“At the end of the day, you made three documentaries about Gordon Matta-Clark!” (Harold Berg/collector)

1977-78 – 16 mm, edited version of the original A/B rolls, restored and digitized in 2012 – 42 min.

2012 – based upon original 16mm ‘rest rushes’ (so far unused images) and sound around Office Baroque, digitized, digitally edited and post-produced – 30 min.

2012-2013 – based upon the original 16mm ‘full rushes’ of the Jacob’s Ladder shoots and sound, digitized, digitally edited and post-produced – 35 min.

All three films where shot on 16 mm colour reversal film in Europe (Belgium and Germany, 1977) by Cherica Convents.



The Office Baroque movie was originally filmed on 16 mm and we used this 16mm technology that was available at the time to do the editing, grading, special effects and the sound mix. It was the summer of 1977, and my focus was Gordon Matta-Clark’s Office Baroque project and the creative process behind it, in particular the artist’s approach to exploring, marking and cutting the building. The filmic approach we used was direct and honest but, in terms of the complexity of Gordon’s final intervention, it was also selective and subjective – rather like the experience of visiting the building itself. And although the basic intervention plan for Office Baroque was very simple and clear on paper, Gordon’s interior cuts gave rise to fragmentary images and views that were disorientating in terms of being able to establish a position within the building.

During the first screenings of our material in September 1977, and as we’d anticipated during filming, it was evident that the shots lacked ‘cohesion’. A good structural editing solution wasn’t immediately obvious. Most of our images where shot during Gordon’s execution of his work and, with the exception of the images of the roof, there were no general views of the intervention. We therefore planned an additional session, with the aim of being somewhat more objective, coherent and fluid in our approach towards capturing images of the final results of Gordon’s work. We also wanted to take each level of the building into account. In so doing, we hoped that people would watch the film and be able to reconstruct a kind of ‘global’ image, or overview, of the entire structural intervention and of what it was like to be inside Office Baroque.

To achieve this, we made a large number of extra wide-angle panoramic views throughout the entire building, and on every level. This was in late 1977, during October and November, and after Gordon had returned to New York. These images, combined with the action shots we’d recorded earlier, worked out very well during editing as we could mix the two different kinds of atmospheres. As Gordon once told me, “nothing is worth documenting if it is not difficult to get.” Thus the ‘un-documentable’ piece was finally documented! Gordon never saw the result.

The soundtrack is created by André Stordeur, and was composed directly using video images after the first cut results of the 16 mm film editing. The intention was to create a sound that would mirror the exploration Gordon made by ‘liberating’ space in the building. Also included is an interview with Flor Bex (in Dutch) that situates the ‘avant-garde’ position of Gordon during that particular period and an off line sound fragment in which Gordon explains his intervention (in English).



In order to fully understand why I subsequently made the other two documentaries, and this web publication, I need to tell you the story of how I met Gordon in the summer of ’77, and how our working relationship evolved.

It was Flor Bex, the director/curator of the International Cultural Centre (ICC) in Antwerp, who asked me, in April 1977, if I would be interested in making a film about the intervention Gordon Matta-Clark was planning for the centre. The ICC was, at that time, a unique place for avant-garde art, and artists from all over the world created and exhibited there. In the past, I’d made creative, underground films but, by this time, I was focusing more and more on my work as an independent filmmaker. I was also teaching special effect camera recordings (16 mm and 35 mm) and animation techniques at the Brussels film art institute, RITCS. Although the ICC was the first art institute in Belgium to show an interest in using modern video techniques, in those days it wasn’t yet possible to make a colour video documentary on location for a reasonable price.

Flor Bex showed me images of Gordon’s early interventions in the USA and of Conical Intersect in Paris. I was immediately interested. I especially loved the ‘space and light’ experiences that Gordon created by his cuttings. I also appreciated the social dimension and the reactions of people in the street – something that Gordon particularly sought through his interventions. In my student days, I’d worked with many newsgathering crews and I loved this direct, interventionist approach. Neither the ICC, nor Gordon, could offer us a budget – so we decided to produce the film ourselves.

