Saturday, 24 December 2011

Unzipped Humanities: Learn about - Marcel Broodthaers

Welcome to the collection of The National Museum of Art, Osaka.

This post is about Marcel Broodthaers, a Belgian poet who has most probably lived terrified by the idea that he would die in poverty muttering chaotically from Mallarme, never, will never, if, as if, it was, it would be, nothing, perhaps, the number... He was a dreamer like many of us. And his poems did not sell.

This is a tale of artistic survival and intelligent choices for dreamers. From 1963.

When you feel life so intensely that you can almost 

breathe words,

you might sadly have to admit that 
you were born in the wrong era,

then cut all words out,
embed them in plaster,
and exhibit,

so that you can survive.

in other words

...if you have no voice: SCREAM;
...if you have no legs: RUN;
...if you have no hope: INVENT.

Alegria, Cirque du Soleil (Sydney, 2001)
 tassiocoimbra1's uploaded video

Welcome to the museum's collection:

Marcel BROODTHAERS La signature Serie 1. Tirage illimite. (1969)

We do not sign these posts in order to control online exposure. We fancy you trying to enjoy the texts and the images and that thought makes us feel very pleased. Yet by not signing these posts, their value drops. Marcel Broodthaers created a number of signature-style artworks. Simple branding strategy.

We have been working on La signature Serie 1. Tirage illimite, for the collection catalogue.

collecting data

capturing the shadows

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Marcel Broodthaers (28 January 1924- 28 January 1976) was born in Belgium, and lived in Bruxelles, Paris, Dusseldorf, London, Berlin. Broodthaers studied chemistry in Bruxelles, then devoted himself to writing poetry. In 1957 he published his first volume of poems Mon livre d’Ogre, made his first film Le clef de l’horloge. Un Poeme Cinematographique en honneur de Kurt Schwitters.

Marcel Broodthaers, Mon livre d'ogre (1957)

Unsuccessful as a poet, in 1963 Broodthaers turned to visual arts. He embedded the unsold, still partly wrapped copies of Pense-Bete, his forth and last volume of poetry, in plaster, and exhibited them as a sculpture. Installation, if you please.

Marcel Broodthaers, Pense-Bête (1964)
© Frieze Magazine

He had his first exhibition in 1964 in Bruxelles, won the Jeune Sculpture Belge award and had some other seventy solo exhibitions in the following 11 years. His main references are Magritte, Edgar Allan Poe, Baudelaire, Mallarme, Rimbaud. Many of his “poem-works” seem to celebrate his favourite poem, Mallarme’s Un coup de des jamais n’abolira le hasard. He died in Koln.

Stephane Mallarme's Un coup de des jamais n’abolira le hasard (1897) is an extraordinary piece of writing and is available online for your kind reference.

A.S.Kline uploaded the French original and the English translation in 2007 here.
Sumio Akiyama made a very good Japanese translation in 1966. Enjoy the poetic typography in all languages.

Un coup de des, French original

Un coup de des, in Sumio Akiyama's Japanese translation (1966)

Un coup de des, in A.S. Kline's English translation (2007)

Un coup de des, by Marcel Broodthaers
(published on the occasion of the Exposition Littéraire autour de Mallarmé show
Wide White Space Gallery, Antwerp1969) 


Curatorial night beat @ The Bosa Bosa Review
with La signature Serie 1. Tirage illimite. (1969)

La signature Serie 1. Tirage illimite. is a signature-style artwork from 1969 (silk screen on tracing paper, 53.5x73.5cm. Courtesy The National Museum of Art, Osaka) showing the artist’s “M.B.” initials in the classical Pop art style, as a series of repetitive representations of goods in a consumer society. The initials “M.B.”are replacing the content of the work with a nominalization. The “subject” of the work is the “signature” itself, the name of the author, therefore what really matters is not the author but the authorship (obviously~).

Being the “subject” of the work, the “authorship” is also seen as “object” of the art market and institutional systems. Broodthaers criticises the art market and makes an artwork he eventually sells on the art market. Like most criticisms, Broodthaers’ work becomes precisely what it initially criticised. La Signature Serie I has been created the very same year Foucault has published his essay What is an author?, which has become an essential reading on the topic of “authorship”. The author is seen by Foucault as a mere function attracting the empty assumptions and academic convictions governing the production, circulation and consumption of texts. The author is indeed dispensable, he could disappear and if he did, his disappearance would curiously not affect the work in any way. The subject of the work as independent from its author had been previously challenged by Roland Barthes’ essay The Death of the Author (1967)

MB MB MB, Poeme. Partie I and Poeme. Partie II. are two other examples of signature-works by Broodthaers.

MB.MB.MB. (1968)
Courtesy Michael Werner, New York
from Flash Art XLIV, No 276, Jan-Feb 2011, pp 74-75

MB MB MB, is an earlier signature-style artwork from 1968 (oil, enamel on canvas, 65x115cm. Courtesy Michael Werner, New York) showing the artist’s initials “M.B.” scrawled in subtle gradations of colour from dark red to light pink, on a black picture plane.

Poeme. Partie I.      Poeme. Partie II.  (1973)
Courtesy Communaute francaise de Belgique

Poeme. Partie I and Poeme. Partie II are two signature-style works from 1973 (silk screen on paper, 97.5x67.5cm. Courtesy Communaute francaise de Belgique). In the first work showing “Gedicht. Poem. Poeme” as a header, the author’s initials “M.B.” are used repetitively and symmetrically in blocks on the page where they replace the verse expected in a poem. Broodthaers even counts the frequency of the “M.B.” initials for each block and writes the frequency number as a “value-number”.

Whether comic or tragic, classic or surrealist, the possible content of the poem, the text itself has no value, the value of a work, its “price” is a number decided by something else than the content: the name. The second work showing “Change. Exchange. Wechsel” as a header, will present the initials “M.B.” repetitive and symmetrical in columns where they become an opportunity for the exchange of numbers and foreign currencies into one another. The power of words. Ironical for a failed poet, is it not?

Useful French-Japanese-English glossary

Marcel BROODTHAERS, “La signature Serie 1. Tirage illimite” 
マルセル・ブロータース  『署名、シリーズ I
”The Signature I. Unlimited Edition”

“Mon livre d’Ogre”
"My Ogre Book"

“Le clef de l’horloge.  Un poeme Cinematographique en l'honneur de Kurt Schwitters”
"The Key to the Clock. A cinematographic poem in honour of Kurt Schwitters"


Stephane Mallarme “Un coup de des jamais n’abolira le hasard”
 "A Throw of the Dice Will Never Abolish Chance"

“Poeme. Partie I” , “Poeme. Partie II”
"Poem I", "Poem II"

Related links

You might consider Marcel's works in the Tate Collection :

the showing at Milton Keys Gallery (UK) and Martin Herbert's Frieze article (2008) :

Exhibition at Milton Keys Gallery, UK

the film-installation at Marian Goodman Gallery (New York) and Media Farzin's Art Agenda article (2010) :

Installation © Marian Goodman Gallery, NY

the MoMA Collection :

Marcel Broodthaers, White Cabinet and White Table
from the MoMA collection page

Le Corbeau et le Renard film (1967) on youtube :

film uploaded on youtube by NegativeWisper on 29 Dec 2009


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