Les animaux de la ferme
The Van Abbemuseum Collection consists of over 2800 artworks. We publish texts and images on an ongoing basis, but this record is currently in the process of being documented.
The work is a diptych consisting of two offset lithographs on card, each depicting three columns of cattle breeds. On the upper left corner, the caption "Enseignement agricole" (Agricultural education) leads us to believe the posters are either educational or scientific. However, each animal is labelled with a famous car marque such as Fiat, Jeep or Mercedes. The mismatch between the pictures and the words lends a humorous tone to the piece.
Marcel Broodthaers was a Belgian artist, photographer poet and filmmaker. He wrote poetry until the age of 40, at which point he decided to embrace a new career. He is often associated with the Concept Art movement and was strongly influenced by the Surrealist movement.
Broodthaers liked to play around with language and deliberately created absurd contradictions between words and visual images. He admired the work of René Magritte. In many ways, his piece follows Magritte’s approach developed in works such as Ceci n'est pas une pipe (This is not a pipe) in which the caption refers to the representation of a pipe. The artist therefore deconstructs the rationality of the language. He was also influenced by advertising, especially by its reproducible quality.
Words carry a weight and have the ability to shape our understanding of reality. They are powerful and help us categorize the world around us. When things are fixed into categories, they are subjected to dominance and control. At the same time, words and labels can help empower us and let us voice our claims.
%Take for example the word "lesbian". It can be detrimental to fix a person’s identity into a definite concept that may sometimes bind their individual stories and complexities into stereotypes and rigid preconceptions - "But sometimes I also sleep with men! But I don't look butch! But my identity is so much more than that!" However, it is also a powerful word that many women are able to reclaim and use to make them visible, to form strong communities, and to be understood in the world - "I want everyone to understand that I love women! I want "lesbian marriage" rights! I want a lesbian club in my home town or city! I want the state to recognize lesbian mothers!"
Do you still think it’s just a word?
%>Tags: essentialism, fluidity, identity politics, social constructionism, visibility
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