last days of a cross
made for the Microtonal (48-tone) Vogel-Stamm Organ goodbye concert
video and acting Mendel Hardeman
music Mendel Hardeman, J S Bach
original format video performance with live music and an LP
This video happened as a surprise action: I was walking home from the Conservatory when I came past a church and saw it was being prepared to be demolished. Immediately I ran back to the Conservatory, borrowed the S-VHS camera from the technical department, and went there to film it. I had never touched a camera before - never even thought about it. So if today the camera is my main tool, I owe it to the fact that this church was brought down.
While the bulldozers were getting ready, I was going through the manual to find out how the camera worked. I spent five full days hanging around the site, which was fenced off so I could only film through the fence - luckily the camera had a good zoom. I was basically waiting for them to get to the tower, which had a beautiful, very simple white cross on it. They left it for the very end, out of some kind of reverence - for them it was a strange experience too, demolishing a church...
During this same period, I had been working on a piece for a very strange instrument - a big microtonal pipe organ developed by the German organist Hans-André Stamm and prof. Dr. Martin Vogel of Bonn University, the Enharmonic Pipe Organ, that could play 48 tones in the octave (each half-tone or semitone being devided in 4 microtonal steps), which could be either played through an amazingly complex keyboard, or via a computer system on an old ATARI. I was developing looping sound patterns based on complex intervals built up from all the prime numbers between 2 and 397, through some kind of "prime number wheel" which I had made up. Anyway, a purely mathematical approach - the only way I found to tackle such a monstruous instrument.
I was very glad to discover the two of them - microtonal organ and demolished church - went along with each other quite well, and thus this performance came about. I had developed very ambiguous feelings towards the church, and religion in general. Being the son of a protestant priest, and having started studying Theology myself, I had left this all behind and become a so-called "artist", without having really sorted out what these things meant to me in the end. I have to admit I still don't know, but this performance was very cathartic: the climax of the demolition, when also the music is at its high point, is the moment the cross of the tower finally disappears under a cloud of dust and bricks. I had arranged a special projection screen, which could be ripped open by pulling a string. On the moment the cross got covered by waste the screen ripped in two, just like the curtain of the temple on the moment of Jesus' death. Through the opening of the now ripped screen you could see another screen, right behind it, made of very rough burlap. Onto this, a red blooding cross was being projected while I climbed onto the stage, took the ripped screen parts off the frame, folded them together very reverently, and brought them to the corner of the stage, where they were laid down next to an old record player which had started playing a very sad part of Bach's St. John's Passion, "deine Jesus ist tot" - "your Jesus is dead . . ."
04.11.99, Kees van Baarenzaal, Den Haag
video, performance and live pipe organ
06.04.00, de Badcuyp, Amsterdam
video, performance, soundtrack on tape
25.07.04, Moni Myrthidia, Kythira, Greece
Mendel Hardeman archiv 1999-2006