The Peanut-Butter Platform by Wim T. Schippers
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Wim T. Schippers
Wim T. Schippers (1942) grew up in Bussum, in a family where art played no role. From childhood he was fascinated by life questions (‘why is there not nothing?’) and by the work of Marcel Duchamp, Kurt Schwitters and other Dadaists. One Sunday, his father, an accountant with the chocolate manufacturer Van Houten, suddenly received a pile of packages. They were bricks packed by his son Wim and addressed to him and hidden in the shrubberies in Bussum, and they were politely delivered to the house by unsuspecting ramblers. After a flying start in the world of visual arts, Wim T. Schippers chose new media - at the time, these were radio and television - as ‘exhibition space’. In this area, his work has always been both controversial and innovative.
Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) began as a painter in the tradition of impressionism, then joined the avantgarde movement of the 1910s (cubism, dadaism) and finally emerged as an artist who cannot be pigeon-holed. With all the things that he made and with the actions that he undertook - either consciously or subconsciously - he tried to take clear that it is not only the artist who imparts meaning, but also the person who looks at the work of art. ‘The creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act’.
Harry Ruhé is a collector, publisher and founder of Galerie A. He is specialised in the Fluxus movement and conceptual art. In 1997, he put together a retrospective of the work of Wim T. Schippers in the Central Museum Utrecht. When, during the preparations, he discovered the original 1969 title card of the Peanut Butter Floor in an Utrecht antique shop, he decided to make the floor. The exhibition - and in particular the Peanut Butter Floor - drew considerable attention. The bilingual catalogue is a must for collectors of exceptional printed material.
What did a German artist have after the First World War to use for making art? His imagination ... and then nothing much at all. Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948) used that imagination - plus all sorts of things that most people think are nothing - and produced collages and assemblies that now hold a unique position in art history. In addition he wrote sound poems which he performed wherever he was welcome. His presentations today would most probably be called ‘performances’. While the artists of the avantgarde grouped and regrouped, Schwitters was the loner in their midst. He allowed fate to decide the name of his movement (a torn scrap): Schwitters was Merz.
The Guggenheim museum was founded in 1939 for the collection of abstract art belonging to Solomon R. Guggenheim (1861-1949). It is housed in a world-famous building by Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) in New York, on Fifth Avenue at 89th Street. Wright had the idea for the visitor to go to the top of the building in the lift and then slowly descend along a spiral slope past the works of art. When Wim T. Schippers was invited to exhibit there, the Guggenheim Museum had existed for 10 years and was already a household name in the world of modern visual arts. Now the Guggenheim museum also has subsidiaries in Venice, Berlin, Bilbao and Abu Dhabi.
Edward F. Fry, the man who wanted to exhibit Schippers’ work in the Guggenheim, studied English at the University of Princeton and art history at the Sorbonne in Paris. He became curator of the Guggenheim Museum in 1966. When an exhibition organised by him featuring Hans Hacke was scrapped because the artist had portrayed in a series about slumlords several of the museum’s board, Fry resigned. He taught at Princeton, Yale, Harvard, and the University of Pennsylvania. In 1987, he was joint organiser of Documenta in Kassel. Fry published a lot about cubism. He died in 1992.
In 1961, Wim T. Schippers, together with Ger van Elk, and Bob Wesdorp, fellow students at the Amsterdam Applied Arts School, founded the A-dynamic group. In their manifesto, they argued for art works without the personal expression of the artist. The manifesto argued not only for art to become more business like, but also for weakness (theoretical and practical), disinterest, boredom and confusion. On paper, the exhibition of the A-dynamic group was in Museum Fodor, but Van Elk was in America and Wesdorp was a photographer, so in practice Wim T. Schippers made the exhibition more or less alone.
A conceptual work of art exists as an idea and is, in the first place, a challenge to the power of imagination. It can be executed, but that’s not necessary. The father of conceptual art is Marcel Duchamp; well-known post-war conceptual artists are: Joseph Beuys, Christo, Lawrence Weiner, Bruce Nauman. Only in recent decades have museums acquired conceptual art works for their collections. In addition to the Peanut Butter Floor by Wim T. Schippers from 1962, the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen also owns the concept of The Well Polished Floor Sculpture by Ger van Elk dating from 1969-1980.
Mickery is a household word. The art centre was, in the sixties, seventies and eighties, a refuge for innovative cultural initiatives in the broadest sense, in other words, irrespective of discipline. Mickery was founded in 1965 by theatre producer and visual artist Ritsaert ten Cate (1938-2008). In the beginning, the centre was located in a farmhouse in Loenersloot. In 1972, Mickery moved to an old cinema on the Rozengracht in Amsterdam, where, until 1988, the international avant-garde delighted the imagination of the lovers of art.
What a lot of attention in the media for the acquisition of a work of art! Perhaps because it is only a concept, and that (probably) a lot of money was paid for that ‘idea’? Or because the work of art, if it is actually executed, is made a rather non-presumptuous substance that is found on breakfast tables in most Dutch kitchens. It is, of course, wonderful that so many people, citing the phrase ‘I can do that too’, believe they are artists. Something new is the predicate ‘mortally dangerous’ - for people with an allergy. And yes, indeed, they are advised not to consume the work of art. Just as, in fact, a 17th century masterpiece is not meant to be eaten. That contains rather a lot of poisonous lead.
This video tells about the origins of the Peanut Butter Floor by Wim T. Schippers and how the work fits into the oeuvre of this unique man of ideas, who exhibited in the Stedelijk Museum when he was just twenty and seemed to have a career ahead of him as visual artist. Not only because he made beautiful objects, but also because he was far ahead of his time. The video contains interviews with Harry Ruhé, collector and expert of the Fluxus movement and conceptual art, and with Wim T. Schippers himself.
Director / editor: Victor Vroegindeweij
Director of photography: Gregg Telussa
Research: Els Hoek
Production: Femke Hameetman