James Lee Byars 1932 – 1997 (Memo)

There is a lot to tell about the artist
James Lee Byars (1932 – 1997)
the most famous unknown artist

Where to begin ….
On request of Francesco Stocchi (Curator of Museum Boymans – van Beuningen)
Today I wrote some memories.
dd. 14 – 2 – 2016  Valentines Day (Day of Roses)

pdd-JL BYARS-THE SAGE OF ROTTERDAM 1984 HR 05The Sjaman (Portrait of JLB) 1984 – Paul Donker Duyvis


Some personal notes about James Lee Byars (1932-1997)

Dear Francesco,

In my life I was able to curate two exhibitions with the work of James Lee Byars, sjaman, performer, dadaistic irritator and artist of sublime works.
In 1984 I ‘proposed and curated’ (words of JLB) a small project and presentation about James Lee Byars in the circular hall under the tower in Museum Boymans-van Beuningen (BvB).
The title was The Sage of Rotterdam is in the Tower  / De wijsgeer van Rotterdam zit in de toren (1984).
In 1974 in Berlin, artist James Lee Byars conceived the concept of the Golden Tower. He exhibited this project on different occasions, among them Documenta 7 (1982), in Kassel. His project in BvB is no doubt a variation. Byars told me often about his Golden Tower concept.

I was impressed by the work of James Lee Byars, but I am not sure if I understood everything well. The solo presentation of Byars in Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven (1983) with the incredible sculptural catalogue gave me a strong push to meet him. Together with Wink van Kempen, artist and organizer of PerfoTime Rotterdam, we were discussing how to get him to Rotterdam as part of PerfoTime and invite him to BvB.
So I proposed to director Wim Beeren that I would like to do a project with James Lee Byars in museum BvB. Beeren said immediately ok: ‘but you handle him yourself and solve any crazy troubles. I warn you, he is known for that…’

The same day, I invited Byars and he accepted right away. He visited the museum Boymans-van Beuningen and immedeately he came up with the idea of Erasmus and using the tower as a symbol. Soon my role as curator changes in that of an ignorant student. Every day I received “advice”.  I had to empathize with his art in a way that I entirely on his behalf could handle the project. In his spirit I had to work for him and the presentation at the Museum.

The main topic of the small documentary presentation is the book: – Erasmus – Praise of Folly (Latin: Stultitiae Laus) with the hat made of fresh roses on top of the book. Important is to exhibit this work with a hat of fresh roses.
The hat was made of fresh roses, made by a girl of the flower shop next to BvB. (under the ‘Boogjes’). It was so nice how she did it. She quickly understood everything. It would be nice to find her….
There was not enough light and I was afraid the picture would be too blurred. He suggested to go out into the light, but I insisted to do it in his temporary spiritual room in the tower, where he rested, meditated, or did nothing at all.
The photo came out not that bad and I decided to use it for the presentation in the museum.
Byars called his project: The Sage of Rotterdam is in the Tower. A tribute to Rotterdam born Erasmus.
He did a daily street performance during daytime under the tower of museum BvB entertaining passengers. In the evening and night time he continued to ‘perform’ in the bars in Rotterdam. Wink and me, we shared the duty of being his company during his nightly escapades. One night he walked over ALL the cars in the street. Shouting  that he was the Sage of Rotterdam or just shouting whatever came up into his mind. Just to give you an idea…

The concept of Byars was that I made his presentation about the project according to my own idea, without his instructions. The only restriction was: it should include one or two photo’s I took from him.
He did not want to see the presentation before the opening (of the presentation after the project was finished). He said only: “You know perfectly what to do!”
So I took the hat with fresh red roses from him and his book of Erasmus, that he carried with him all the time.  We went together to the bookshop to buy it. Furthermore I added two photo works of myself and wrote two short texts.
The first photo I had to make immediately on one day. I had only a small Minox camera, that I always carried with me in my pocket.
He gave me one hour. As always – now and immediately. For ‘one hour’ he was my model and did everything I wanted.

