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Found Art; Duchamp's legacy

In 1915 Marcel Duchamp presented objects in galleries that he had not created but rather 'identified' as having artistic merit. Since then, this very modern sensibility of seeing the mundane and taken for granted as unique artistic expression has  had a great legacy in the arts. To me, This spirit of 'seeing'  forms one of the essential pillars in the foundation of photography.  When we focus our lens on the world we are making statements about what we think is important and significant in the world.




I saw this wall in a little town of Bagnoregio, Italy about 15 miles southwest of Orvieto. Not far from the place I shot Dark Dream of Umbria  dark-dream-of-umbria.jpgAt the time I was amazed by the richness of texture and form on a wall that the owners I'm sure considered very utilitarian and perhaps even an embarrassment. If the light had been not falling so fast I might have lingered for close ups, there is a veritable universe of landscapes nascent in this one wall of accidental frescoes and ready made objects.  Some many facts and stories can be derived from this image. This is an old building with solid stone and plaster walls. To add electricity or plumbing it is usually necessary to run the wiring on either the inner our outer surface, because running it through the stone itself is highly impractical. Here we see electrical wires phone lines and perhaps internet connections lacing from room to room in an abstract pattern that shows an attempt at some order and neatness. I have seen other walls where every wire just sort of shoots on different random vectors from hole to hole, giving another style of abstraction entirely. So we know that some attempt at aesthetics was made here. The light tones of plaster probably demark where new plumbing was added--we can imagine jack hammers carving troughs for pipes that bring hot water to a structure that was built in a time of chamber pots and cisterns. StrangeWallOrignial.jpgAlso the decision was made to protect the inner surfaces of this house at the price of 'violating' the outer surface. So one can assume that the inside of this dwelling might be very nicely decorated and quite the opposite of what we see here. Perhaps all these decisions were made when the wall was nicely covered by the neighbors house which was torn/ fell down, a humorous and embarrassing unveiling of family secrets, rather like having the walls of your garage go suddenly transparent. Here's the original image from the camera. What do you think?  

The nice curtains in the upper window also suggest a pleasant interior space.  And each window here also tells a story. The owners have a nice existence on the upper floors, rent out the lower left to a nice student and  Benzo the village ogre lives in the shadows behind the lower right. We can go on forever making up stories about who lives here and how.

I could even see moving this entire wall to MOMA to make a monumental ready-made statement. In the meantime I offer you this photograph. Since it was taken 10 years ago, one can only imagine what new  additions have been added to this utilitarian jambalaya, or perhaps a new building hides this wall or maybe the building is gone all together. Ahah! Sounds like a good adventure to go find out and a great excuse to go back to beautiful Italy!



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Reader Comments (5)

so marcel duchamp was influenced by odilon redon...
recognized that name from an earlier posting on your blog...
thanks for alittle bit more of art history here


I think there is one family living there, or one person...
maybe the boarded up window is for a photographers darkroom
or maybe wine is stored there(in an orderly fashion)...or both!

maybe one of the windows is the "studio"...maybe even the upstairs one with the nicer curtains..beyond them is a not-so-stylish but orderly(to match the pipes and wires) portrait studio ...yes, i think the upstairs one, since the bottom one has a pipe there, it must be the bathroom...with shutters(to guarantee privacy, maybe from Benzo the ogre, who actually lives just alittle bit on the outskirts of town) : )

I agree--this picture is visually interesting from a design perspective as "found art"..but as you point out, could tell any number of stories.. but first it must be seen--not taken for granted..

and you did! and have shared it here...
and next...maybe MoMA..that would be really cool!

November 4, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterjen(taranoel)

Dear Jen, thanks so much for you comment! Its such a treat to find one at my blog. I did not know that about Duchammp and Redon... very interesting. It makes sense though as they form a thread through art history as innovators.

Yes its true... so many stories can be made for this house... it sounds like your is leaning towards a home for the arist in you!

take care


November 15, 2007 | Registered CommenterDan Colvin

Great texture, I agree

November 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTeodora

Such presentation deserves applause.

October 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFine Art Gallery Ireland

I too find these 'gable ends' as we call them here in the UK most fascinating - almost like an autopsy of a building while it's still alive. Your post processing skills are gobsmacking. Thanks for sharing your insights so generously here. Found you on flickr (Mermaid) You have inspired me to find some of my gable ends here in Seaham :-)

September 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJac

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