I already owned the 16 mm camera and the sound and lighting equipment needed to start such a project and, by teaming up with a friend from my student days, Roger Steylaerts, it became a co-production. Roger lived in Antwerp and felt at home in the ICC. Flor Bex put in a good word for us and, as a result, we managed to get rolls of 16 mm colour film (and the promise of free development) from Agfa-Gevaert in Antwerp. Thanks to a period of work experience, and experiments that I’d made with their film emulsions, I also had close contacts with the people working in the company’s research department. We started filming in early May 1977 and, with the exception of the Agfa-Gevaert donation, we began in the old, independent filmmaking tradition. Gordon worked in the same spirit: we both had a concept in mind, and we both accepted that we sometimes had to change our attitude towards a project if circumstances dictated it!

Gordon wasn’t a filmmaker in the sense that I was. The few films I’ve seen of his seemed, to me, to be more like moving photographs: one shot after the other taken to document actions or situations. Formally, his film work is more in the American underground tradition.

We therefore made our working relationship very clear from the start: Gordon would execute his project and use his Nikon F camera to take his own documentary photographs, as he was used to doing. He would use these photographs to create the art works he exhibited later on. Gordon photographed in black and white, as well as in colour, but he used only one camera body. At that time, the 35 mm still camera he used was a very popular model among reporters and action photographers.

The film was basically shot with a French 16 mm Beaulieu movie camera. I’d found, from experience, that it was better not to switch to a photographic approach when tackling a project in a filmic way. I therefore never took a still camera with me whilst filming. If I really wanted to take photographs, I borrowed any camera that happened to be available. Gordon himself, who was usually busy with his intervention, also separated his ‘actions’ and his photographic approach. But he managed to take pictures with his Nikon during calmer moments. And, from time to time, he actually planned photography sessions. Quite often, when he was working, he too would grab any still camera that he could find.

Many photographers feel the impulse to capture a vision on the spot, something that is more important to them than the ownership of the image. But, strangely enough, as far as I can remember, I never touched Gordon’s camera – and he never touched my movie camera.

In fact, during the shoots, our working habits were very complementary and we never had any problems in terms of our approach. Of course, it wasn’t possible to be there all the time and we more or less planned each day’s filming: the film crew would shoot interesting visual developments during the working process.

Gordon used the Cibachrome colour process, a photographic paper print technique that preserves the colour pigments much longer than is the case with classic colour prints – and he had a colour lab in his loft in New York. He needed it so that he could create photographic collages that would last. In Belgium, I too had a colour lab in my home. In those days we didn’t care very much about the rather dangerous chemicals that we were using in enclosed spaces.

We talked about what we were doing, of course. Our collaboration was very fluid and we respected each other. Gordon was ambitious, but cooperative, and possessed a very strong, empathic mind. I was rather intuitive. Gordon was seven years older than me and he had a tremendous amount of creativity and savoir vivre, as well as experience and an understanding of reality. But, essentially, we understood each other without words. Gordon had a great deal of equilibrium: his yin and yang energy forces were very well developed and balanced. Once, when he was going through my alchemy books, he told me that our interests appeared to be very similar. Of my many spiritual fathers, Gordon was certainly one.



We started by capturing the atmosphere of the building, which was located near the River Scheldt in a very touristy part of Antwerp. Gordon began by lining up his first approach to the building: his initial plan for the Office Baroque cut was a ‘partial sphere’. But after weeks of struggling with the authorities, the city administration finally halted the development and execution of the art project.

At the end of May, a meeting was held in my house in Diest, Belgium, to discuss how to proceed. Gordon showed us his new, second Office Baroque project: a kind of ‘triangular’ cutting intervention. From the south side of the roof, it was like a slightly distorted tetrahedron and it wasn’t really visible from the outside. Despite the fact that, over the years, I’d been engaged in research about the energy and symbolism of the tetrahedron, one of the Platonic solids, I was slightly disappointed. I felt that this form, and the way that Gordon had to imply it through the roof (due to the building restrictions imposed by the city administration) too obvious. The social feedback wouldn’t occur so easily, and this was an important trigger for me to make the film. I loved the idea that the global ‘image’ of the intervention wouldn’t just be created through individual awareness – actually visiting the work, and experiencing it step by step – but also through the perspective of ‘outsiders’. We kept on talking and Gordon began to explain his ideas for the entire summer period and for his tenement, or ‘ghost’ buildings – something he planned to work on afterwards in New York. I was incredibly enthusiastic and proposed to Gordon, on the spot, that I follow him throughout the entire summer, and use this experience to structure the film. Gordon was delighted and immediately came up with the name for this more global documentary approach: ‘Summer ‘77’.

