Moniek Toebosch – Erasing & Recovering on a Saturday Afternoon (2011)
Moniek Toebosch (Breda, 1948 – Herk-de-Stad (B) 2012) was without a doubt the leading lady of Dutch performance art. Since the late 1960s, she has made her name with interdisciplinary, temporary projects in the public space, but also in museums, theatres, and on Dutch television – her performance of Wagner’s Liebestod was broadcast live in 1983. With her interdisciplinary approach, Toebosch has influenced a younger generation in the worlds of art and theatre. Toebosch gained popularity with a wider audience for her solo musical act Ze zeggen dat ze zingt/They say she’s a singer (1978), and later for Aanvallen van Uitersten (1983), a controversial series of four television programmes that she made for the VPRO, in which she introduced the public to the latest developments in the visual arts, music, theatre, dance and literature, and which featured artists and performers including Marina Abramović and Ulay, Rosas, Glenn Branca, Harrie de Kroon and Jules Deelder. But her best-known work is undoubtedly the extended project Engelen (Angels), a sound installation that could only be heard between 1994 and 2000 on car radios along the Houtrib dyke between Enkhuizen and Lelystad, in the middle of the IJsselmeer.
As well as a performer and visual artist, Toebosch was a director, actress, musician and singer. She has acted in various films by the underground filmmaker Frans Zwartjes and made many musical productions with Michel Waisvisz. She has been a tutor at several art schools, including the Gerrit Rietveld Academie and the Rijksakademie, and from 2004 to 2008 she was director of the DasArts institute, a master’s course in theatre arts, also in Amsterdam.
Toebosch’s great versatility as an individual is also evident within her artistic body of work. She has made drawings, objects, installations, photographs, videos and films, including the recent De Strijkrol (2010), in which Toebosch, under her masculine alias of Paul Rubens, very carefully irons and folds linen for twenty-eight minutes. The work was partially inspired by the drugs she had to take to keep her illness (lung cancer) under control. Toebosch’s work is frequently exhibited in Dutch museums and is also on display in many places in the public space.
For her contribution to Lustwarande ’11, Toebosch rode a real elephant on June 25, Indian style, wearing a long white jacket and sexy boots. The elephant pulled a harrow, creating a trail along a number of paths in De Oude Warande. Toebosch began her performance immediately after the official opening of Lustwarande ’11, accompanied on her majestic journey by Arvo Pärt’s Arbos. The performance was inspired by Toebosch’s visit as a child to the zoo that was in the park of De Oude Warande at that time. Her performance also alludes to the fêtes galantes held in the Baroque era, when the park was created. These festivals often featured exotic animals that had never been seen before in Europe. The title, Erasing & Recovering on a Saturday Afternoon, is a reference to the song Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon (1975) by Queen.
In this intervention, which was as monumental as it appeared pointless, Toebosch effectively erased her past, while simultaneously remaking it. The process was similar to burning off an old layer of paint and then replacing it with a new one, with an open end, like life itself.
Manon Braat / translation Laura Watkinson