News for October 2010

The function of the studio

THE FUNCTION OF THE STUDIO

Written by Daniel Buren January 1971

Personal

When I was very young (seventeen) I began a study on painting in the Provence from Cezanne to Picasso (specifically, on the influences of the geographical place on the works). To bring this work to a satisfactory conclusion, I not only scoured southwest France, I also visited a large number of artists in their studios. My visits took me from the youngest artists to the oldest, from total unknowns to the most well-known. What struck me, first, was the diversity of the work, followed by its quality, richness and particularly reality, that is to say ‘sincerity’ independent of who the artist was or what his reputation was. I mean ‘reality/sincerity’ not only in regard to the author and his workplace, but also in relation to the environment, the landscape.
A bit later, I visited the exhibitions of the artists I had met, one after the other, and there my amazement blurred, even sometimes totally disappeared, as if the works I had seen in the studios were no longer the same or even made by the same person. Torn from their context, one could say from their environment, they lost their sense, their life. It was as if they became ‘frauds’. I didn’t immediately understand very well (far from it) what was happening, nor the reason for my disillusion.
One single thing became certain, and that was deception. Several of these artists I saw several times, and each time the gap between their studios and the walls in Paris became more accentuated for me, up to the point that it became impossible for me to continue visiting their studios and their exhibitions. From that time on, something irreparable was shattered, although the reasons for this were confused.
Later, I repeated the same disastrous experience with friends of my generation, even though the profound ‘reality / sincerity’ of the work was closer to me. This ‘loss’ of the object, this degradation of the interest for a work out of its context- as if an energy essential to its existence disappeared as soon as the threshold of the studio was crossed- was starting to preoccupy me enormously. The sensation that the essence of the work gets lost somewhere between the place where it is produced (the studio) and the place where it is consumed (the exhibition) pushed me extremely early on to pose the problem of the signification of the place of the work for myself. A little later, I understood that what got lost, what most surely got lost was the work’s reality, its ‘sincerity’, that is, its connection to its place of creation, the studio- a place where
finished works intermingle with works in the process of being made, works that will never be finished, sketches, etc. All these trace, visible at the same time, allow the comprehension of the work underway, which the museum definitely extinguishes in its desire to ‘install’.
Doesn’t one speak, by the way, more and more of an ‘installation’ instead of an ‘exhibition’ ? And isn’t that which is installed close to establishing itself?

Historical

In my opinion, Constantin Brancusi was the only artist who proved to have real intelligence when it comes to the museum system and its consequences. Moreover, he tried to conquer it, that is, tried to avoid that his work become rooted there, to make it impossible to settle it according to the whim of the current curator. Indeed, by bequeathing a major part of his work under the reservation that it was to be kept as it was in the studio where it originated, Brancusi cut short once and for all its dispersion, as well as any speculation Furthermore, this offered any visitor exactly the same viewpoint as his own at the time of production. Thus Brancusi was the only artist who, even if he worked in the studio and was aware of the fact that his work was closest to its ‘sincerity’ there, took the risk – preserving the relationship between the work and the place where it was made – of confirming ‘ad vitam’ his production in the spot that saw its origin. Among other things, he thus shortcut the Museum and its desire to classify, beautify, select, and so on. The work remains visible the way it was produced, for better and for worse.
Therefore, Brancusi was also the only one who managed to safeguard the everyday character in his work, which the museum is anxious to take away from all that it exhibits. One could also say – but this would necessitate a longer study – that this fixing of the work in the sense that it is to be seen in the place where it was made has nothing to do with the ‘fixing’ as practiced by the museum on everything that is shown in it.
Brancusi also proved that the so-called purity of his works is neither less beautiful nor less interesting within the four wall of the artist’s studio, surrounded by various utensils, other works, some unfinished, others finished, than between the immaculate walls of aseptic museums. Whereby the entire production of art, both yesterday and today, is not only marked but preceded by the use of the studio as an essential, even sometimes unique place of creation, all my work derives from its abolition.

Posted: October 31st, 2010
Categories: content, message, studio
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