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Themesicon: navigation pathArt and Cinematographyicon: navigation pathBroodthaers

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decor. [8] At this juncture it is important to note the connection that this masked self-portrait makes between cinema, or rather early cinema, and an enunciative mode of direct address. In this fashion, the silent gesture of the artist introduces a model of performativity that shall recur throughout the following discussion. Having stated this opening thesis, I can imagine two immediate questions concerning my approach. The first is of a more factual nature. After all, one might interject, Sadoul’s narrative in «L’Invention du cinema» ends in 1897 with the birth of cinema proper. The book, therefore, is not concerned with the history of early or primitive cinema. However, I will maintain that Broodthaers’ true topic is formed by the non-synchronous relation between the two founding moments of cinema’s technical invention and its industrial-commercial (re- )invention. I shall demonstrate how the stoical figure of early cinema functioned for the artist as a form of counter-memory to the progressive homogenization of the public sphere under the «vigilant eyes of the industrial mamas and papas«. [9]

The second question might well concern my use of


the term performativity. This linguistic category has gained widespread currency in recent discussions of contemporary art and, in particular, in the field of performance studies. For our purpose, however, we need not engage the full historical and theoretical range of this complex debate. It shall suffice at present to define the performative as a statement that carries no significance beyond its actual time and place of utterance. The performative, in other words, designates a mode of direct address that highlights its own conditions of enunciation. A performative utterance exhibits its own act of speech, as it were, and is therefore opposed to the usual suppression of the author’s voice in historical narration. On the other hand, by exposing the contingency of its position of speech, the performative statement is denied any transcendent authority. This fact was once celebrated during the sixties as the death of the Author, but it remains to be seen whether Broodthaers paid more than lip service to such a revolutionary liberation of language.

The hand of the masked artist thrusts the book forward into our view. Broodthaers, we might say, is

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