The exhibition will be staged in the physical space of the Scala Contarini del Bovolo, whose spiral shape (bovolo means snail in the Venetian dialect) alludes emblematically to the pairs of opposites high/low and ascent/descent.
Taking his cue from Duchamp’s work Nu descendant un escalier, the artist has conceived a series of signboards that invite visitors, in an onomatopoeic play on words, to climb the stairs (Nous ascendant un escalier) and then to go down them (Nous descendant un escalier).
The exhibition is also a journey in the remote/recent and imagined/experienced time that connects three dates: 1917, 1977 and 2017.
1917: the year in which Duchamp shows his ready-made Fountain, epitome of the provocative work of art. 1977: giving up the profession of artist for some time and forging links with the ironic and creative current known as the Indiani metropolitani, Echaurren develops a new collective language with the group based on the use of Duchampian provocations, but in a political key, creating fanzines, drawings and collages and staging surprise happenings.
2017: the artist decides to go back to the materials connected with those days, exercise books, written and drawn notes, and to propose new works that point to the possibility of making use of Duchamp again today as a palimpsest on which to trace out a personal journey.
The hub of the exhibition is a series of collages that find themselves on a collision course with the materials on paper in the boîte verte (1934), the box that Duchamp named after his work La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même. This is not just an object of personal sentimental value for Echaurren but also a stimulus and a starting point for reflection on the practice of art as something linked to the dimension of thought.
The box, as is well-known, contains reproductions of notes, photos, drawings and loose sheets related to the creation of the earlier work, also called The Large Glass. A sort of toolbox, but also a potential collage. Echaurren, who has been practising the medium of collage alongside other artistic techniques since 1969, has utilized copies of the facsimiles in the boîte to create fifty works in an imaginary chess game played with the great artist. In order to underline its importance, an original specimen of the box is materially present in the exhibition.
At the end of the route through the exhibition stands the ceramic sculpture U/siamo tutti Duchamp (‘We All Use/Are Duchamp’), a copy of the historic urinal signed R. Mutt in which Echaurren has intervened by applying a sort of tattoo made using a technique derived from the Compendiario style of grotesque decoration developed in Faenza in the 16th century. In doing so he has turned the object into a disconcerting piece of furniture through a détournement that places it somewhere between mediaeval art and graffiti, past and present, high and low.