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Woman In Divorce Battle On Tour
Logo, 2000

The art of divorce, Dutch-style

Can a 17-year-long divorce battle be turned into art? Dutch artist Cees Krijnen thought so four years ago when his mother received another lawsuit from his father. "It was all getting too mad, it was time to interfere," he says. "I asked my mother to perform with me in a piece called Financing My Parents' Divorce. It was for the Prix de Rome and I designed therapy for her in the form of a portable pill machine that blew powdered aspirin into the air. Then I got the members of the jury, who were all men, to act as prospective boyfriends like a dating agency. It was funny and they were definitely surprised." ?

No boyfriend came out of it, but since then, his mother, Greta Blok, has become a divorce celebrity. She has been on a Woman in Divorce Battle Tour to New York and Paris, is a government and UN-endorsed ambassador for divorced women and even had a parfum divorce designed.

She has been transformed from a woman in trouble to a 61-year-old glamourpuss who is enjoying her new international lifestyle. "We had money problems. It was hard, but the story has turned into a fairy-tale," says Krijnen. "Our fiction has become our reality."

To confirm her mythical status, he has created a huge statue of his mother in a gold leather catsuit, which now overlooks the River Po.

As part of the reinvention of Greta Blok, she got married to herself in an "art wedding" at last year's Montreal biennale. The event prompted Krijnen to have a body double made of her - Greta Two. All three of them will be appearing as part of the Body Craze event at Selfridges department store in Oxford Street, London (May 7-31). "By making Greta Two, we are putting the emphasis on the individuality which often gets lost in the 'we' of marriage," he says.

Art or not, isn't it all a bit oedipal? "We have a great relationship and it has got better. I think every child would like this," he says. "Sometimes she and I look at each other and we laugh because everthing has happened because of this silly divorce. Now Greta gets fan mail from divorced women who say she gives them strength. The divorce is the best thing that happened."

Oh yes, the divorce was actually granted last year, in Greta's favour. But the art is likely to run and run.

Rose Rouse
©The Guardian, UK
22 April 2003