Marcel Broodthaers: l’artista degli anagrammi nascosti

Maria Elena Minuto

On 24 October 1970, under the aegis of Jean de La Fontaine, the Belgian poet and artist Marcel Broodthaers (Brussels 1924 – Cologne 1976), inaugurated a screening room in his Düsseldorf home to show films created with the fervid intention “to grasp reality and at the same time what it conceals” (M. B., 1972). A poster stating “Théorie le Secret. Le cinéma n’est accessible que sur rendez-vous. Inutile de se présenter” was presenting this outstanding initiative. The still glowing embers of the Section Documentaire (1969) were giving birth to the Cinéma Modèle. Programme La Fontaine, “a rebus, something you have to want to figure out” (M. B., 1968) inspired by Charles Baudelaire’s allegoric images, René Magritte’s “deceptive pipes”, and Kurt Schwitters’ collage and assemblage works. In the same year when Daniel Buren staged the installation 140 stations du métro parisien, and Joseph Beuys modelled the multiple Felt Suit (Filzanzug), Broodthaers was projecting his poetic films, inviting viewers to reflect on the controversial relationship between art, language, and fiction.
Starting from the study of the book-object Pense-Bête (1963-64), through the analysis of Poèmes industriels (1968-72) and Décors (1974-76), this essay focuses on the far-reaching themes and intermedia practices the artist engaged with including poetry, painting, photography, cinema, and sculpture. Deeply convinced that “there are no Primary Structures apart from the language that defines them” (M. B., 1968), Broodthaers radically calls into question the allegorical status of art “under the reign of the culture industry” (Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, 1987) providing new and revolutionary insights into the intersection between artworks and the way they are exhibited, circulated, and perceived. Mistrustful of the Conceptual Art and Institutional Critique, and according to the counterculture of the 1968, Broodthaers proclaimed “the identity of the Eagle as Idea and of Art as Idea” (M. B., 1972) by performing one of the most poignant actions of the Neo-Avant-Garde “institutional détournement” (Rosalind Krauss, 1999): the Musée d’Art Moderne, Département des Aigles (1968-72).