In a way it was my chance…During his project nobody was allowed to enter the small room in the top of the beautiful tower of the museum.
Of course I was curious. It was my chance to enter and see his domain. We went up and the room was unchanged with white walls and a small window. There was a falcon nest in the tower too. I decided to make a black background. Byars helped me.
I asked him to put his black veil completely over his face and to put on his favourite outfit.
I wanted no parts of his body to be seen. All the concentration should be on the beautiful hat with fresh red roses. I wanted to partrait him as a mysterious Sjaman, because that is how I saw him. Also ecause of his sensitive and spiritual use of materials.
I took the picture very quickly. There was a low ISO slide film in the camera. There was not enough light and I was afraid the picture would be too blurred. He suggested to go out into the light, but I insisted to do it in his temporary spiritual room in the tower, where he rested, meditated, or did nothing at all. The photo came out not that bad and I decided to use it for the presentation in the museum.

The second photo was a portrait I took of him in Venice (Biennale 1984) holding a small ball of pure gold, mirroring the round golden form on the roof of the Fondamente Salute (the very last point, in front of San Marco Square)

Later I donated the presentation, the book, the hat with roses, two small photos,  two texts and the black cardboard bottom of the vitrine to Museum Boymans-van Beuningen (to Piet de Jonge, curator at that time).

Byars told me that he wanted me to print the two photos big, like 120 x 90 cm.
I did not realise what I learned a lot from him until he died. Byars was radical and totally devoted. This is what I admired most. He said that the best way to learn about to do whatever you do with dedication, was:

 1-  Visit Japan. (I did that the same year!)      
2-  Quit my job after this project (I did)
3-  Become an artist (I did).
My first artwork had to be a portrait of him.
He insisted on that all the time and he would pose willingly for me on a day
he would announce.

So from now on I had to be ready and sharp all the time. I laughed about it, but it never left my brain. We spent many days and late alcoholic evenings together. We became friends and I photographed him many times after that project.
During his Venice-Biennale project with the Golden Ball, I was his guest. I followed him several days in Venice. Just the two of us. For the dinners he invited friends from the art world, artists, curators and so on. He paid all my expenses without any money. When we went to exclusive restaurants, he always managed to pay with drawings. He made an entertaining and spontaneous performance for the guests in the restaurant. He wrote elegantly all kind of texts on red Chinese rice paper. He always had a roll of this paper with him. He used to buy it in Amsterdam. The letters were made of his famous five point stars with which he developed his own calligraphy. Beautiful works!

Most impressive was, to be his guest as witness with camera during his performance the Death of James Lee Byars in the gallery of Marie Puck Broodthaers in Brussels.
I got his short message. Just ‘Come’. I called him and he told me he had cancer. The same day I went to Brussels. I felt very strange, shocked and sad. We stayed together in the Broodthaer’s house.

I was moved by the performance of Byars. As always it was real and to the point. The public was standing outside in the street.
We watched him from the street in the shop window of the gallery. After the performance he came out, embraced me and said I want you to sit in front of me during the dinner. Of course I called it his Last Supper.
I am definitely one of his disciples, but which one I do not know. I felt sometimes a bit like Judas. But he always waved that away…

On his request, I filmed this performance in the golden window room and the dinner afterwards. For the dinner he created an U-shaped table.
Byars sat at the middle of the U, in the centre, so he had a good view of everybody. He asked me to sit right in front of him. He asked me to keep on filming, during the dinner, whatever I want and as long as I want.
As always he was generously entertaining everybody. It seemed he was not affected by the news he would die soon. He did and said crazy things. As an entre-acte he did a performance:
throwing a raw egg on a big round glass with a golden circle in the middle. The circle was hold by two guests as fast as I remember. Also this performance is on video. I still have the video on Hi8 format.

