Histoires de l’art
2012.16.03 - 19.05
MARIE J. JEAN
While art’s historians and theoreticians have dedicated themselves to the deconstruction and reconstruction of the narratives produced by the universal history of art, many artists, for their part, have made efforts to expose its successive determinisms and in so doing imagine alternative histories. The goal of the exhibition Art Histories was to understand how artists contribute to acting on the great narratives that art history produces. This attitude, described as meta-narrative, retro-avant-garde or simply critiquing, aims to restore notions of fiction and politics to the ideal museum that is art history. These artists’ propositions have demonstrated a penetrating understanding of the historicization of art and its processes, reminding us that historical knowledge implies not merely the reconstitution of past reality, but its continual [re]construction. That said, artists only rarely position themselves as producers of History—in the sense that their practice does not seek to elucidate formal, social or explanatory consistencies—more likely, they are archaeologists of historical knowledge, more intent on disclosing the unspoken or reflecting on discontinuities and displacements. They do not conceive of History as an entity, but as material undergoing perpetual change—theirs to appropriate, reinterpret and reshape. Often they employ anachronism as a conceptual tool, using the “retro” lens to work backward in time from their perspective of the present, a method many of them consider to be a necessary condition of “historical agency.”
Marcel Duchamp played—yet again—a pioneering role, having designed as early as 1936 a permanent, portable touring exhibition of his main works, reproduced as miniature replicas and photographs; he eventually produced them in a boxed-set-in-a-suitcase edition, the Boîte-en-valise.