“Fiction enables us to grasp reality and at the same time that which is veiled by reality.” – Marcel Broodthaers
In 1964 the writer Marcel Broodthaers decided to become a visual artist. Yet he retained an avid interest in language, its systems of meaning, and its poetry, which became integral components of his art. Maintaining a distance to the art scene, Broodthaers raised fundamental questions about art—about its media, about how the artwork is defined, and about its representation in museums. His works resist definitive art-historical classification and his oeuvre still stands as a persistent critique of the commercializing strategies of the art market today.
Influenced by the anti-authoritarian discourses of the 1960s, Broodthaers’ art is by no means divorced from the political dimensions of reality. He undertook a critical examination of the practices of collecting, archiving, and display, questioning the power of the institution to define and exposing the museum itself as a representational and ideological authority.
Broodthaers’ criticism is grounded in a probing investigation of the ordering systems of everyday life, the mechanisms involved in the production of meaning, and their place within a collective cultural memory. Extracting images, objects, words, and actions from their established contexts, the artist engendered a sense of uncertainty in which the contrast between the reality of visual images and the reality they depict becomes clearly visible. He revealed the agency of objects, which transcend our ability to grasp them through language, and emphasized the puzzling play of language itself, employing words as both visualized ideas and literal material. In an age characterized by our faith in the capacity of visual images to explain scientific and political phenomena, the oeuvre of Marcel Broodthaers, in which the unspoken dissonance of images, words, and meanings becomes apparent, assumes immense power and relevance.
On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of documenta, the Fridericianum is presenting a major survey exhibition featuring works from all of the artist’s creative periods. The exhibition encompasses early sculptures, films, slide projections, prints, and drawings as well as Le Corbeau et le Renard (1967–72), the Section Publicité of the Musée d’Art Moderne, Département des Aigles (1972), Miroir d'Époque Regency (1973), Éloge du sujet (1974), Dites partout que je l'ai dit (1974), Jardin d’Hiver II (1974), L’Entrée de l’Exposition (1974), Salle Blanche (1975), and DÉCOR, A Conquest by Marcel Broodthaers (1975).
Curated by Susanne Pfeffer