That summer, besides Office Baroque in Antwerp, Gordon was also planning a project for Documenta 6 in Kassel. He also wanted to create another project in Antwerp, this time for the harbour. He was planning it for late summer and would call it Crane Ballet or Crane Works.

We filmed the creation of his work in Kassel with just one assistant, a project that became known as Jacob’s Ladder. Afterwards, we continued filming the third and final phase of the Office Baroque project. This third phase is well known: the two circles inspired by the imprints of glass coffee cups on a table, and the cut out sections that Gordon joked were like ‘ships’ or ‘tuna fish’. But now, for the first time in his ‘cutting’ period, Gordon made real project plans on paper, but he still improvised a lot on site. He had a ‘hidden agenda’ with this intervention: the second opening in the roof that was only partially worked out through the two upper levels. He also created a semi-circular cut in the wall near the opening of the second roof axis: it ran from a tiny, warm, sunny south-facing upper room to the main axis of the intervention. The way he treated this second axis will always be, in my opinion, one of life’s most beautiful mysteries: the way he made the semi-circular opening in a side wall, orientated on the vertical, as a secret way to unite dualities on the level above.

Gordon never really commented on it, but one could guess that it was probably connected with the death of his twin brother, Batan, only a year before. Gordon also showed us pictures of the square cuts that he had made in the floor at Yvon Lambert’s gallery in Paris in honour of Batan. The city of Antwerp’s administrative regulations prevented Gordon from creating an Office Baroque intervention that was visible from the street outside. As a result, he wasn’t able to use what he called ‘a one shot vision’ to communicate in a socially direct way with people in the street. Forced to work inside, his attention turned to the idea of inner communication, and the ‘tunas’ he later exposed outside the building were like silent, complementary, ‘moulded’ material witnesses. But of course, he also made two perfect circular openings through the roof that were not, at first sight, visible from the outside – and yet he never kept a material complement of those!

By the time he died, Gordon had used the formal concept of a ‘sphere’ on numerous occasions. To the best of my knowledge, however, he began using it during the first Office Baroque cutting attempt. His initial project for Documenta 6, which involved four chimneys, was also based on this concept. In both cases, his plans didn’t work out. Gordon always insisted on the curve that Jacob’s Ladder would form, hanging by it’s own weight. He finally used this concept, further developed into a partial spiral energy form, in his last cutting intervention: Circus, or The Caribbean Orange (USA).

It’s a pity that Gordon didn’t have enough time to execute the Crane Ballet project in Antwerp that year. His idea was to take several old cranes in the harbour near the river and to use them to create a moving, dynamic net structure. Gordon often liked to talk about his ideas for creating what he called ‘stage like environments’. He discussed this a lot, particularly in connection with this project, but also during the creation of Office Baroque and in respect of his future tenement building projects in New York. In 2012, on the occasion of a special meal in Antwerp, which later came to be known as the ‘Carpaccio dinner’, François Vereesen told me that Gordon also played with the idea of using balloons to lift houses, a concept related to his later Sky Hooks drawings.

The idea behind the global documentary Summer ‘77 was to explain, over the course of one summer, all of Gordon’s ideas and projects – those that were executed and those that weren’t.

To finally tell this story, and to support the distribution of our film, we’ve created this website. In time, we will also make unedited sound fragments and interviews available on line in order to better illustrate what was planned and what was actually executed.

Gordon was evolving from socially inspired performances, via his ‘anarchitectural’ cutting art period, towards a new, socially engaged form of architecture, based on his former experiences by liberating space. He considered the lost, old tenement buildings in New York to be a unique opportunity, both financially and architecturally, to create totally new living conditions.


