No Tricks, No Scams.
Marcel Broodthaers
at the Fridericianum

Marcel Broodthaers
Fridericianum, Kassel
17.07.15 – 15.11.15

Nouveaux trucs, nouvelles combines – resonates as a motto throughout the artistic production of Marcel Broodthaers ( 1924 – 1976 ). Broodthaers repeated this sentence in the two-volume catalogue he produced for ʻL’Angélus de Daumierʼ ( 1975 ), his last self-curated retrospective in Paris. Forty years later, attempts to reconstruct Broodthaers’ oeuvre in posthumous exhibitions are destined to fall into the trap: what would be a faithful representation of tricks and scams? A paradox.

Nowadays, several new exhibitions that are devoted to the artist face Broodthaers’ challenge. Besides timely displays of private collections that manifest personal choices of patrons, accompanied by supplements they handle with care ( Herbert Foundation, Ghent ), we may distinguish between two curatorial approaches to the task: one collects a list of artworks into a factual catalogue of objects unfolding in space, whereas another attempts an unavoidably fictive recollection of the works, through reconstructions of condensed constellations. The recent exhibition at the Monnaie de Paris, which deserves a separate look, manifested the later attitude. It attentively addressed the spectre of Broodthaers, whose own exhibitions, and retrospectives in particular, were always more about constellations than about objects. The current exhibition at the Fridericianum, however, belongs to the objective, factual kind. It is big, museal, playing safe, if playing at all. No tricks, no scams.

As an objective presentation Marcel Broodthaers stands somewhat estranged from the inventive insincerity that characterises Broodthaers’ artistic practice. One of the ‘new tricks’ from quite early on consisted the creation of his own retrospectives, a strategy he further developed under the term Décor. L’Entrée de l’Exposition ( 1974 ) is such a Décor, welcoming the visitors with potted date trees and photographic reproductions of early works. The vegetation’s conquest of the entrance to the exhibition could subversively transform the elevated space of culture into a tamed semi-tropical winter garden. Unfortunately, in the Fridericianum the gesture is rendered decorative. Perhaps the large white-cube rooms of the museum thwartthe constellation. Objects, well distanced from one another,are scattered all through the first floor. And after several objects and rooms, the film Objet ( 1967 ), which Broodthaersproduced on the occasion of his first quasi-retrospective at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, shows some of those early objects: accumulations of eggs and mussels, photos of a woman’s eye and mouth, and reproductions thereof, in rooms covered with newspaper. In the film a violinist plays to the works. The impression is of a crazy artist’s studio rather than of artworks in a museum display. Contrary to the current display, the exhibitions Broodthaers staged operated as a ‘compost’ rather than as an ‘archive’, to use a metaphor the curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev phrased in the documenta symposium that took place in the two days following the exhibition opening.

In the invitation to his first solo show ( 1964 ), Broodthaers ironically summed up his early production with a Q&A: ‘What is it? In fact, it is objects.’ In the same invitation he also famously confessed that he had commenced an artistic career since he, too, wondered whether he ‘could not sell something and succeed in life’. Sadly, this invitation is not included in the current show. Pense-Bête ( 1964 ), the unsold copies of a poetry book transformed into sculpture, exemplarily materialised Broodthaers’ transformation from a poet into a visual artist, is also absent. In this sense, the Fridericianum lacks some key works that could have completed the overview of the oeuvre, and further evidence the criticality of the objects that are shown.

In contrast to the spread of the early objects over the white-cube spaces, Projection sur Caisse ( 1968 ) is presented in a dark chamber, in a side room, somewhat out of context. Projection sur Caisse was part of the fictive museum that Broodthaers opened in his living room in Brussels, the by now legendary Musée d’Art Moderne, Département des Aigles, Section XIXe Siècle, which contained museum postcards of 19th-century artworks hung on the wall, and slides thereof projected on a wooden art-transport box. A few rooms and objects further, on the next floor, stands Section Publicité ( 1972 ), the final section of that fictive museum. The black structure is a self-contained publicity kit, superfluously filled with images of eagles, in posters, comic books, photographs, and earlier publications. In fact, it was originally made for documenta V in Kassel ( 1972 ), allegedly advertising the Section des Figure ( 1972 ) at the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, which was soon to close. The re-construction of Section Publicité follows very exact instructions, and here something truly happens, leaving a taste for more. It is reinstalled for the third time in Kassel – in between it was also shown in documenta X ( 1997 ). The current celebrations for the 60th anniversary of documenta could have offered the opportunity to reconstruct more of Broodthaers’ documenta works, such as Musée d’Art Moderne, Département des Aigles, Section d’Art Moderne ( 1972 ), composed of wall inscriptions and a floor piece, which Broodthaers contradictorily changed in the middle of the documenta exhibition into Musée d’Art Ancien, Département des Aigles, Galérie du XXème Siècle ( 1972 ). Moreover, repositioning works that were previously shown in other documenta editions beyond Broodthaers’ lifetime would have added another historical perspective. For example, a reinstallation of Décor. A Conquest by Marcel Broodthaers ( 1975 ) in the Fridericianum’s rotunda, where it stood during documenta 7 ( 1982 ), would have evoked the work’s previous post-incarnation, in an in-situ, re-reconstruction.

