In the beginning of the sixties, out of the Fluxus movement, exhibition spaces run by artists started to exist. They tried to bring art closer to the public, literally on the street, by using playful actions and happenings. Happenings, performances, environments and installations and the changed function of art which is connected with these artforms, demanded a different attitude in the experience. The traditional circumstances in which art was produced and shown didn’t meet requirements any longer. That this development is connected to developments in society is clear. Especially after the revolution of may 68 in Paris, the official institutions of art and especially the artmarket and galleries bacame a target for criticism. Artists started their own working- and exhibitionspaces. Partly forced into it because of the dogmatic views of the official artcircuit and the difficulties they experienced with selling their work. As a logical consequence the first alternative artistcentres as The Kitchen and 112 Greenstreet (later to become White Columns), Dieter Hacker’s Produzentengalerie in Germany and in the Netherlands De Appel were founded.
Historically, we can distinguish four generations of artists’ initiatives. The first generation was typified by an interdisciplinary approach and an anarchic form of organisation.
The second wave in the period 1980-1985 added an element of social engagement stemming from the Punk and New Wave scene, the squatter’s movement and dissatisfaction with artists’ working and living conditions. Many of these initiatives were accommodated in (squatted) factory buildings, schools and work spaces. They were often described as ‘sanctuaries’ for art. In the Netherlands, these included such initiatives as Aorta and W139 in Amsterdam, De Fabriek in Eindhoven, Lokaal 01 in Breda, and Artis and V2 in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
The third group (1990-1999), influenced by the art market and the results this was having for the position of young artists, strove to develop a pragmatic attitude. This generation produced a mild version by combining the views and achievements of the two previous generations with the idea that artists’ initiatives could function as a springboard to the regular circuit.
The fourth and current generation sometimes leads a nomadic existence, stimulates occasional collaborative projects and attempts to create conditions for theorising art. Whereas the previous generations of artists’ initiatives could still point to a common ‘enemy’, the present generation is confronted with the blurring of the boundaries between different circuits. Open subversion has lost its strength with the introduction of ‘politically correct’ engagement in the art world of the 1990s. The ‘alternative’ has been accepted and can no longer be radicalised within the bounds of its possibilities. The fight over power to the imagination has started up again.
Het Apollohuis (1980-2001)
If you look at its date of founding Het Apollohuis is part of the second generation of artist run spaces, but there are differences. As a ‘sanctuary’ for art they looked immediately for partners in the regular circuit, Het Apollohuis was not squatted and the dissatisfaction with artists’ working and living conditions was not an issue for founding the initiative.
Het Apollohuis was started by Paul & Hélène Panhuysen and Remko Scha with the believe that artists themselves are responsible for their actions and the presentation of their ideas. They sought to redefine the relationship to the artist, to form a climate for contemporary creative activities and begin a dialogue of which the outcome is not clear. Since then the centre grew from an alternative experimental space to a major and independent podium for art and music. Moreover, the interaction between both art forms has always been a major relevance. As Paul Panhuysen explained in the Programme Report 1980-1982: ‘Our standpoint is the standpoint of the artists, the art producers. Remko Scha and myself try to bring artists to Het Apollohuis simply and only because we find their work exiting. Our policy is determined by our personal preferences and not by anything else’. During the history of Het Apollohuis and its director, this standpoint point was increasingly honed and intensified in debate and in collaboration with invited artists. It resulted in the boundary-breaking position the centre acquired within the so-called alternative circuit as well as its acceptance by the official art world.
The way in which a dialogue between artists was entered into at Het Apollohuis is similar to the way artist and organiser Paul Panhuysen continually tried to span a bridge between art and society during his career. For this reason, Living Archive also looks back on his activities of the nineteen sixties and seventies, activities that also occurred in the Van Abbemuseum in his capacity as head of the education service from 1966 – 1967. Based on museum archive material, attention is drawn to events like Homage to Lucio Fontana, the Museum party and a kinder kwis. From Panhuysen’s personal archive is material about situationist art held in Eindhoven’s Stadsschouwburg, including Het Grote Circus van de H. Geest, exhibitions in Stadswandelpark like the Kulturele Straatrevolusie and street and square parties in Eindhoven, out of which plans for housing and the environment emerged. Beautiful examples where to the motto ‘Imagination into power’ can lead.