Marcel Broodthaers: A Retrospective bursts at the seams with text in all forms. Given Marcel Broodthaers’s interest in language, it’s fitting that MoMA’s second-floor bookstore is where, every Tuesday for the next four weeks, visitors have the opportunity to explore the artist’s work in a workshop led by Elizabeth Zuba, a poet and translator of the artist’s work, and Diane Bertolo, an artist and Broodthaers enthusiast. During the hour-long workshop, Zuba and Bertolo walk visitors through examples of Broodthaers’s uses of the erasure technique—namely in his interventions with French symbolist poet Stephane Mallarmé’s poem Un Coup de Dés Abolira Jamais Le Hasard and sections of text from his own Le Corbeau et le Renard. Participants are invited, as Broodthaers did, to use the language of these poems as a source material from which to create new poetry and new meanings.
Tucked in a quiet(er) section of the Museum behind rows of bookshelves, this space encourages visitors to consider language through a Broodthaersian lens—to see language not so much connected with a single symbolic meaning but to see language as object and material. The empty egg and mussel shells found throughout Broodthaers’s work point to this emptiness of symbols. Meaning, in this sense, is fluid and flexible.
Harnessing the artist’s playful irreverence, Zuba and Bertolo lead visitors in making their own interventions onto the printed texts. Words, letters, and symbols are shifted, blacked out, whited out, or lifted from the page entirely to make personal expressions with new meaning.
We hope that all visitors, from Broodthaers die-hards to those that have never heard of the artist before, leave with a new entry point into the work of Marcel Broodthaers and a greater understanding of how his interest in language touched his entire career from poet to artist.