Admittedly, Décor. A Conquest is still a very effective manifestation, in its new reconstruction as well. Here, one room leads to another. The first room is dedicated to the 20th-century, with rifles and pistols on the wall, garden furniture, and a jigsaw puzzle depicting the Battle of Waterloo, partly assembled on the plastic table. The second, 19th-century room, holds cannons, antique chairs, a wooden door, palm trees, a big snake, and crabs playing cards. Wandering between the equipment of film lights that is installed in both rooms, the visitor feels herself inhabiting a historical movie set. Broodthaers makes it clear that we, coming from the 21st-century weapons industry and IKEA solutions, still dwell in that movie, in that history.

It is in this act that a pistol is hung on the wall. It could finally fire in the following one. Accordingly, the reconstructions of Broodthaers’ environments offer the stronger moments in the exhibition, which continues with an excellent display of Salle Blanche ( 1975 ), a full-size model of the by now historical Brussels living-room-cum-museum,containing neither objects nor images, only words inscribed on the walls. Other highlights are the film selection of Cinéma Modèle ( 1970 ), the slides of Bâteau-Tableau ( 1973 ), and the glimpse from the rotunda down to the first floor, occupied by the palm trees of Un Jardin d’Hiver II ( 1974 ). From here the visitor could perhaps return to the beginning, with a new, intriguing view.

During the first morning discussion of the documenta symposium, some speakers passionately debated whether or not a museum of modern art exists in China. Many fingers pointed at MoMA, accusing it of monopolising the definition of modernism. MoMA stood for the quintessential manifestation of an oppressive western institution that renders other modernisms invisible, to blame for appropriating minor narratives into its own self-constructed major narrative. Ironically, next year is Broodthaers’ turn to be appropriated. Through the acquisition of the Daled collection, Broodthaers’ upcoming exhibition at MoMA may bear again the signature of the collector’s choice. What kind of exhibition are we to expect, when the Museum of Modern Art displays the Musée d’Art Moderne, which originated in another part of the world, in which such an institute does yet not exist? Nouveaux trucs, nouvelles combines.




‘新花样,新组合’,这是在马塞尔·布达埃尔( 1924 – 1976 )的整个艺术创作中的一句座右铭。布达埃尔在为《杜米埃的祈祷》( 1975 )制作的两卷本图录中反复说着这个句子,这是他在巴黎自己策划的最后一次回顾展。40年后,试图在布达埃尔斯后重建他作品整体的展览,都注定会落入这样的圈套:什么是花招和诡计的忠实再现?这是一个悖论。

现在,几个致力于此艺术家的新展览,正面临布达埃尔的这个挑战。除了适时展出资助人所选择的私人收藏,并配以经他们谨慎处理过的补充材料( 根特的赫伯特基金会 )之外,我们还可以在两个策展手法之间做出区分:一个是把一系列作品搜集成实质的物件目录并展现于空间之中,而另一个则通过重构浓缩的作品精粹,尝试对作品进行难免虚构的重现。现正在巴黎国家造币局举行,值得独立观看的展览,就展现了后者那一种态度。它周到地把重点都集中在布达埃尔的幽灵之上,因为他自己的展览,特别是回顾展,总是有关集萃而非物件。而目前在弗雷德里希美术馆的展览则属于客观的、讲求事实的。那是大型的、博物馆式的、稳扎稳打的。没有花招,没有诡计。

