“The artist’s home and studio were stacked with his artworks, cast-off items, including three broken refrigerators with the doors still attached. A separate storage room was piled to the ceiling with jumbled junk, more artworks, damaged electrical cords and worn-out clothing.” More
Henri Pierre Roché, Marcel Duchamp’s Studio, c. 1916-18. Courtesy Jean-Jacques Lebel.
Elena Filipovic / A Museum That is Not
One could say that everything begins and ends in Marcel Duchamp’s studio. His first New York studio is perhaps best known from a series of small and grainy photos, some of them out of focus. They were taken sometime between 1916 and 1918 by a certain Henri-Pierre Roché, a good friend of Duchamp. Roché was a writer, not a professional photographer, clearly. He was the same guy who would go on to write Jules et Jim, arguably a far better novel than these are photographs. But their aesthetic quality was not really what mattered. Duchamp was attached to those little pictures. He kept them and went back to them years later, working on them and then leaving them out for us like his laundry in the picture. Or like clues in a detective novel.
There isn’t a single photograph among them that shows his studio (which was also his home, in this case) cleaned up. Duchamp’s drawers are open, his shoes and pillows are strewn across the floor, dust has collected in the corners. The supposed cold conceptualist, the guy who epilated his entire body because he seemed not to like the unkemptness of body hair (and requested that his partner at the time consider doing the same), the artist of the industrially produced readymades—lives in a pigsty.1 This is not the first nor will it be the last of many Duchampian paradoxes. Still, Duchamp’s sense of housekeeping and the dust that he bred in his apartment is not so much my point as is his arrangement of objects. While he might live with a mess, everything also has its place. The small photographs reveal that the shiny porcelain urinal on view is not in the bathroom (although there might be another one there), or even tucked in a corner—it’s hung over a doorway. The disorder of the room might appear careless, except that a urinal simply doesn’t get up there by accident. Duchamp’s snow shovel is not casually leaning against a wall waiting for use—it is suspended from the ceiling. And his coatrack lies inconveniently and ridiculously in the middle of the room, nailed to the floor. Selected objects in chosen positions.
Remember, this is sometime around 1917, several years after the artist first started to bring everyday objects into his studio. Back then, he had a Paris atelier, which his sister cleaned up when the artist moved to New York, throwing the first readymades into a dustbin, where she innocently thought they belonged…
Sleep No More takes place at the fictional McKittrick Hotel, a reference to the film Vertigo. The hotel was completed in 1939 and “intended to be New York City’s finest and most decadent luxury hotel”. Six weeks before opening, and two days after the outbreak of World War II, the legendary hotel was condemned and left locked, permanently sealed from the public until it was restored and reinvented by Punchdrunk and Emursive. The McKittrick Hotel is actually three adjoining warehouses in Chelsea’s gallery district at 530, West 27th Street. The address is the former home of megaclubs Twilo, Spirit, Guesthouse, Home, Bed and more. The 100,000-square-foot (9,300 m2) space has been transformed by Punchdrunk into “some 100 rooms and environments, including a spooky hospital, mossy garden and bloody bedroom.”
Lozano’s notebooks are full of drawing exercises and language play. “Which is heavier, red or blue?” she wrote in August of 1968 “Red seems heavier,” she concluded.
Lozano refused to interact with women. She considered this a form of living art and called it The Boycott Piece, performing it from 1971 until her death twenty years later.
Behind an old iron gate in a side street, a bizarre Gesamtkunstwerk opens itself up. Under the high roof of a huge rubber tree hangs a web of strings studded with slips of paper and signs, expressionistic-abstract paintings and worn-out pieces of clothing, all held in place by clothespins. … For decades, the artist Issab Samb, alias Joe Ouakam, has created a universe in which the signs of everyday life are transformed into altars of a private obsession.
In the 1960s, Ouakam, along with filmmaker Mambeti and others, belonged to the founders of the group Laboratoire AGIT-Art. Their multi-media actions were directed against the formalism of the Ecolé de Dakar; out of the “socialization of the aesthetic” developed an aesthetic of the social. This installation could function as a didactic piece for present-day artists – all that’s missing is a sign reading “National Museum” on the gate. (From)
With The Museum of Stones Jimmie Durham inverts conventional Western thinking on mimesis, architecture and the museum. Along with found and defunct objects, stone plays a significant metaphoric role in Durham’s work, standing for the representation of state narratives, identity construction, and all things structured: architecture, monumentality, stability—and “belief.” For Durham, stone is the ultimate sculptural form, because each stone is itself a changing entropic sculpture, shaped over time by the elements. He is fascinated by the ways in which seemingly static objects like stones can become incredibly active, a character in an unfolding story—quite aside from how anthropomorphism may call to mind totems or other ritualistic objects.
The exhibition Animism begins with that which we are all familiar with from art and the products of mass culture—the cartoon for example—as animation. Within art, animation is a common effect used to evoke life and vitality, in particular through movement, although it is also present when art works—sculptures or specific pictures—appear to return the gaze of the viewer. However, what we accept as an effect in art is a subject of historical contention beyond its confines. What do we perceive as being alive? When we ask this question outside the field of art it invariably raises questions which call on us to provide further distinctions for the purpose of clarification. The mere effect of vitality is not to be equated with independent life, this appears beyond doubt. But where is the dividing line? What possesses a soul, life, and the power to act? That the border between animate and inanimate matter, or between pure subjects and mere objects, is in no sense a natural given is demonstrated by the simple fact that in different cultures this border is perceived and conceived of in highly different ways. Consequently, there can never be an ultimately “objective” designation of the “correct” division—in order to illustrate this in terms of one’s own culture one only has to think of the imponderables in the debate on the point of death and the definition of so called “brain death.” However, the dividing line is not a “purely” subjective matter either—after all, it is just as important for the organization of our material relations to nature as for the question of the social and political status of living beings in a specific society. Is it possible to examine this dividing line itself, together with the organizing knowledge systems and practices?
Text by Anselm Franke