Page 12 - Studio International - July August 1973
P. 12

The artist as an                          free market should have the possibility of   months ago. This union is directly related to the
                                                  selling directly to the State, in exchange for a
                                                                                             working classes and is also related to a very rich
        individual                                minimum income. The change was the start of   political organization. Most of the artists in this
                                                  protests by the artists against this system, and   are doing commissions. They are also all
        The Artists' Union in                     the BBK organized these.                   politically motivated. This group will be very

         Holland                                  Barry Martin: The structure of the union   effective.
                                                  changed and the activists took control. You   BM: One comment which was made to me
                                                  were already a member of the Central       about your relationship with the BBK was that
                                                  Committee, which then organized many:protest   it had affected your work in some way, not in
                                                  meetings and street actions.               the good sense but it was stopping you from
                                                  BB: The museums in particular had a great   working on your own painting and sculpture.
                                                  deal of action against them, because they were   Is this true ?
                                                  seen as part of the system. The idea was that if   BB: Well the people who say that it did not
                                                  the things that were wrong in the artists' field   affect my work in a good way have a certain
                                                  could be shown, a discussion could ensue. The   idea about what is good art, and their good art
                                                  Rijksmuseum was closed by us because it was   is the art I fight against. Their goal is to have
                                                  considered the top of Dutch culture, we    work on all the walls of all the museums. I am
                                                  occupied the room of the Night Watch.      not interested any more in this kind of
                                                  Rembrandt is our top culture thing: if you   presentation of art because it is dead art and
                                                  touch Rembrandt, you touch the top of our   they are dead artists who work for the elite,
                                                  culture. A discussion happened in parliament   which is already dead. I cannot understand this
                                                  because of this and the union suggested that the   matter especially when it comes from so-called
                                                  minister should officially discuss art and the   constructivists. Some of these are not
                                                  artist. This was the first time since the war that   constructivists at all. Historically,
                                                  art in itself became a matter for official policy.   Constructivism was started by people who were
                                                  The matter wasn't left there, further actions   very socially involved in actions in their time,
                                                  happened, the Stedelijkmuseum was taken over   especially our Russian friends Tatlin, Lissitsky,
                                                  for a week, which ended of course with fighting   Rodchenko. All these worked for a revolution,
                                                  with the police. These actions spread to the   the beginning of Constructivism. The so-called
                                                  Hague and Rotterdam and took many forms.   constructivists of this time have nothing to do
                                                  You see all over the country we organized   with this revolution; they are working for the
                                                  groups of artists in their own towns to start   museums; they are in the hands of the elite.
         A few weeks ago a sculpture was unveiled in   discussions with other groups of people, some of   BM: Is there a complacency to be seen in their
         Amsterdam to commemorate Gerrit van der   whom were against the official policy on the   work ?
         Veen, the man who organized the Kunstenaars ver   building problem for example. Connection was   BB: They make objects in the more or less
        Zet (The Artists' Resistance) during the Second   made with the Women's Liberation Front.   constructive way but it has nothing to do with
         World War in Holland.                      Through these actions the union became very   Constructivism as a movement. The only
           The artists of this time grouped together to   well known. It was daily in the newspapers or on   difference is that the object they make looks
        fight in various ways against the occupying enemy   TV and the union doubled its membership to   different from the object that the expressionist
        forces. Bob Nieuwenhuis Boneas, a thirty-five-  1200 because of this.                painter makes. Otherwise there is no difference.
        year old Dutch artist who has long been associated   The central committee, however, did not   I still make works of art recognized by these
        with the Artists' Union (the BBK or       increase and the union's organization became   same people, on the other hand I put my
         Beroepsvereniging Beeldende Kunstenaars) in   very difficult, with all the paperwork and   interest in another field.
        Holland, told Barry Martin in a recent interview   discussions with the Town Councils for   I started thinking what the hell am I doing
        of the aims and the problems of such an   instance. Also the diverse interests of the   making this object to sell through a gallery or to
         organization.                            people making up the union presented problems.   a museum ? So I started with this group to get
           The discussion was taped in a small house close   Our will was not always what the others   a new procedure, to get work for artists in
        to Leiden against a background noise created by   wanted. Conflicts arose. The same sort of   architecture, with building new towns and
        the family and a full blown gale. Boneas   conflicts which arose in 1969 when the artists   shaping the milieu of the working class. It is
        confessed that earlier this year, through   who were better off and well known were not   evident that you cannot go to factory workers
        dissatisfaction with the BBK, he had helped to   interested in our purpose and action. They   with a piece of this so-called constructive art and
        form a new union the BBKA (Beroepsvereniging   reacted saying, 'you can't do that, you can't   say, this is what we are doing for you. They say
         Beeldende Kunstenaars Arbeiders, The     change things by these actions, if you want to   what the hell is that ? It is up to us to say how
         Artists' Union for the Workers).         change things you have to talk, you have to do   can we do something for them, to talk with
                                                  it legally'. We said we couldn't do it legally   them, not to say you have to take it and you
        Bob Boneas: The BBK, the union for artists   because we had tried it for twenty-five years and   have to pay for it. I try to get this architectural
        in Holland, was built directly after the Second   nothing had changed. These chaps then said   landscape through discussions with the people
        World War and developed out of the resistance   they would start their own group, their own   themselves. To make a political matter out of it
        against the fascists. It is part of the federation of   union, and they formed the so-called BBK 69.   is, I think, the basic ideal of the whole of
         unions for artists, including singers, writers,   We thought okay go out and form your own   Constructivism. It is not the work itself; not
        dancers and actors. The artists' union was set   union but you will find this union against you   the object as a result, it is the movement that is
        up as an organization to obtain better social   as an enemy. You are part of the system we   important.
        benefits but wasn't really connected with   fight. So that was simple. We rid ourselves   The fourteen million people here are
        working people, it was therefore a sleeping   fairly soon of them and we went our own way.   composed of about two thirds working class,
        union. Then in 1969 Parliament decided that   The conflicts arising out of diversity of   but it would be completely false to say that we
        there should be a change in the regulation that   interest in this larger BBK forced the activists to   must work towards a situation with results like
        artists who can't make enough money on the    break away and form a new union about two    Russia had in 1917. You have to see the thing
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