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Themesicon: navigation pathArt and Cinematographyicon: navigation pathBroodthaers

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language». [13] Sometimes the pipe is, in fact, obscured by the rising smoke, but in less literal terms the material object can be said to recede behind the captioned image of a phantom pipe. The pipe, as Broodthaers says, is represented as filmed language. However, things do not end here.

One might conjecture that the materiality of the static pipe is still registered by the spectator, albeit indirectly in the discontinuous stammer of the filmstrip with its many abrupt cuts. Furthermore, we might ask, what is the intrinsic role of this pipe? In watching the film, we appear to attend the rushes of an improbable film—a film without intrinsic organization or direction. In addition to this internal dispersion of figures, Broodthaers set an external process of multiplication in motion. The footage of La Pipe, namely, was itself submitted to an incessant operation of recombination that produced numerous variants such as «Ceci ne serait pas une pipe,» or «La Pipe (Gestalt, Abbildung, Figur, Bild).» This method of serialization was pushed to the point that it becomes impossible to always determine what constitutes a unique or finished work.


The frontality of the image in «La Pipe,» which is intermittently underscored by the engraved captions, is typical of Broodthaers’ early films. But despite this inscription of a silent voice, the speaker himself remains absent. Indeed whose speech is figured here? What mode of communication is being performed?

In the catalogue to the 1972 «Section des Figures» of Broodthaers’ museum we encounter the following instruction: «Read the text of Michel Foucault’s This is not a pipe». (Catalogue page of «Section des Figures») Let us, for the moment, take this advice of Broodthaers to heart, although a degree of caution will certainly prove warranted in the end. Following the artist’s lead, we must come to the conclusion that Broodthaers’ strange method of filming by numbers strives to linger on the threshold of symbolic speech. The object is given a figurative assignment within a language system, which, however, remains without a definitive, spatial organization. They show up, as it were, without any subject being there to claim them, to delegate them to their proper place.

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