At the end of 1977, Gordon’s health compelled us to concentrate on finishing just the Office Baroque film, since his Antwerp intervention was, without a shadow of doubt, his masterpiece. Roger told me that Gordon was very impatient to see the results, and had even asked for the rushes. Of course, we didn’t agree: it was our movie and I was worried about how Gordon might use our images. I was also confronted with the fact that the more global documentary movie, which is what I believed I was making, couldn’t go on. I had to ‘restructure’ the documentary again, this time focusing on Office Baroque as an artwork. We decided to use only the first ‘partial spherical cut’ attempt and the final intervention. Without a budget, it was difficult to finish the production using our own means. But with our underground production experience, the help of many friends in the film world, personal investments and a loan for a second hand 16 mm editing table, we finally managed. The Office Baroque documentary was completed in September 1978, about 10 months after the last shoot in October/ November 1977. It was projected in the ICC, just after Gordon left us. The film had taken a long time to complete but, in the pre-digital era, that was normal.



After Gordon’s sudden death, I kept all of the original film material in my archives. I wasn’t very happy about the way things had finally worked out. We had worked really hard to finish the film and I’d invested all of my personal money into organising the post-production. But everybody had hidden the fact that Gordon was so terribly sick from me, and I didn’t even know that this was why he was so impatient to see the film. Also Gordon never once told me how ill he was. The movie was as good as finished when he died: I was waiting for the final show copy so that I could transcribe the magnetic sound. It was an incredibly difficult time for me.

We only ever had one 16 mm show copy, which was delivered with a verbal license to the ICC for the copy costs. We had invested an enormous amount of time and money in this project. But the 16 mm show copy was projected so many times that we made a low quality U-Matic video copy – on rare occasions we even sold it. The film was also shown in America but, at that time, we couldn’t find a distributor. I was used to losing money on the majority of my movie productions, so the Office Baroque project wasn’t an exception.

When I went to America shortly afterwards, I stopped in New York to visit Gordon’s loft. Gordon’s widow, Jane Crawford let me in, and I remember her telling me that she didn’t live there. The atmosphere was dark and cold, and the place was filled with Gordon’s photographs and art works. I felt terrible and left after ten minutes. I relegated Gordon, and the whole story, to the depths of my subconscious.

In 2002, Flor Bex asked me to preserve the 16 mm originals of the Office Baroque film and to ensure that they were kept in the best possible conditions. We arranged an archive and distribution agreement for the original ‘negative’ edited A/B rolls with Argos, a Belgian distribution organisation for art films. They promised to digitize the film and to preserve and distribute it in a modern way. In 2005, an English version (with dubbed sound and an adapted soundtrack) suddenly appeared in America and, as a result, the work at Argos was put on hold. Nobody had contacted me, Roger, or even Flor Bex, about this edition – it therefore had to be an illegal adaptation from a show copy. An enquiry was set in motion and Ronny Vissers, a Belgian independent researcher, endeavoured to find out what had happened and who owned the rights. When it became clear that the American version was illegal, at least according to Belgian law, Argos finally digitized the originals during the spring of 2012, while I directed the new digital grading in the lab.



In early 2012, I was invited to a meeting at Flor Bex’s house. Roger was also invited, as was François Vereesen, Gordon’s personal assistant during the execution of Office Baroque in 1977. We were there to meet Carles Guerra, the chief curator of MACBA (Museum of Contemporary Art), Barcelona. He wanted to interview Flor Bex and François, who had assisted Gordon during the creation of his Office Baroque project in Antwerp, as well as the team that had made the original Office Baroque film. MACBA was preparing an exhibition about Gordon Matta-Clark and Office Baroque for June that year. Carles Guerra suggested that I check my old Office Baroque sound recordings to see if there was any additional material.

