The Absence of Work
Marcel Broodthaers, 1964-1976
400 pp., 7 x 9 in, 46 b&w illus.
- Published: September 20, 2013
- Published: September 17, 2010
A provocative investigation of Marcel Broodthaers's work as a reflection on the uses and abuses of language.
In 1964, at age forty, Marcel Broodthaers (1924–1976) proclaimed that his years of writing poetry—of being “good for nothing,” in his words—were over, and a brief but dazzling artistic career began. Considered a founding father of institutional critique, Broodthaers created hundreds of objects, books, films, photographs and exhibitions, including a “fictive” museum of modern art that evolved from an installation in his own home to a massive exhibition of over three hundred works representing eagles. In The Absence of Work, Rachel Haidu argues that all of Broodthaers's art is defined by its relationship to language. His perception of his poetry's “failure to communicate” led him to explore in his art the noncommunicative, nontransparent uses of words.
Haidu's characterization of Broodthaers's contribution to institutional critique represents a major departure from the usual approach to this movement. With The Absence of Work, one of the first monographs on Broodthaers in English, Haidu demystifies a crucial and enigmatic figure in postwar and contemporary art.
The Absence of Work is a fascinating study of one of the foremost artists of the postwar period. Haidu's brilliant analysis of Broodthaers's career illuminates his far-reaching aesthetic strategies and innovative methods. This book places him in the context of contemporary art history with insightful reference to modernist and postmodernist thought. Impressive, intelligent, and inspired, it sets forth the artist's role as a progenitor of installation art and institutional critique.
Anne Rorimer, author of New Art in the 60s and 70s: Redefining Reality
Rachel Haidu's rigorous study of Marcel Broodthaers returns this pivotal artist to the center of debates on institutional critique. Providing new insights on Broodthaers's practice from multiple vantage points, The Absence of Work is intellectually sophisticated and historically precise, demonstrating how the artist, his work, and its publics were formed across discursive institutional contexts.
Kirsi Peltomäki, Department of Art, Oregon State University, author of Situation Aesthetics: The Work of Michael Asher