[Conceptual] London: Dancing around Duchamp, The Bride and the Bachelors, The Barbican

If I lived in London, I’d like an apartment in the Barbican, please!

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Preferably one here, overlooking the pond and garden which seem to have landed from outer space:

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View from one of the highwalks, connecting the buildings. Pond, fountains and The Barbican Arts Centre terrace

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Yet another example of British Brutalist architecture and a masterpiece at that! I’ve grown to be very fond of this style… age and the fact that I live in Northern Europe for the past 30 years may have helped…

I’m especially fond of the Barbican Arts Centre, *temple* of performing arts, home to the London Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, because it never disappoints. The Barbican hosts concerts, theatre performances, film screenings and art exhibitions and it’s really one of the coolest places to hang around. 

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This spring they celebrate Marcel Duchamp, who love him or loathe him, is widely considered at once the father of conceptual art, the most influential artist and ”the most intelligent man” of the 20th century – the latter in the opinion of -at least- Andre Breton. At the heart of the season is the major exhibition The Bride and the Bachelors: Duchamp with Cage, Cunningham, Rauschenberg and Johns, featuring a selection of paintings, sculptures, stage sets and musical notations, testimonies of the collaborations and interactions between Duchamp and the four masters: composer John Cage, choreographer Merce Cunningham and visual artists, Robert Rauschenberg & Jasper Johns. The result of making good friends and life partners. And great chess opponents. Being creative and having fun. 

The project is orchestrated by leading contemporary artist Philippe Parreno, who has conceived a soundscape of pre-recorded and live sound and a dance floor on which you can hear the pounding steps of ”ghost” dancers, alternating with live dance performed by students and graduates from London Contemporary Dance School and dancers from Richard Alston Dance Company. On two opposite corners he placed two pianos playing live Cage scores. On some afternoons by Eliza McCarthy. The rest of the time by a ”ghost” player. 

Sound is omnipresent in the exhibition; but it would be incomplete without reference to Cage’s 4’33” . Fittingly sitting next to Rauschenberg’s white canvases. 

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I can’t always get into Duchamp’s mind and am still undecided as to whether I should rather consider him an anti-artist; but an interview filmed by Belgian director Jean Antoine, two years before Duchamp’s death in 1968, helps make sense of the man who was ”wary of words” and only recognised their poetic meaning. Here is the translated transcript. Asked what he believed was his greatest achievement in life, Duchamp replied: ”Using painting, using art, to create a modus vivendi, a way of understanding life; that is, for the time being, of trying to make my life into a work of art itself, instead of spending my life creating works of art in the form of paintings or sculptures”.

The Bride and the Bachelors: Duchamp with Cage, Cunningham, Rauschenberg and Johns.

Presence and absence
Sound and silence
Stillness and movement

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At the Barbican,
until 9 June 2013

Photos: Konstantinos Implikian and Barbican website. 

London 24-29 April 2013

To be continued…

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3 thoughts on “[Conceptual] London: Dancing around Duchamp, The Bride and the Bachelors, The Barbican

Chatroom | The Floor is Yours

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