Harold Berg, who introduced himself as an art ‘transformer’ collector specialising in Gordon Matta-Clark, accompanied Carles. When I told Harold that I had more material about Gordon in my archives, he was very enthusiastic – it was as though I’d told him about some buried treasure. On the occasion of the ‘Carpaccio dinner’, which took place that weekend in Antwerp, I gave him a working copy (without sound) of an early, 16 mm, raw edit of Jacob’s Ladder. I’d tried out this partial editing, without the interviews, in late 1978. As nobody seemed interested in the film footage in those days, I’d put it aside. We always experimented, and made our final edits, on a copy made from the originals (printed on ‘one light’ without colour corrections). When we were ready, we made a parallel ‘negative’ cut from the originals and then moved on with the production process. During those early days, nobody was interested at all in my Jacob’s Ladder film material and so the originals remained untouched. Over the course of the following month, Harold became increasingly enthusiastic and we planned to work together on a completely new digital edit. We digitized the original 16 mm film material that I’d found in my archives. This, coupled with Argos finally deciding to digitize the old Office Baroque film, made it feel as though Gordon had come to life again. By now, my memories of those days were beginning to feel more positive.

Since Harold had Chilean roots, like Gordon, he had undertaken investigative research in that direction. He told me a great deal about Gordon’s life, his short but inspiring career, and his renewed contemporary importance. It was through Harold that I once again began to take an interest in Gordon – in his work and as a person. I needed to work in Barcelona but my health wasn’t good and so, after a while, Harold suggested that I take over the complete production in Belgium. Harold’s enthusiasm and his love for Gordon had infected me. I also felt that I had a duty towards Gordon to make all of my material available. I explored all of the original material from the several shoots, including all of the unused frames, and also digitized all of the remaining sound material from the original sound tapes. I started looking for a good editor, someone with whom I would feel comfortable working.

Steven Perceval, a rather young but very inspired editor, was the right person. Some years ago, Steven had founded a new ‘media facility house’ in Antwerp: AAP Media. It was close to my home. And even more importantly, the personal engagement he demonstrated during the editing was proof enough that a younger, contemporary generation could be interested in rediscovering Gordon’s projects. With Steven’s young blood and creativity behind the editing controls, we managed to finish two more films about Gordon’s projects in less then seven months.


Summer ‘77 is, in fact, mainly composed of ‘rest rushes’ (so far unused images) from the original 16 mm Office Baroque film shoots of 1977. These were then digitized. Many of the more subjective images of Gordon’s work weren’t used in the original edited version of the Office Baroque film because, by that time, the focus had shifted onto showing the artwork in a visual and structural way. We also had a large amount of unexplored sound material left over. It was this that gave me the idea to allow Gordon to explain his vision in depth. In 2012, I decided to structure this new film, Summer ‘77, purely around Gordon’s own words. He loved to talk about his projects and, thanks to the approach we’d taken towards the sound back then, it’s possible to remain connected to Gordon’s ideas and his innermost reflections throughout the entire film.

This new documentary is therefore a kind of an addendum to the original Office Baroque film. In it, the Office Baroque story is told a second time, only this time from the perspective of Gordon’s innermost experiences. In making this film, we were guided by Gordon’s energy, enthusiasm and genius.

Both films, Office Baroque and Summer ‘77, are very complementary. I have also integrated certain images of another project that Gordon realised that year at Documenta 6 in Kassel: Jacob’s Ladder. I did, in fact, follow Gordon throughout his European summer of ‘77 – from the moment that he made his first spherical cut in Antwerp and his subsequent intervention in Kassel.

In June 2012, MACBA in Barcelona organised an important exhibition about Gordon Matta-Clark. The newly restored, original version of our Office Baroque film was projected on a continuous loop. The museum also reawakened interest in Gordon’s first spherical cutting approach, made during the creation of Office Baroque. The première of Summer ‘77 took place at the end of the exhibition, on 10 October 2012, in MACBA. In mid-October of the same year, another exhibition around Gordon opened in M HKA, Antwerp.

It became very clear to me that Gordon’s Jacob’s Ladder was underexposed due to a lack of film material. After the restoration of the original Office Baroque, and after the making of Summer ‘77, I decided, in October 2012, to finally finish the editing and post-production work on Jacob’s Ladder.



I’d wanted to edit these images for a very long time. They were shot in June 1977 in a dynamic, reportage style. In the past, there hadn’t really been any interest in this film within the art world. The Jacob’s Ladder project had taken place in the grounds of an old factory outside the boundaries of the official Documenta 6 exhibition in Kassel. Gordon had said that his work needed to have a degree of distance from the atmosphere of a big art exhibition, something that he perceived as being like a ‘Fritz Lang art metropolis zoo’. For Gordon, art was a way of making people more aware of their environment in everyday life. It was for this reason that he preferred to work outside the museum boundaries. And of course, his focus for this project was upon the tall, industrial chimneys that could be found in Kassel.

