essay: marinus boezem

Emma Nieuws

‘I Use Anything under the Sun’
The Role of Film in the Oeuvre of Marinus Boezem


It was an ice-cold Saturday in January. The audience – noses red and tightly wrapped in scarves and hats – took a seat in the choir of the Oude Kerk. They gratefully used the blankets laid out for them as steam rose from hot tea served in paper cups.

Marinus Boezem was celebrating his 83rd birthday that evening but that was not why everyone came together in this place. That evening, a selection of his video art was being screened, on a big screen with an old-fashioned film projector.

Those who had previously visited the exhibition could easily recognize some of the themes: the disappearance of the artist in Het Beademen van de Beeldbuis(breathing on the tube, 1971) was reminiscent of the installation The Vanishing of the Artiston the church roof. Catching something as elusive as a breeze, as in the video Een briesje in mei (A Breeze in May, 1974)also returned in Labyrinth: an installation that surrounded visitors with metres-high rustling curtains hung to the church’s ceiling. And while the artist used a zoom lens in the Hooglandse Kerk(1971) to cover a vertical distance, you could go upwards in the installation Into the Airto see the Oude Kerk from a different perspective, from above.

Artists using various mediums to shape their ideas is characteristic of conceptual art. After all, the thought is more important than its material expression. When recording films became accessible to a larger audience in the early 1970s, artists were immediately attracted to this new medium.

Boezem made his first video work in 1969[1]. “TV was something special back then,” he explains, “the television was often hidden in a cabinet across from the sofa. In the evenings, the cabinet doors would open but the rest of the family wasn’t supposed to find out. I’m exaggerating a bit but TV was not a classy medium at all for visual art. We – artists who were busy with Arte Povera, conceptual art and Fluxus – saw it as a means to bring art into people’s homes.” Boezem literally became the man in the television: “to broadcast that on TV was provoking: broadcasting was expensive and we were forcing people to look at something silly for three minutes.”

“Something silly”: Boezem is referring to Het Beademen van de Beeldbuis, by now a classic. The artist looks straight into the camera and starts to breathe on an invisible, ice cold plate of glass which makes it look like the inside of the TV is steaming up. As the steam clears up, we can see the face of the artist slowly reappear.

Video art was accepted relatively quickly. In 1971 Boezem made Het Beademen van de Beeldbuis at the invitation of Openbaar Kunstbezit, a foundation that wanted to educate a broad audience on art by broadcasting artists’ work on TV. That same year, Hooglandse Kerk, Leiden was part of the influential exhibition Sonsbeek Buiten de Perken (Sonsbeek 71). “That work is about the relativity of size, linked to time. It’s amazing how you can cover a distance with a camera lens,” remarks Boezem.

The artist keeps a close watch on technical developments – after all, he can use anything as artistic material. “I’m looking at Virtual Reality, but I also always have the option to just make a painting.” Smiling, he adds, “I’m not a man with a recognizable style.”



The screeningCelluloid: Marinus Boezemtook place on 28 January 2017 at the Oude Kerk and was organized in collaboration with EYE Film museum. Marian Cousijn interviewed Lorenzo Benedetti (curator of Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, Switzerland) and Jaap Guldemond (director of exhibitions, EYE Film museum) about the role of film in the oeuvre of Marinus Boezem.

Films screened that evening:
Het Beademen van de Beeldbuis, 1971
Hooglandse Kerk, Leiden, 1971
Een briesje in mei, 1974
L’Uomo Volante, 1979 (performance recording)
A Volo d’Uccello, 2010
L’Uomo Volante, 2017 (recording of Frank Stassar’s re-enactment)
And an excerpt from Dutch Masters – Marinus Boezem (director: Tom Fassaert), 2013.


[1]In 1969, Boezem made the Sand Fountainvideo as part of the “Landart” film, in the context of the Fernseh Gallery by Gerry Schum, a pioneer in this field. The work was broadcast by Sender Freies Berlin.