Eat Like Marcel Duchamp, Be a Part of an Art Installation at SMU's Pollock Gallery

For a guy who put away pasta and butter, Marcel Duchamp was pretty trim.
For a guy who put away pasta and butter, Marcel Duchamp was pretty trim.
Man Ray/Yale University Art Gallery

Ever been to the Pollock Gallery at SMU? No? Ever even heard of the Pollock Gallery? Also no? That's not surprising. Despite the romantic idealization of curious, art-hungry university students and despite what was no doubt an intentional choice to put the gallery in SMU’s student center, students rarely venture into the space and the general public even less so.

Sofia Bastidas, the 2016-17 Pollock curatorial fellow at SMU, is well aware of that fact, which is why when she invited Berlin-based artist Marco Bruzzone to create a show for the space, she charged him specifically with finding a way to activate it. It was almost an experiment in how one coaxes university students into engagement. The answer Bruzzone landed on was food.

Until Oct. 22, a lunch of simple pasta with cheese and butter will be prepared and served daily in the Pollock Gallery as part of Bruzzone’s The Triple Carbs Society (The Built-in Kitchen of M. Duchamp). That’s right. Free pasta.

If you’re thinking this doesn’t sound much like art, you're right. But you’re also wrong. In fact, with The Triple Carbs Society Bruzzone may have successfully created a rather heavy conceptual art exhibit masquerading as gimmick. A very tasty gimmick.

Bruzzone is a bit of a student of Duchamp and came up with the idea for the installation while reading Pierre Cabane’s Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp. In the book Cabane references Duchamp’s daily lunch at the time of the writing, which consisted of pasta with butter and cheese. The meal prompted Bruzzone to wonder whether the ritualistic nature of the menu may have been part of Duchamp’s practice, a kind of lived ready-made. The fact that it was food, which inevitably becomes part of the artist’s body, added another interesting layer, as if the food were literally becoming the artist’s art. Was Duchamp’s diet part of his work? Who knows. But the question is prime fodder for conceptual art.

So Bruzzone created his own ready-made, a simple but functional kitchen he says references the banal kitchens idealized as necessities of middle-class life, and filled it with more conceptual art references than most middle-class people would ever otherwise encounter. Taking another cue from Duchamp, Bruzzone curated his own small exhibition within the kitchen (apparently for a time, Marcel’s brother was curating small exhibitions in the artist’s kitchen of friends and associates). If you look closely, you'll see that Bruzzone has installed small, often thematic works by Klara Liden, Eivind Nesterud, Karl Holmqvist and others, in the Pollock Gallery's small kitchen.

The final pieces of the exhibit consist of a Donald Judd-inspired dining table, meant to evoke the communal nature of the artist haunt of the 1970s as well as a sense of permanence lacking in the exposed kitchen (meant to imply perhaps that community is longer lasting and therefore more important than consumer goods?) and a process-oriented component which will change throughout the exhibition’s duration as the daily cooks (a rotating list of students and gallery attendants) each throw a piece of their cooked pasta against pre-determined spaces on the wall — a gallery show of cooked spaghetti.

Like all good conceptual artists, Bruzzone has created a model and a set of instructions that his “apprentices” can easily replicate each day.

What does life lived as art look like? As Bruzzone asserted at the opening, everything in Duchamp’s life was, at a certain point, becoming his art. I highly doubt the occasional student or passer-by who may wander into the built-in kitchen of M. Duchamp will grasp the manifold conceptual references Bruzzone has sprinkled throughout his exhibition, but either way, their lives will have at least for a moment, become art. And anyway, if absolutely nothing else, they’ll leave full.

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