Gordon defined Jacob’s Ladder as being the result of an idea about ‘drawing in space, rather than drawing through things’. He also said that he’d always wanted to do a ‘chimney’, and that the ‘chimneys’ he’d done before were more like cuttings! Let’s not forget that a chimney, in itself, is an artificial, man-made tunnel that transmits air into the sky. Jacob’s Ladder is as an artistic and more spiritually oriented ‘mirror’ of the classic ‘material’ concept of a chimney – to the point where it almost vanishes into infinity. It’s stunning to realise that cosmic reality is dominated by endless emptiness. This is why Gordon’s vision, which he developed through his cuts and other interventions, such as Jacob’s Ladder, is so important.

In Jacob’s Ladder, Gordon isolated, by means of a triangular net structure, a tunnel of ‘empty’ space in the air. He called this process ‘liberating’ space. Jacob’s Ladder was about liberating space by occupying existing, free space, seemingly the opposite of liberating space by cutting through existing structures, as in Office Baroque. Yet there isn’t really any fundamental difference between his cutting acts and his Jacob’s Ladder construction, simply because the tunnel of emptiness that he created is, in essence, not very different from the openings, cuts and tunnels that he made by cutting through buildings.

With Jacob’s Ladder, a stairway to heaven, Gordon compels us to confront, with complete clarity, the symbolic and practical meaning of ‘liberated space’ and it’s cosmic potential. In this work he offers us a visual and ‘tactile’ concept that explores the balance between material and spiritual reality on a human scale.

Gordon also loved the idea that people would climb into his stairway. The visitors were also invited to physically explore this dimension of the work. In this case, of course, it was a rather dangerous experience. Children loved Gordon’s intervention, and they were always the first to ask to explore his work: this was undoubtedly because of their ability to wonder and to play. When discussing Crane Ballet, a planned but unrealised project, Gordon told us, with a big smile, that since he wasn’t familiar with the crane handle manipulations he’d let children operate the controls – and that the children would teach him what to do.

Gordon has played such an important role in art history and yet Jacob’s Ladder is still relatively unknown. It’s Jacob’s Ladder, however, that helps us to better understand his Sky Hooks drawings from 1978 (his last project). Made just before he died, these drawings form part of the MACBA collection and, the way I see it now, they are the clearest possible evidence of Gordon’s genius.

The curators and directors, Carles Guerra (MACBA) and Bart De Baere (M HKA), as well as Flor Bex (former director of the ICC and M HKA) and Harold Berg (‘Max’), stimulated me to finish this editing.

The post-production for both of these last two films was executed in close collaboration with our ‘creative’ editor, Steven Perceval from AAP Media in Antwerp. The soundtrack to Summer ‘77 is by Nico Staelens. The song for the A Jacob’s Ladder homage, as well as the soundtrack for the movie, is by Jan Verheyen.



In a way, Gordon dedicated Jacob’s Ladder to his twin brother Batan, who’d died the year before, in 1976. Nobody could have imagined, at the time, that the work would become a memorial to the artist himself. At the end of the film, you can see him standing, his hands holding on to the metal net, contemplating. Then letting go his hand and releasing his ladder – the ladder that is forever blowing in the wind.

Thirty-five years after his death, I’m grateful to be able to honour Gordon in this way and, no matter what happened, I also liked him very much as a person.

Gordon died in August 1978, following a pancreatic cancer. He was thirty-five.

For me, Gordon Matta-Clark will always be the man who, like a cosmic architect, used the eternal voice of the void.

Gordon was developing a new alphabet regarding social communication and the use of space.

He talked about his art activities as exploring spatial vocabularies that could be used in the situations in which we live. There is no doubt that Gordon, with the abandoned tenement buildings in New York, wanted to create new architectural structures so that people could live their everyday lives in a more cosmic and socially connected way.

How? By liberating space!

Cherica Convents /Antwerp, February 2013