Amsterdam, 26-11-2012 - Last Saturday Moniek Toebosch (1948-2012), the bubbly multi-artist who startled our country from the 1970s onwards with contrary performances. Some of you may remember her scandalous performance in the 1983 Holland Festival.
Toebosch presented the programme 'Attacks of Extremes' live for VPRO television from Theatre Carré. After half the Omroeporkest had quit in protest against Glenn Branca's deafening noise, she stepped onto the stage undaunted - and half-naked. She persuaded a dozen musicians to stay and join her in performing the final song from Tristan & Isolde. Part of the audience reacted with shock, the other savoured her bravado.
The anecdote is indicative of the independence of spirit Toebosch displayed until the end of her life. She was born in Tilburg in 1948, the daughter of composer and organist Louis Toebosch. Even in the living room she turned out to be a gifted performer and in the turbulent 1960s she attended the Tilburg conservatory, where her father taught. Adventurous as she was, she disliked the rigid pattern of scores and notes, and together with kindred spirits such as Pieter Ligtvoet and Peter van Meel she set up the Vanzelfsprekendheid working group. When Breda banned a performance of a play by De Sade, they went to the neighbouring city to sing Mozart's Ave Verum, naked and covered in blood, in front of a stunned mayor.
Toebosch broke the boundaries between composing, directing, acting and improvising. She also organised exhibitions and often collaborated with Michel Waisvisz, who caused a furore with his electronic 'crack boxes'. During joint performances, they challenged each other to daring experiments, sometimes pushing each other to the limits of pain. Toebosch showed a very different side in her Troostbos, an artwork she designed for a hospital. She hid speakers in a vase of plastic flowers, which started whispering comforting words as soon as a sick person or visitor bent over them.
In 1993, Toebosch created the exhibition Kop op Kop for the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam at the request of Rudi Fuchs. For six weeks, she presented a different portrait from the collection every day, accompanied by her idiosyncratic commentary. That same year, she also developed the Angel Station, a sound artwork in which she interwove sweet-voiced voices sung by herself. An FM frequency was set up especially for this on the Houtribdijk between Enkhuizen and Lelystad. It remained on air for six years and was extremely popular among motorists. (In 1997 I spoke to Toebosch for VARA Radio 4 about Troostbos and Angel transmitter.)
In the 1990s, Moniek Toebosch became a lecturer at several art schools and from 2004 to 2008 she was the director of Dasarts, the second-stage course at the Amsterdam School of the Arts. That same year, she was diagnosed with cancer. The doctors gave her a few more months, but Toebosch retreated to her farm in Belgium and fought against death with great intransigence. In 2010, she participated in the exhibition De Nederlandse identiteit? at De Paviljoens in Almere. Among other things, she depicted the theme by portraying herself as 'Monique/Paul'.
Toebosch was surprisingly level-headed about her illness, laconically stating that she was living in stolen time. Last Saturday, she gave up the fight - at a moment of her own choosing, as she kept control until the very end. With Moniek Toebosch, the Netherlands loses a striking and original personality. Too bad her voice will never shine again!