Taking an excerpt from the text written for the booklet, A Voyage on the North Sea (1974) by the Belgian artist Marcel Broodthaers, “It is up to the attentive reader to find out what devilish motive inspired this book’s publication” as a provocation, the exhibition sets out to question and explore ‘motive’ and ‘decoy’ within artistic and curatorial practice.
Both a film and book, A Voyage on the North Sea were distributed together as part of the same package. Thematically connected, the works mutually consisted of 19th and 20th century nautical images including photographic reproductions of an amateur ‘grand master’ painting along with a photograph of a contemporary sailboat. This work, along with many of Broodthaers’ written, object-based and site-specific environments were not widely known in his lifetime – but this work has latterly been canonised within the sphere of contemporary art, not least in part by attention of the renowned US critic Rosalind Krauss in such works as A Voyage on the North Sea: Art in the Age of the Post-Medium Condition (2000).
Looking at artists who, like Broodthaers, approach art production from a post-medium perspective, the exhibition will display works from Lawrence Weiner and Ed Ruscha that contemplate the mysterious and somewhat perilous nature of making and showing art – by being, manifestly, ‘at sea’. Reproductions of nautical works by Willem van de Velde the Younger, Peter Monamy and J.M.W. Turner, unobtainable in their original formats, will be presented via forms of secondary documentation, endlessly accessible and reproducible via printed or digital means.
Book works by Helen Douglas and Elisabeth Tonnard as well as other works from the Special Collections at Chelsea will be on display alongside ephemera and other items.