Territorial pissings and strategic cultural engagement
So it is April 2017 and the second season of Culture is upon us, ‘freedom’ has sprung-the clarion call of ‘placement, placement, placement…’ has become the subtext and defining characteristic of so much this year so far, and like a ‘dog to sick’ much tastier and culturally beneficial morsels have thus been missed…
I came across this on my media ramblings, a long statement but a definitive moment nonetheless:
We received this by email from the Association Marcel Duchamp. Its long – but worth reading through to the end – to see Hull School of Art and Design mentioned alongside the Tate, the Serpentine etc. etc. Be part of the international celebreations – come to KAG, Eleven and the Brodrick!
From: A M D [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: 05 April 2017 04:30
Subject: Celebrating FOUNTAIN April 9th Worldwide
#Fountain100:Celebrating the Birthday of Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain”
International museums of modern and contemporary art celebrate the 100th anniversary of Marcel Duchamp’s urinal Fountain on Sunday, April 9, by providing free entry to those that wish to honor the artist and his ready-made – within their very own restrooms
On Sunday, April 9, to commemorate the birthday of what according to a 2004 survey of 500 art experts was named “the most influential artwork of all time,” museums worldwide will allow access at no cost to anyone mentioning the password “Richard Mutt” to members of the entrance staff – for the duration of one hour, between 3 PM and 4 PM in the afternoon. During that time, a dedicated men’s room with urinals installed will turn into a unisex restroom to provide space for everyone wanting to honor the centenary of Fountain, the most infamous of ready-mades by Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), with impromptu readings, homages, proclamations, and performances. All participants are welcome to organize via social media and post their results online via #Fountain100
April 9, 1917, was the preview date for the “First Annual Exhibition” by The Society of Independent Artists in New York. Earlier, French artist Marcel Duchamp, under the pseudonym of Richard Mutt, had sent in a urinal to test the organization whose motto for their call for entries had proclaimed “No Jury – No Prizes.“ When Fountain was rejected, Duchamp and others resigned from the selection committee in protest. The “First Annual Exhibition” took place at New York’s Grand Central Palace, exhibiting over 2,000 art works by more than 1,000 artists presented in alphabetical order.
After its first appearance, Fountain hung from the ceiling of Duchamp’s private studio for some time before being lost in 1918. We know of its existence through a photograph by Alfred Stieglitz, taken in his gallery in mid-April, 1917. Later versions include small scale miniature editions created by Duchamp between 1938 and 1958 for his Boite-en-valise as well as a urinal presented in the New York exhibition “Challenge and Defy” which was bought by the show’s gallerist, Sidney Janis at a Paris flea market in 1950 on behalf of the artist. Moreover, a handcrafted replica was produced for the Moderna Museet in Stockholm by Ulf Linde in 1963 and a later edition of eight was created together with Arturo Schwarz in 1964.
It was Stieglitz’ original photograph which was first published in May, 1917, by The Blind Man No. 2, the last issue of the short lived New York avant-garde magazine by Marcel Duchamp and Henri-Pierre Roché. Within, “The Richard Mutt Case” is discussed by female artists Beatrice Wood and Louise Norton (“Buddha of the Bathroom”). The decision of the “Board of Censors” is dismissed and Fountain declared a “sculpture” – “no more immoral than a bathtub.” It was the artist’s choice for the object to be seen in a new context and therefore it could be considered art.
In 1957, forty years after the rejection of the ready-made Fountain, Duchamp argued within his lecture “The Creative Act” that the latter “is not performed by the artist alone” but that “the spectator brings the work into contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act.” When it comes to Fountain and Marcel Duchamp, on April 9, 2017, major museum will open their doors for the public to do just that.
All institutions of modern and contemporary art around the world are encouraged to take part in the initiative. Among participating museums are: The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia; The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Serpentine Galleries, London; Tate Modern, London; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; Centre Pompidou, Paris; The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Staedel Museum, Frankfurt; Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing; Kunsthalle Basel; Lenbachhaus, Munich; Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Stuttgart; Staatliches Museum Schwerin; Museum Ludwig, Cologne.
This project has been initiated by art historian and Duchamp scholar Thomas Girst, with the kind endorsement of the Association Marcel Duchamp.
