Chapter 4: Filip Noterdaeme Before He Came to New York

Filip Noterdaeme in Geneva, 1974
"Life at the belgian embassy was extremely formal, with live-in servants and stiff dinners with silver trays and finger bowls. Filip Noterdaeme's mother had an electric bell installed under the dining table to summon the maids from the kitchen. She loved using it and she used it a lot."

Filip Noterdaeme and his younger brother, Switzerland 1978
"Filip Noterdaeme and his younger brother having lived practically as twins first in London and then in Geneva were sent together to a jesuit boarding school in Wallonia. (...) He has often described to me how strange it was to suddenly find himself under the forever low grey skies of Wallonia when he had gotten used to the majestic clear blue skies of Switzerland and Italy."

Queen Fabiola of Belgium visiting Munich, Germany 1971
Queen Fabiola was of spanish aristocracy and reminded one most naturally of paintings by Goya. She had a certain mad quality that perhaps had to do with her elaborate hairdo and was curiously in accord with her long birth name Fabiola Fernanda Maria de las Victorias Antonia Adelaida de Mora y Aragón. Of course the belgians could never remember such a long name so when she became queen she was simply always Fabiola. She always traveled with a spinsterish spanish governess and both her and the governess gave off the impression of carrying mothballs in their matching purses."

Filip Noterdaeme and Michel Butor, Louvain 1987
"Another interesting show that Filip Noterdaeme likes to remember from those years is a show at the university of Louvain dedicated to french writer Michel Butor. It was called Ici Butor n'est pas simplement Butor, here Butor isn't simply Butor, and Filip Noterdaeme along with thirty other artists had been invited to meet Butor and create works inspired by his writings. Filip Noterdaeme had a different idea. After introductions had been made he said to Butor, why don't you be the artist and I the model, then neither of us will be simply who we are. Butor very much liked this idea and drew Filip Noterdaeme while everybody looked on with slightly envious expressions."

Filip Noterdaeme Doing a Carl Andre, Brussels 1987
"The two drove around town in Filip Noterdaeme's red Citroën 2CV looking for a construction site where they could steal bricks that Carl André needed for his installation. They loaded as many bricks as would fit into the trunk of the car and then headed to the gallery where Carl Andre created one of his floor pieces by simply arranging the bricks on the floor. A few days later Carl Andre returned to America and Filip Noterdaeme created a work of his own by laying out a roll of brick wallpaper on the floor of a construction site."

Marcel Broodthaers at the Palais de Beaux Arts, Brussels, 1974
There was a famous story of Marcel Broodthaers once entering the Palais des Beaux Arts with a camel from the Antwerp Zoo. The year was 1974, the same year that Joseph Beuys spent three days with a coyote at the Réné Block gallery in New York and that nine year old Filip Noterdaeme had helplessly watched Picasso the hamster die of asphyxiation in his mother's painting studio in Geneva. Evidently 1974 was a big year for animals in the arts. Regarding Broodthaers and Beuys Filip Noterdaeme always says, Broodthaers was a poet artist and Beuys was a hero artist and naturally everybody always prefers a hero to a poet. Filip Noterdaeme prefers a poet to a hero and says, it is rather a pity that Broodthaers never visited the United States. Just imagine, he says, he might have led an elephant from the Bronx Zoo into MoMA's gift shop."

To continue to Chapter 5, click here.

The Autobiography of Daniel J. Isengart is available in local bookstores and on AMAZON.