Bookmarking Book Art – Marine Hugonnier

The Bedside Book Project (2006-07)

The Bedside Book Project is a quintuple homage — Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898), Marcel Broodthaers (1924-1976), Odilon Redon (1840-1916), Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948) and Richard Hamilton (1922-2011) — and approaches its subjects in cinematic fashion. It begins with this anecdote:

In 1945 René Magritte gave Marcel Broodthaers a copy of Mallarmé’s poem as ‘a way of explaining his art to a young admirer without explaining it literally’. In 1969, Broodthaers modified an edition of the poem by covering all its words with black stripes that correspond directly to the typographic layout used by Mallarmé to articulate the text. In this way, Mallarmé’s poem, which Broodthaers considered had unconsciously invented modern space, is reduced to its structure. 

From here, Marine Hugonnier‘s imagination takes hold. As if in a film scene, she moves into the bedrooms of Redon, Schwitters and Hamilton, steals their copies of Un Coup de Dés from their bedside tables, alters each one by inserting images and then replaces them. The result is a series of installations in which the pages of their altered books are displayed on the gallery walls. Each has its “book title”: La forme du mystère (Odilon Redon), Altération (Kurt Schwitters) and L’espace social (Richard Hamilton). Here is Hugonnier’s description of Redon’s book and the installation performance in which it is presented:

Redon’s bedside book has been stolen and its pages have been folded to extend the space and time of the poem’s interlude bringing his dreams to a deeper sleep. ... The mise-en-scène is composed of a white space with an open window, a spider and a man dressed in a tuxedo who will change a solitary frame, containing a folded page of the poem, on the wall every hour. On the 12th hour, the room will be left empty.

The Bedside Book Project: La forme du mystère (Odilon Redon). Source: Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, displayed with permission of the artist.

Staging a performance in which the pages of Redon’s bedside book are parceled out over 12 hours is ambitious. As she introduces Schwitters and Hamilton into The Bedside Book Project, Hugonnier creates an even more ambitious immersion for the reader/viewer in different times, spaces and influence. Further temporal instability is involved as well: the pages on Redon’s 19th century bedside table come from a 2006 Gallimard edition of the poem.

Time travelling from Redon’s bedside table to that of Kurt Schwitters, Hugonnier also introduces a bit of temporal and linguistic instability: Schwitters’ bedside copy comes from the Tiber Press edition of Daisy Aldan’s translation into English, published in 1956 eight years after Schwitters’ death. Colored paper cut-outs conceal words, disrupt the gaps of the poem and alter its reading.

The Bedside Book Project: Altération (Kurt Schwitters). Source: Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, displayed with permission of the artist.

With Richard Hamilton, Hugonnier gives him the same edition as Redon — the Gallimard 2006 — and fills its interstices with images as a way to change its reading.

The Bedside Book Project: L’espace social No.2 (Richard Hamilton). Source: Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, displayed with permission of the artist.

As ghostly film director and actress in the film, Hugonnier wonders how these altered bedside books might have affected the way those three artists perceived art and practiced it in their times. As Hugonnier’s audience, we must surely wonder how she has altered the way we perceive Un Coup de Dés and its influence and very possibly how we perceive time, space and art.

Further Reading

Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’abolira le Hasard – L’Espace Social N2, 2007“. MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation. Fundación Repsol Collection. Acquired 2009.

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