Mallarmé, Het Boek

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The work of Klaus Scherübel (b. 1968, lives and works in Montreal) includes a wide range of media like publications, photography, video, text, etc.. 

He proposes a critical analysis of different forms of cultural production - from the domains of visual arts, literature, cinema to television. At S.M.A.K., he will exhibit two installations in which he reflects on two remarkable literary works, namely Stéphane Mallarmé’s ‘Le Livre’ and Jack Torrance’s ‘All Work and No Play’ which became known through Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ (1980).

The exhibition Mallarmé, Het Boek - on view until 06.12.2009 Mallarmé, Het Boek (Leeszaal) 1999-2009, is a comprehensive presentation of Klaus Scherübel’s long-term project dedicated to French poet Stéphane Mallarmé’s utopian endeavour from the 19th century. For more than thirty years, Mallarmé – best known for his seminal poem in prose “Un coup de dès jamais n’abolira le hazard”(1897) – was engaged with this highly ambitious project, that he called, simply, “Le Livre” (The Book). He envisioned "Le Livre" as a cosmic text-architecture: an extremely flexible structure that would reveal nothing short of “all existing relations between everything.” This Grand Oeuvre wholly freed from the subjectivity of its author and containing the sum of all books was, for Mallarmé, the essence of all literature and at the same time a “very ordinary” book. The realisation of this “pure” work that he planned to publish in an edition of precisely 480 000 copies never progressed beyond its conception and a detailed analysis of structural and material questions relating to publication and presentation. Yet to "Mallarmé, Le Livre", which was to be found the “true cult of the modern era”, was by no means a failure. “It happens on its own”, he explained of Le Livre’s unique action in one of his final statements. 100 years later, Klaus Scherübel started a layered and in-depth study of Mallarmé’s utopian dream. In the exhibition, Mallarmé, Het Boek (Leeszaal) 1999-2009, located in the left wing of the ground floor at S.M.A.K., and which for the occasion serves as a “conceptual reading room”, Scherübel presents himself as the publisher and guardian of Mallarmé’s controversial and quasi forgotten 19th-century, nonexistent literary masterpiece. Taking the hybrid form of a large promotional display and information room, the installation proposes to shed light on the significance and the conceptual foundations of Mallarmé’s enterprise while foregrounding the means and processes by which a standard book gains public existence. It consists of works covering a wide variety of media, like photo’s, text material, video, etc... Here the creation of a “possible cover” is striking in view of the status of the work – namely, that although the book is something that cannot be realised at the same time it represents the “conceptual basic line of thought” that has been achieved. The “Mallarmé, Het Boek” exhibition serves as a platform for the presentation of the first Dutch-language version of "Le Livre", which was published by mfc – michèle didier in Brussels, and which will be sold as an edition in the museum bookshop.

At the same time there will be a publication of a compilation of existing versions in German (Walther König, Cologne, 2001), English (Printed Matter, Inc, New York, 2004) and French (Optica and Musée d’art moderne Grand Duc Jean, Montreal / Luxembourg, 2005). The second installation by Klaus Scherübel – entitled Jack Torrance’s All Work and no Play (Catalog of the Book) 2006-2009 – may be regarded as the most recent chapter within a broader study and reconsideration of the perception of Jack Torrance’s creative output. We know Torrance mainly as the tormented character (played by Jack Nicholson) in Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’. In the film, Torrance is an author suffering from a writer’s block, a difficulty that will be at the origin of a highly unusual work, discovered by his wife Wendy as the film reaches his dramatic climax: her husband did not produce the expected literary text, but instead has compulsively produced text images by endlessly repeating, on his typewriter, the well-known maxim “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. Each page has been formatted differently in order to reference virtually all of the visual forms that a text can assume, from a nexspaper column to concrete poetry. This creation, which in the film is interpreted as the sign of an artistic failure and the symptom of a psychological crises, in fact involves – if we consider a variety of artistic and literary avant-garde strategies that can reach from French poet Stéphane Mallarmé up to Belgian artist Marcel Broodthaers and beyond – the production of a remarkable work that occupies an ambivalent position on the border between Conceptual art and a very visual form of experimental writing. Taking the form of a digital slide-projection, Jack Torrance’s All Work and No Play (Catalog of the Book) 2006-2009 refers now directly to the scene where Wendy Torrance experiences the infamous emotional kick while discovering her husband’s typescript. Instead of the dramatic atmosphere of the original, this new version offers the viewer a distanced glance on the totality of Torrance’s pictorial text work that has been reproduced, completed and edited by the artist. With the support of the General Delegation of Québec in Brussels. Text Jean-François Chevrier - 27.11.2009

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