Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Explanation as Composition: Provenance #2


The provenance of this work was written during a collaborative writing session at LACE on 30 January 2011. Writers include: Amanda Ackerman, Harold Abramowitz, Kate Durbin, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum and Teresa Carmody. Event writer collaborators: Aimee Bender, Allison Carter, Mark Z. Danielewski, Carribean Fragoza, Veronica Gonzalez, Janice Lee, Harryette Mullen, Janet Sarbanes, Anna Joy Springer, and Stephen Van Dyck.

By 1917, the work had made its way across the Atlantic and into the gallery of up-and-coming American art dealer Bradney Right. When the work showed up in Chicago it brought with it an odor from the storage and the journey. “I picked it up on a Thursday,” the diary of Bradney Right began, “and was alarmed by the stench. How was I going to clean it? How did it come to pass that the work could [accrue these attributes of] decay so quickly?” The odor stuck to the work and when gallery doors opened on Saturday, they closed again soon after. Because who would stay to fall in love with an artwork that reeked of morgue? Right, being a savvy man who knew people well, obtained the services of a skillful cleaner of cowhide who also tidied the finer apartments near the old slaughterhouses. The work was, after a few weeks, effectively rid of the stench, but when Right attempted a second opening, no one showed.


[How do you feel, Mr. Right? I feel like a fool, he replied. How could you feel this way, Mr. Right? I claim to know how to transcend the senses of the face and hands. I claim to deal in the textures and flirtations of the beyond-face, beyond-hand. I claim to deal in that which was of the hand or of the face but is now of the heart. If the heart has a deathlike odor, it should not be the subject of art. Nor the brain, nor the eye. I want the handsome people who love art to open wide, not to fall back into the sofa, into the bed with their mouths closed to air having learned that the heart has an odor of decay. (notes from the inventory)]


The work stayed in the gallery’s storage closet for a long time. It picked up the smell of bleach, the smell of cobwebs.


“It was a beautiful artwork,” stated the Mayor of Chicago, “but I had a previous engagement and could not stay long to admire it.”


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