After that night Byars, Marie Puck and me went home. We had another drink and stayed up until late. Byars telling anecdotes and memorising his friendship with Marcel Broodthaers, the father of Marie Puck. All this took place in this amous house, full of visible and invisible memories, where he often stayed since 1969.
No doubt this was the most impressive drinking night I had spent with Byars.
I have never looked at the video again. Byars never asked about it either. Just he asked: did you record it?

After the project in Boymans we had met very often.
On main occasions such as:
– his solo show at the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf: ‘James Lee Byars—Beauty Goes Avantgarde‘ (1986)
– a few times in Venice during the Biennale.
– Couplet 2, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1994)
– The Death of James Lee Byars, Galerie Marie-Puck Broodthaers, Brussels (1994) and many times in between when he was around.

The last time was in Amsterdam with Marie Puck Broodthaers. Byars was already very ill. I wanted to show him the interior of the former townhall of Amsterdam at Dam square, now Royal Palace unfortunately. White marble (next to gold and silk) is a favourite material of Byars. He said he was too ill to enter. I told him that I wrote my master’s thesis about the townhall of seventeen’s century Amsterdam. That I liked to be his teacher, just for an hour. So he came with me, together with Marie Puck. Both of us supporting him, Byars between us. It was very difficult to walk for him. The former townhall is full of marble sculptures, especially in the Tribunal (Vierschaar).
I love these sculptures. You can see them daily if you look through the windows.
The weeping lady, bare breasted with her hands covering her face, is very deer to me. It was the last sculpture we saw before we went out. He had to rest.
After the tour we sat on a terrace at Dam square looking at the huge dark building we had just visited. Soon he recovered and he tossed a whole glass of water over the elegant white blouse of Marie Puck. She wore no bra, so it became a see-through-blouse. He asked the public to watch this miracle of the bare breasts.
Everybody watching and laughing. This is my last memory of James Lee Byars…

Years later I stayed two days at the house of Marcel Broodthaers again, now the permanent home of his daughter Marie Puck. I was there to make an homage exhibition about James Lee Byars. It took place in Faxx in Tilburg in 2001. She owned some of the latest works of Byars.
She lend all of them to the exhibition. As  did Vincent Vlasblom, collector in Hoorn and owner of very beautiful drawings and books of James Lee Byars.
The title of this exhibition was: The 5 fabulous is one.
It took place in FAXX, Center for visual Arts in Tilburg, 2001


Byars was a warm and very faithful friend.
I was his lousy friend. He was always crazy, overwhelming, unexpected and full of improvisations. He had a lot of guts.
Beuys was his secrete maecenas, an old friend and his hero.
Byars had rarely money or a proper home neither kept any administration. He always relied on friends who helped him out.
Byars was afraid of nothing and nobody.
In Japanese Buddhism the character Ku (空) stands for Emptiness, Space, Sky.
Void in a spiritual way.

Attempting emptiness to make space for higher thinking.
Byars was quite far in that.
For him the sky always was the limit.
Byars died in 1997, the year that my first – half-Japanese – child was born.

Paul Donker Duyvis

pddstudio / ddmfoto

erasmus book-2

After his death I organised an exhibition in 2001 as a small hommage to this original and sharp artist.
 Byars is Elephant 1979 Installation- Uitnodigingskaart
foto Marie Puck Broodthaers

Byars is Elephant 1979 Installation photo Marie Puck Broodthaers Brussel    Byars is Elephant 1979 Installation
Uitnodigingskaart  Faxx 2001
foto Marie Puck Broodthaers

James Lee Byars: The 5 fabulous is one
Exhibition Faxx, Tilburg 2001
Lees verder James Lee Byars 1932 – 1997 (Memo)

De Vrouwenborst. Lustobject én voedingsbron. Prachtig en praktisch. No Bra Day 26 March

Je borst als veilig kussen houdt me warm  (Lennaert Nijgh)

De Vrouwenborst.
Lustobject én voedingsbron. Prachtig en praktisch:
vrijwel geen lichaamsdeel krijgt zoveel aandacht als de vrouwenborst.

