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UAL Research Online

Neither Text nor Image: The signed reproduction and the reproduced signature in Marcel Broodthaers

Chesher, Andrew (2017) Neither Text nor Image: The signed reproduction and the reproduced signature in Marcel Broodthaers. In: Images and Texts Reproduced, Word and Image Studies, 10-14.07.17, University of Lausanne, Switzerland.

Type of Research: Conference, Symposium or Workshop Item
Creators: Chesher, Andrew

Paper delivered at the International Association of Word and Image Studies conference, University of Lausanne, Switzerland, 10-14.07.17
Abstract: This article concerns the artist Marcel Broodthaers and the relation between the visible and the legible in his work. The subtle displacements and slippages between text and image, characteristic particularly of the later Broodthaers, distinguish the work from much Conceptual Art in the late 1960s and early 1970s, where language and (mostly photographic) image were both deployed as ‘seemingly neutral means of recording information’ (Kotz 2007, 213). I will demonstrate, based on an analysis of specific works within his oeuvre, how Broodthaers counters Conceptual Art’s predominantly text and image format with an art that could be described, by contrast, as being neither text nor image. His practice is neither ‘dematerialised’ (Lippard and Chandler 1968) nor ‘demediatized’ (Camnitzer 2007); rather Broodthaers, the poet-turned-artist, instigates a confrontation between media that plays out in large part materially in a perceptual register. Starting from a focus on Broodthaers’s address of the perceptual in its relation to the discursive, this article elaborates a post-phenomenological analysis informed by Jean-François Lyotard’s early work on the figural (Lyotard 1971/2011). The Broodthaers viewed from this perspective diverges from that found in the series of influential commentaries produced by writers associated with the journal October starting with Benjamin Buchloh’s 1980 Artforum article. Informed by Post-structuralism, Critical Theory and an antipathy for Modernist opticality, these commentators have generally eschewed phenomenology. I will seek, conversely, to show how Broodthaers’s melancholic reflections on the relations between art, capital and political power are not only susceptible to a form of phenomenological analysis but invite it. Specifically, this paper focuses on two works by Broodthaers, each of which explores photographic reproduction as a hinge between text and image. Une seconde d'eternité (d'après une idée de Charles Baudelaire) 1970 consists of a strip of 35mm cine film whose 24 frames reproduce the signing of the artist's initials as a stop-frame animation. Whereas this piece is in effect a photographic reproduction of the signature's inscription, the second, Signatures 1971, a slide projection piece consisting of hand-signed slides, is conversely the signing of the means of reproduction itself. Broodthaers’s imbrication of the handwritten and the photographic, I will argue, produces – couched in Lyotard’s vocabulary – a ‘figural’ process that foregrounds of their sensible ‘thickness’. A phenomenological account of how discourse and figure are confounded in these works can be profitably contextualised, as I will go on to show, in relation to the changing regimes of spectatorship and visibility theorised by Jacques Rancière. However, Broodthaers’s gives an implicit Benjaminian prominence to technology in his continual play between media that contrasts with Rancière’s occasional yet explicit downplaying of technology’s effects on structures of perception and expression (2007a: 3; 2004: 31-4). Diverging, therefore, from Rancière and his reading of Broodthaers (2007b), my discussion will be developed in light of how technical means of reproduction have apparently changed our relation to writing. By the 1960s technologies such as sound recording and photography arguably had set the discrete differences of language on a collision course with the continuum of sensory experience. In this context, Broodthaers’s allusions to and use of photography and film can usefully be paralleled with the role technologies played for other Neo-avantgarde artists – in particular, the tape recorder, which for John Cage transformed the conception of music so that its basis became duration, and the Xerox machine, which used or alluded to in key Conceptual Art publications and exhibitions had the potential of levelling text and image. Photography, as Friedrich Kittler said of the gramophone, treats what it records in the register of the real as opposed to that of the imaginary or symbolic (Kittler 1999). Indeed, in Broodthaers’s works analysed in this article, photography could be seen to effect a kind of practical phenomenology, detaching word and image from their naturalised, everyday and political appearance.

Official Website: http://wp.unil.ch/reproduction2017/program/panels-2/
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > Chelsea College of Arts
Date: 14 July 2017
Related Websites:
Event Location: University of Lausanne, Switzerland
Date Deposited: 09 Jul 2018 13:31
Last Modified: 09 Jul 2018 13:31
Item ID: 13095
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/13095

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