Monday, October 20, 2008

Ronnie’s hole

Marcel Duchamp has cast a big shadow over New Zealand art as everywhere else. In Tokyo we saw work from the mid-1980s by Chinese artists who had just found out about Duchamp and Joseph Beuys. It was like watching a banquet being consumed by starving guests responding to the complex and subtle ideas on the fly. We have already posted on the remarkable exhibition of Duchamp‘s work that toured New Zealand (you can download the catalogue here) and its unintended consequences. In 1966, the year before his work toured New Zealand, Duchamp had been putting the finishing touches to the secret work that would be revealed to the public after his death. Étant donnés is installed in a small room in the Philadelphia Museum of Art , it is approached via two peephole set into a door which is in turn set into the wall.

In 1994, at whatever the National Gallery was being called at that stage, Giovanni Intra played a cheeky homage to the work with his own peephole installation Golden Evenings. The view, from memory, was a sunset. It sure wasn’t the up-skirt view of Duchamp’s shocker.

Now, at Hamish McKay’s, you can see another response to Étant donnés, this time by Ronnie van Hout in Hold that thought. This time the peephole view is of a naked guy as far in the distance as Duchamp’s woman is in your face. Both perspectives cloud what’s going on with similar ambiguity.

Another connection to Étant donnés is set into one of our own walls - the miniature version of the Wrong Gallery. Before the original was removed from its New York Chelsea address to go to Tate Modern, the final installation was Erik van Lieshout’s Peep Show (2007) that directly quoted Étant donnés.