Saturday, June 18, 2011

Explanation as Composition: Provenance #5

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.

In the early 1930’s, despondent after a series of miscarriages and the early, unexpected death of her husband Edward, Alice Adams began making frequent trips to Austria, where she received treatment at Alfred Adler’s clinic in Vienna. Adler was an early follower of Freud who had broken away from the psychoanalytic movement to establish his Society of Individual Psychology. Intrigued by Adams’ account of the recurring role of the work in her dreams, Adler asked to see the object and Adams agreed, bringing it with her to Vienna at considerable expense in the fall of 1932. In a letter to her mother, she remarked on how incongruous the work looked in Adler’s consulting rooms. Before she was able to return the work to Chicago, however, the Nazis took control of Germany, and Adler’s Austrian clinics were soon closed due to his Jewish heritage, despite the fact that he had converted to Christianity. Adler hastily left Austria for a professorship at the Long Island College of Medicine in New York, and Adams ceased her visits to Vienna.

The exact whereabouts of the work then remained unknown for over a decade, until it resurfaced in the aftermath of World War II.

At the end of the war, the work, which had been disassembled and its constituent parts divided among various Nazi plunderers, was reconstituted by a corps of art experts recruited by the Allied forces. This process of finding and re-assembling the work took several years as the gang of war criminals first had to be hunted and tracked to their various hiding places all over the world. This involved an international team of freelance agents specializing in the kind of secret operation that can be managed without the express orders of government officials. Then each art thief had to be bribed, threatened, or tortured to reveal the location of his or her respective piece of the dismantled art work. Eventually, the work was rounded up and pieced together like a marvelous jig-saw puzzle at the Musée D’Accord with the assistance of well-trained art restorers under the supervision of Professor Bricolage, who exclaimed, “I feel as Isis must have felt when she re-assembled the dismembered body of Osiris.”

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