Borsten, en dan vooral de grootte ervan, zijn aan mode onderhevig. De pronte borstpartij van filmsterren als Brigitte Bardot en Sophia Loren was eind jaren vijftig hét schoonheidsideaal. Eind jaren zestig kwamen de ‘twee erwtjes op een plankje’ van de graatmagere fotomodellen Twiggy en Jean Shrimpton in beeld.

Toen een IJslands meisje op twitter een foto deelde van haar blote borsten met de hashtag #FreeTheNipple, kreeg ze veel kritiek van mannelijke Twitteraars.
Ze plaatste de foto voor meer gelijkheid wat betreft het plaatsen van mannelijke en vrouwelijke tepels op internet. Al die kritiek lieten veel andere meisjes uit IJsland niet zomaar toe en daarom ontplofte er een bom aan foto’s van blote tepels en borsten van vrouwen.
Ze benoemden 26 maart daarom tot No Bra Day.
Mannen mogen wel overal ‘topless’ lopen, dus waarom vrouwen niet? ...

Een bizarre studie, uitgevoerd door Duitse onderzoekers, wijst uit dat mannen die staren naar vrouwenborsten een langere levensverwachting hebben.
Voor het onderzoek, dat in de New England Journal of Medicine werd gepubliceerd, werden 500 mannen in drie ziekenhuizen in Frankfurt gedurende een periode van vijf jaar gevolgd. De helft van de mannen kreeg de opdracht hun ogen dagelijks de kost te geven, de andere helft kreeg de opdracht niet naar borsten te kijken.
De onderzoekers merkten dat de mannen die regelmatig naar borsten staarden een lagere bloeddruk hadden en een tragere polsslag..

Reactie  Ferd. Feb 9, 7:32 pm
Vrouwenborsten zijn prachtige lichaamsdelen,
maken de vrouw mooi en vrouwelijk
en kunnen haar trots en genot geven.
Dit wil niet zeggen dat ze voor een ieder grijpbaar zijn.
Vrouwenborsten nodigen uit voor respect voor de vrouw,
waar die borsten bij horen.
Topless voor de vrouw zou net zo natuurlijk moeten zijn
als topless voor mannen.
En wij mannen, als wij het respect voor de vrouw hebben dat ze verdient,
mogen de borst niet zien als een uitnodiging zonder dat de vrouw uitnodigt.
Vrouwenborsten zijn mooi,
ze behoren bij de mens die ons negen maanden het leven heeft gegeven,
die ons negen maanden met liefde hebben gedragen,
gevoed en zorgzaam behandeld.
Dit kan toch niet anders dan een groot respect oproepen.
Mooi is het de foto’s van DDM te zien, ze zijn respectvol gemaakt in de schoonheid die ze uitbeelden.


SWORDPLAY_eyounar_S13-4-2015_55 http://about.me/DDMfoto
SWORDPLAY_eyounar_S13-4-2015_55 http://about.me/DDMfoto
Artistic Nudes Torso 27-3-2015 © PDDstudio / DDMfoto
Artistic Nudes Torso 27-3-2015 © PDDstudio / DDMfoto


Artistic Nudes Torso 27-3-2015 © PDDstudio / DDMfoto
Artistic Nudes Torso 27-3-2015 © PDDstudio / DDMfoto
Portrait Blindfold 22-2-2015 http://about.me/DDMfoto
Portrait Blindfold 22-2-2015 http://about.me/DDMfoto
Kimono Shoot CI_Sigaret Japan
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goose pimple

Plus Model Shoot MN http:about.me/ddmfoto
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IMG_0059-t.jpgJe borst als veilig kussen houdt me warm  (Lennaert Nijgh)
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