In September 2014, theater company Oostpool will produce “They are just kids,” an intimate Dutch production about the lives and works of artists Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. “They are just kids” is about young people looking for an alternative lifestyle in turbulent times. A lifestyle that is different from what they know.
In the middle of the inspiring New York art scene of the 1970s, Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe made their dreams come true. She makes a break-through as a singer and punk/rock icon, and he becomes one of the most important, best-selling, but also controversial photographers in the USA.
Actor Ludwig Bindervoet, who plays Mapplethorpe, thinks that the attraction is largely due to the time period in which they live: “The end of the 1960s and early 1970s were turbulent years. Revolution, race riots, experimental music, Warhol and his Factory, and the first man on the moon. New York City is the beating heart of the world. Those days are far behind us, days I suspect, people still recall with longing.
It is a world we cannot imagine, and a lot of people don’t know anymore about celebrities such as Hendrix, Ginsberg and Warhol. Patti and Robert did what they had to do, created wonderful and less wonderful work, grew up together as artists, and eventually grew apart. Sometimes you need people in your life, but later on you let them go. That’s life. And this is a special life story, almost a New York art fairytale. I am very curious about the dark side of this fairytale. More Grimm, and less Disney.”
To prepare for his role, Bindervoet has of course researched Mapplethorpe’s work and life. “There’s a biography that was very helpful, especially in contrast to the sweet-voiced ‘Just Kids’ by Patti Smith,” notes Bindervoet, who says about the photographer: “Mapplethorpe had a catholic upbringing and felt the excitement of doing naughty things as an altar boy, and held on to that feeling the rest of his life. With lots of sex and drugs, he was flirting with the devil every day, almost manically.
But he also was a hot-headed aesthete. He was just as manically concentrated on the darkness as the light. Because of this, he has made groundbreaking art in his field of choice, namely photography. He is often perceived as a provocative artist, but I still think that Mapplethorpe simply recorded what he was experiencing, and continued to take making his aesthetics perfect a step further. His body of work is very straightforward.
Yes, he did what he did best. I think he was not a big thinker, and I cannot find any deeper layers in the hard-ons and flowers. The work speaks for itself, and that is perhaps what makes these images so fascinating. I have seen his work in the Grand Palais in Paris, just as we went to one of Patti’s signings to look the woman behind punk music and the book ‘Just Kids’ in the eye.”
Bindervoet hopes that “They are just kids” will eventually “not be about a bygone American dream, but about people, about creation, about the doings of mankind.”
“They are just kids” is directed by Marcus Azzini and can be seen from 2 till 20 September at Huis Oostpool in Arnhem. See www.toneelgroepoostpool.nl for more info and ticket sales.