We are most grateful to the Estate Marcel Broodthaers for the information kindly provided.
‘I have been using since 1967 photo-canvases, films, slides, to establish the relationships between the object and the image of that object, and also those that exist between the sign and the meaning of a particular object: writing... The language of forms must be reunited with that of words’
(M. Broodthaers, quoted in M. Compton, ‘In Praise of the Subject’, Marcel Broodthaers, exh. cat., Minneapolis, 1989, p. 40).
‘I have just followed the footprints left in the artistic sands by René Magritte and Marcel Duchamp. Faithfully in spite of the winds that I blow. I, too, am an apostle of silence’
(M. Broodthaers, quoted in Marcel Broodthaers, exh. cat., Walker Art Center, Minneapolis 1989, p. 32).
Casserole de moules avec ficelles, 1967, is an adaptation of Marcel Broodthaers’ pioneering ‘readymade’ pots filled with mussels. As a photographic image transferred directly onto canvas, Casserole de moules avec ficelles belies depths of conceptual implication and meaning, as befits Broodthaers’ long-lasting concern with language. The mussel shells are transformed through the poetry of Broodthaers’ simple yet provocative aesthetic and the burgeoning pot can be understood as a meditation upon the ambiguity of language. Using the word ‘Moules’, Broodthaers merges the actual object and image to rupture and undermine existing relationships and meaning. Taking the legacy of René Magritte into new, conceptual pastures, Broodthaers pursues hidden messages and irony and the use of the written word as an element in Casserole de moules avec ficelles. Whereas Magritte stressed the arbitrary, convention-based relationship between the word and image through painting, Broodthaers merges the actual object and image to rupture and undermine existing comprehensions. Though extremely rich in allusion, the present work remains enigmatic and elusive, raising questions about the very nature of art consumption, production and the institutions that contextualize it. Ultimately his works are playfully ‘insincere’ because it is only fiction that ‘enables us to grasp reality’ (M. Broodthaers, Marcel Broodthaers, exh. cat., Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1989, p. 71).
Born in Brussels in 1924, Broodthaers initially worked as a poet and writer associated with Belgian Surrealism before dedicating himself, without any formal training, to visual art in 1964. Deeply influenced by Magritte and Duchamp, Broodthaers’ trailblazing practice consists of an aggregation of found imagery and objects and characterized by a profound concern with language and linguistic conventions. As Broodthaers claims, ‘I have just followed the footprints left in the artistic sands by René Magritte and Marcel Duchamp. Faithfully in spite of the winds that I blow. I, too, am an apostle of silence’ (M. Broodthaers, quoted in Marcel Broodthaers, exh. cat., Walker Art Center, Minneapolis 1989, p. 32). With a highly literate, critical and lyrical approach and deadpan humour, the revolutionary Bohemian artist played with ideas of authorship, originality and the role of the art institution. Rebelliously ignoring the restrictive, Modernist boundaries among artistic disciplines and media, he forged his own distinctive path as a visual artist, poet, filmmaker, and photographer, realizing an impressive range of site-specific installations and intermedia works, from films, slide projections, sculptures to his own fictional modern art museum. Working outside the establishment within the experimental enclave of Brussels, Broodthaers took the Belgian Surrealist tradition into new Conceptual territory, yet remained at the fringes of the art world in his life time, only to since then have recognized as one of the most influential artists of the last century. His continued legacy and relevance demonstrates itself in his current, posthumous inclusion in the 56th Venice Biennale under Okwui Enwezor’s curatorial eye, and in the upcoming retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 2016.