All dead. All immortal.

Ben d'Armagnac (1940-1978)

Who dies?

Ben d'Armagnac de Castanet (March 28,1940, Amsterdam - September 28, 1978, Amsterdam) was a Dutch performance artist. He studied at the Kunstnijverheidsschool (now Rietveld Academy) in Amsterdam in the early 1960s. He then spent time with (and was influenced by) Anton Heyboer, and collaborated on a number of sculptural installation projects with Gerrit Dekker -among them 'Project for a bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, dining room, toilet and some non-specified spaces' at Ritsaert ten Cate's Mickery Gallery in 1969- before shifting his focus to performance art in the early 1970s. In the course of his career he gained recognition at home as well as abroad, working and performing in New York, Bologna, Kassel, Paris, Vienna i.a..
He drowned on September 28, 1978 in the Brouwersgracht in Amsterdam, next to his house boot, on the day he was supposed to do a performance at a festival in Arnhem.

Appropriate Ending: Ben d'Armagnac's Last Performance

'In a few moments the Theater aan de Rijn in Arnhem would be full of people who had come to attend the next session of the Behavior Workshop, a five-day event that included performances and talks by Joseph Beuys, Marina Abramovic and Ulay, Carolee Schneemann, and a series of related workshops, dialogues, and political debates (September 28 through October 3, 1978). Now, just before noon on Saturday, the room was empty except for Beuys, his friend the Dutch artist and writer Louwrien Wijers, and the ghost of Bernard (Ben) d'Armagnac.'

'Two days before, on Thursday evening, d'Armagnac had fallen and hit his head on the side of his houseboat, been knocked unconscious, and had drowned in the water at the corner of the canals Herengracht and Brouwersgracht. A convex mirror, attached to the wall so that boat pilots can see oncoming vessels coming around the corner, today serves as a kind of makeshift memorial, marking the site of his death.'

'Wijers recalled that Friday morning his wife Johanna noticed 'many people looking over the railing of the bridge. She looked in the water, and Ben's body was lying there, as if in a performance, you know, but this time he had drowned during the night, stepping on his... going into the boat he stepped on... and he just... he fell, you know, and then he came with his head on the iron side of the boat, fell into the water, probably unconscious, and later in the morning when they started to move the water, the body came up.'

'Ben was supposed to come to Arnhem to the Behavior Workshop, where he was scheduled to do a performance, Wijers explained, but he couldn't make up his mind. For weeks and weeks he said 'I don't know what to do in Arnhem... it has to do with death but I don't know how to do it.' And with a soft laugh at the irony of this, she continued: 'So, he did his performance! In time! And it was about death! But it took his life. I think that is always a good thing, eh? There are a few artists who... die in their work... you could say.'

Chris Thompson PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art (PAJ 78, Volume 26, Number 3, September 2004)

For more information on Ben d'Armagnac see: Wikipedia (German).

Photo: Anneliese Wolf

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