs (new technology at the time) where he created a database of images documenting his electrical experiments on the facial muscles and the emotional states it rendered.

Gary Hill – Tall Ships



Acconci’s interest have been persistently psychological and interactive. Pushes viewers mentally and sometimes physically into situations they might preferably avoid. face to face with primal emotions/childhood memories – either his own or theirs. Initially personal to the point of exhibitionism, his early work often exposed his body and his innermost thoughts – a kind of stream-of-consciousness monologue. an artist more interested in process than the final product. creates a laboratory full of apparatuses that test one’s tolerance for varying degrees of confinement and action, for intimacy with oneself or the artist.

Vito Acconci – Three Relationship Studies, Vito Acconci, video still, courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix


Intensely personal, the films document a range of physical and psychological explorations of the self in relation to others, ones own body, and the film/video camera.


Vito Acconci, Gargle/Spit Piece 1970, 3 min, color, silent, Super 8 film

The artist, sitting naked, takes water from a pot into his mouth and gargles; he spits it out onto his stomach and groin, transferring the water from one “container” (the pot) to another (his body).

Face to Face Vito Acconci 1972, 15 min, color, silent, Super 8 film


In this exercise in nonverbal communication, Acconci explores facial expressions, and their psychological resonance, as a mode of performance narrative.

Abramovic, Marina; Ulay


In a given space
We kneel, face to face. Our faces are lit by two strong lamps. Alternately, we slap each other’s face until one of us stops

“Trying to make theatre out of a kind of performance art that involves testing the limits of physical and men tal resistance raises special problems. One of Abramovic’s most famous performances is Light/Dark, in which she and Ulay slapped each others’ faces, increasing in speed till they could go no faster. Laub decided to “serialise” it by using several couples. “The difference between performance art and, say, repertory theatre, is that when Marina and Ulay decided to do something as strictly physical as slapping each other in the face for 20 minutes, they didn’t really care if they ended up in hospital the next day, because they were very committed and they didn’t have to reproduce the piece,” he said. “It’s sort of hard as a director to ask these young people to rehearse that.” He had managed, he said, “by apologising a lot”. And maintaining a stock of ice packs. A book on the making of The Biography Remix includes a photograph of one performer on her back at the end of a rehearsal with ice packs on one knee and the side of her face.”

Marina Abramovic & Ulay. Imponderabilia, 1977


Marina y Ulay. Performance “El grito”
Imagen de video


A scene from The Biography Remix by Marina Abramovic


Bruce Nauman’s installation of three fountain sculptures


b from Studies for Holograms (a-e) (1970)

No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

   Footer Anatlogo Arts Sa
Australian Government The Visual Arts Strategy