作为一次客观呈现,《马塞尔·布达埃尔》一定程度上偏离了标志布达埃尔艺术实践的那种独出心裁的虚情假意。早期的‘新花招’构成了他自己的回顾展的创作,及后成为以‘装饰’之名而进一步发展的策略。《展览入口处》( 1974 )就是这样一个‘装饰’,迎接观众的是盆栽椰枣树和早期作品的摄影复制品。植物对展览入口的占据或颠覆性地把高尚的文化空间转变成为平凡的亚热带冬季花园。不幸的是,在弗雷德里希美术馆,这种姿态被描绘成装饰性的。也许美术馆巨大的白色立方体展厅阻碍了精粹的概念。各种离开彼此一定距离的物件,散落在整个第一层展厅。在几个物件和展厅后,布达埃尔第一次在布鲁塞尔美术宫举办准回顾展时制作的《物》( 1967 )展现了一些早期的物件:在铺满报纸的展厅里摆放的鸡蛋和贻贝的堆积物,女人眼睛和嘴的照片,还有其复制品。在影片中,一位小提琴手对着作品在演奏。这给人的印象是一个疯狂艺术家的工作室,而不是在美术馆展示的艺术作品。和当下的展示相反,布达埃尔布置的展览是‘土堆’一般而非‘档案库’的经营,这是策展人卡洛林·克里斯托弗—巴卡尔吉芙在展览开幕后举办为期两天的卡塞尔文献展论坛上提出的一个比喻。

《装饰,马塞尔·布达埃尔的征服》( 1975 )《20世纪部分》承蒙马塞尔·沃纳画廊 惠允使用。图片:Achim HatziusDécor, A Conquest by Marcel Broodthaers, 1975. Salle XIXe siècle. Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery Photo: Achim Hatzius.

《装饰,马塞尔·布达埃尔的征服》( 1975 )《20世纪部分》承蒙马塞尔·沃纳画廊惠允使用。图片:Achim Hatzius. Décor, A Conquest by Marcel Broodthaers, 1975. Salle XIXe siècle. Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery Photo: Achim Hatzius.

在其第一次个展的邀请函中,布达埃尔讽刺性地以自问自答的方式总结了自己的早期创作:‘这是什么?实际上就是物件。’在同一封邀请函中,他还公开承认,当他还在犹豫他是否‘能不卖什么东西,并取得人生上的成功’的时候,就开始了艺术生涯。可惜的是,这封邀请函并未纳入这次展览之中。《备忘记号》( 1964 ),一件由若干册未能售出的一部诗集,转化而成,代表性地物化了布达埃尔从诗人转而成为视觉艺术家这事件的雕塑,也不在此次展览中。从这种意义上讲,弗雷德里希美术馆的展览缺少了若干可以完善整个作品的总体印象,并进一步阐明所展示物品的批判性的关键作品。

与分散在白色立方空间里的早期物件相反,《箱子上的投影》( 1968 )则是在一个黑暗的房间里展示的,某种程度上脱离了语境。《箱子上的投影》是布达埃尔在布鲁塞尔的起居室里开办的一个虚拟美术馆的一部分,如今这里是传奇的现代艺术博物馆之鹰部的19世纪部分,包括悬挂在墙上,19世纪艺术品的博物馆明信片,以及在木制作品运输箱上投影的幻灯片。经过几个展厅和物件后,在第二层摆放着《广告部分》( 1972 ),也是虚拟美术馆的最后一部分。黑色的结构是一个独立的宣传工具,过多地充斥了海报、漫画书、照片以及早期出版物中鹰的形象。事实上,这原本是为卡塞尔的第五届文献展( 1972 )所制作,据说是在为杜塞尔多夫美术馆中即将结束的《人物部分》( 1972 )做广告。《广告部分》的重现遵循了非常精确的说明,而在这里确实发生了一些事情,留下了对更多东西的品味。这是它第三次在卡塞尔重新搭建起来,其间它也在第十届文献展( 1997年 )上展出过。文献展六十年之际,也许能有机会重现更多布达埃尔的文献展作品,例如《现代艺术博物馆鹰部之现代艺术部分》( 1972 )由墙上铭文和一块地板组成,布达埃尔矛盾地在文献展期间将名字改为《现代艺术博物馆鹰部之二十世纪艺廊》( 1972 )。此外,在他有生之年以后,让其他文献展上展出过的布达埃尔作品重新复位,也会增加另一种历史视角。例如在弗雷德里希美术馆圆形大厅重新搭建,曾在第七届文献展上展出( 1982 )的《装饰。马塞尔·布达埃尔的征服》( 1975 ),将能唤起作品的后转世式,具现场感的再重构。


正是在这样一幕当中,一支手枪挂墙上。它最后可能在接下来的展览中发射。相应地,布达埃尔的环境的重现为展览提供了更有力的一刻,并从《白色房间》( 1975 )的出色展示而得以继续。这是一个如今具历史性的布鲁塞尔式起居室化身而成博物馆的全尺寸模型。既没有物品也没有影像,只有墙上题写的文字。另一个亮点是《电影模板》( 1970 )的影片精选、《船景》( 1973 )的幻灯以及从圆形大厅向下瞥见一楼,那里被《冬季花园之二》( 1974 )的棕榈树所占据。观众从这里也许可以回到开始,带着一种全新、好奇的视点。