Additional Activities in 2017 honoring “Fountain” (selection):
Sadaâne Afif , “The Fountain Archives,“ Centre Pompidou, Paris, Jan 30 – Apr
“Marcel Duchamp and the Fountain Scandal,“ Philadelphia Museum of Art, Apr 1 – Dec 3 (with special performances by the Pig Iron Theatre Company in PMA bathrooms and the
placing of “R. Mutt” stickers on every urinal and toilet in the museum prior to April 9)
“Fountain: 1917-2017,“ The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto (collection gallery), starting April 19
“Fountain 17,“ Hull School of Art and Design, and other locations, Hull (UK City of Culture 2017), March 27 – 14 May
Marcel Duchamp “Fountain: An Homage,“ Francis M. Naumann Fine Art, New York, April 10 – May 26
“The Readymade Century,“ Symposium, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Oct 12 – 14
International workshop on the Archive of Serge Stauffer and the Marcel Duchamp Collection, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, 26 – 27 October
I have highlighted the ‘appropriate lines’ in the statement, the importance of Hulls placement in the listings is self-evident, and we are after all ‘hosting’ the city of culture 2017 so all good placement within the worldwide media frameworks is a positive alignment alongside the negative persuasions of media and individual alike, however the ‘curates egg’ is on the table here.
The satirical British magazine Punch published- on 9 November 1895-a cartoon drawn by George du Maurier and titled True Humility; it pictures a timid-looking curate eating breakfast in his bishop’s house. The bishop says: “I’m afraid you’ve got a bad egg, Mr Jones.” The curate replies, desperate not to offend his eminent host and ultimate employer: “Oh no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!” (This clearly cannot be true of a bad egg.)
(1.The New Oxford Dictionary of English, Oxford University Press, 1998. p. 449.)
The magazine republished the cartoon in the final issue of Punch, published in 1992; the reprinted cartoon had a more modern rendering of the dialogue with the caption reading: (2) Curate: “This f***ing egg’s off!”
(2 Van den Bergh, Hubert (2013). How to Sound Really Clever: 600 Words You Need to Know. A & C Black, p. 39, ISBN 1408194856)
This ****ing egg is off! It needs saying and needs debating, sense and sensibility aside, the time of Victorian politeness to our ‘superiors’ who have the power to make or break holds no place in ‘this northern town’ or further afield for that matter.
When ‘the blade’ appeared in the Victoria Square area a local reporter (Angus Young) likened its placement and its demeanour as putting a revolutionary finger up to the establishment and to those who ‘knocked Hull’ in its hour of cultural glory; the blades appearance and placement cut the skyline and opinion alike, it’s obvious alignment with new industry to the area-under the clean energy banner-a modern manifestation of ‘the art of business’ and ‘the business of art’.
I am sure however that if Humber Street was of more statuesque proportions then the blade would have had a different positioning and placement within the locus of Hull; heralded as the ‘artistic centre of Hull’ Humber Street has done the time, so to speak, it wears the badge of regeneration to a quarter of excellence-a process and model that is as old as the smack of money and as new as the branded art it attracts.
So the ****ing egg is well off, and placement is well off also; Fountain 17 (Hulls contribution) seems to have opted for the branded placement rather than the integrity and endeavour of those who ‘make’, to be part of a branded placement-something that in honesty is as transient as the idea brought to the fore by Duchamp himself with his discussion of ‘autonomy over established order’.
I stood trying to see through the glare of overhead natural light and man-made strip light alike to images projected on a makeshift wall, I tried to hear the words, over a commissioned band arrangement drifting in from outside, of a visiting speaker from the Duchamp Institute and later I endeavoured to watch a commissioned film, the endeavour of an artist/maker, again haphazardly projected within a makeshift space; I visited a single gallery space were collected works had been stuffed in the locus like a blocked toilet; I feel curation was overpowered by the need to be included, the overall effect was of exclusion of the artists endeavours for that of branded cultural placement. I left feeling disturbed! The ethos of Duchamp was blowing around a different part of this city of culture, somewhere that positioning and placement were for the consideration of the artist/maker rather than that of the ‘event’.