In the late 1980s (you know; the before time) I was a member of an art collective. We called it “Chaos in Motion” (and yes, that was based on the lyrics to this song. We listened to A LOT of Dead Can Dance in those days).
Chaos in Motion was more a group of friends goofing around than a proper art collective (even though we made several attempts to formalise and streamline it into a foundation. They all sort of failed).
The number of members was ever changing, but never rising to much more than 10. Three of us were there for the entire ride; Steve Sic Evans, Luka Aubri and me.
Ben (s), Ben (l), Eric, Floris, Jacky, Jeewee, Mirjam, Roos, Ruben, Tijn, Verena and many many others were members in all sorts of capacity and for wildly different amounts of time.
In addition to this semi-steady roster of members, there were always people visiting, hanging around the studio or cooperating on projects. And that certainly added to the buzz of the place.
the Chaos in Motion studio doesn’t exist anymore (there’s just a couple of fuzzy photographs to remember it by). We rented a large classroom in an abandoned agricultural school building that was a squat. The great thing about having a studio in a former agricultural school was the enormous garden around it (with hothouses and everything). The entire compound was also fenced off, making it feel private and cosy.
The building itself was in a terrible state; built as a temporary facility for the school, it was already way past its’ prime when we moved in. There was no heating, no insulation and the roof leaked. During the winter I only got in when some work desperately needed to be done as the inside temperature was basically the outside temperature, even with the wood stove we put in there.
After about six years we were forced to abandon this messy, anarchic, creative, ever-changing classroom. The leaking roof had grown from a nuisance to an actual problem and the building was being pulled down. There’s fancy houses there now but it used to be here.
And here’s some video taken in and around the studio (also showing some glimpses of The Cave – Utrecht’s first game shop – that evolved into Subcultures).
In addition to being an actual artist’s studio, temporary home, game room and makeshift rehearsal space, we used the studio for a couple of memorable celebrations.
There was that one time we used the studio and the garden for a chaotic and hilarious live roleplaying/murder mystery … thing. With lots and lots of people attending and everybody thoroughly confused.
There was the time we celebrated the Lord of Pain in a whirl of chains, tight latex, whippings and alcohol. We celebrated hard.
There was the time we celebrated the Lady of Spring by filling the studio with flowers, fresh fruit, music and kids. That was also when we dragged a small fridge outside for a ritual cleansing. It had broken down, had subsequently never been cleaned and somebody sealed it shut with tape. It had stood festering in the studio for well over a year. During the the celebration we opened it, cleaned it thoroughly and got rid of it.
If you are immune to industrial levels of cringe, here’s a video recording somebody made during that day.
And let’s not forget the day we celebrated the Lord of the Hunt by decorating the studio with camo webbing, dressing up in military gear and going out to the woods to hunt two unlucky “volunteers” by sticking rabbits ears and a fluffy tail to them (basically a game of tag turned up to 11). To ease bruises and scraped shins we feasted after.
If memory serves well we also did celebrations for the Lord of Decay (going nuts with the mushrooms and the stinky cheese) and the Lady of Peace.
Art & activities
Chaos in Motion was an art collective, but that didn’t mean all art was made in cooperation. Most members had their own little nook in the studio to work on personal projects and we shared tools and materials (pieces that I made there include The Reborn Sinner, Armadillo, Voudoun and Slaughter Set). But we did a bunch of cooperative projects as well: we displayed and/or sold our art in local exhibitions (such as on Queen’s Night or this cultural gathering in a nearby park).
We collaborated in a number of local tv shows (about cartoons and about Chaos Arena – one of our boardgames), and we made a creepy demonic tome for an exhibition at the Catharijneconvent museum:
We designed at least 3 board games (“Budda Budda / Buddha Buddha”, “Octavoth” & “Chaos Arena”). We even published and sold Chaos Arena (in three different iterations – each subsequent one more sleek and professional).
And finally Chaos in Motion dabbled in performance art and political activism. We were neither arty enough to invest heavily in performances or politically coherent enough to make a real statement, but we approached both as theatrical events: dressed in our black robes, carrying banners, performing obscure rituals. Here’s a shaky and dark registration of a little piece we named Cows in Mootion.
Politically Chaos in Motion could certainly be described as anarchistic, anti-authoritarian and generally pretty far left of center. But it was the dark, gothic and slightly macabre flair that seemed to resonate with (at least a part of) our audience.
Just as it never formally started, Chaos in Motion sort of dissolved… some of the members ended up in Omnia, a band that started out re-imagining Roman and Celtic music. I myself was part of the band for it’s first CD. A bunch of us did a semi-religious-cult performance show for the Parade, a national theatre festival in the year 2000 – yes, the Facebook page is still up. This was my alter ego. It was a lot of stupid fun.
I have great memories of my time with the collective. Or cult. Or group of friends or whatever you want to call whatever Chaos in Motion was. Many of the former members are still good friends of mine. I hope some of them find this post and can nod in agreement.