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Minor Canon

Bas Jan Ader Too Sad to Tell You postcard

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Bastiaan Johan Christiaan "Bas Jan" Ader (1942 – disappeared 1975) was a Dutch conceptual and performance artist, and photographer. His work was in many instances presented as photographs and film of his performances.

As Jörg Heiser has written, "Bas Jan Ader's entire, if small, body of work invests the Conceptual with what appears to be its antithesis: romanticism. In the 16mm silent film I'm Too Sad to Tell You (1971) we see the artist weeping. He is not blubbering in a hysterical outburst, but seems racked by a more profound grief. The piece echoes Warhol's Kiss, but this time the one long, single close-up is not displaying the fulfilment of love but what looks more like its aching absence; though, as the title pronounces, we will never know for certain. 'I'm too sad' just signals that it is 'important we know that there is a reason'. We expect Conceptual art (especially its linguistic variety) to tell us something, but Ader just shows. This absence of explanation produces a strong paradox: it is as if he is staging, in the same manner as an educational film on anthropology, a basic human behaviour using common facial expressions. But still his crying is moving and his grief seems earnest. It leaves us with the disturbing feeling that we are witnessing an expression of inconsolable sorrow."

Ader was lost at sea in 1975, attempting to cross the Atlantic Ocean from the American coast to England sailing in a thirteen-foot sailboat, as part of a performance titled In Search of the Miraculous. His deserted vessel was found off the coast of Ireland on 18 April 1976, offering few clues as to his fate. The tragic irony of his final disappearance is that it is the perfect example of the romantic trope of the beloved's death, preferably by drowning.

Further reading:

• Cardboard paper
• Paper weight: 7.67–10.32 oz/yd² (260–350 g/m²)
• Size: 4″ × 6″ (101 × 152 mm)
• Paper thickness: 0.013″ (0.34 mm)
• Coated outer surface
• Blank product materials sourced from Sweden, US, Brazil, or China