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Saâdane Afif. The Fountain Archives and Beyond

In 1917, a work entitled Fountain, consisting of an upturned urinal signed R. Mutt, was submitted to the first exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists of New York. Under this pseudonym, Marcel Duchamp tested the limits of the exhibition’s admission policy, supposedly open to any proposal and inspired by the motto of the Salon des Indépendants in Paris: ‘no jury, no prizes’. By selecting an ordinary object, a found object, Duchamp sought to destroy the notion of the singularity of the object of art. Fountain was rejected, just as Nu descendant un escalier (N°2) [Nude descending a staircase (No. 2)] had been rejected by the Salon des Indépendants in Paris in 1912. Duchamp then decided to orchestrate the Fountain’s presentation through a publication in The Blind Man, a magazine of which he was a co-founder. The original work disappeared and was never found again. Therefore, it is from a reproduction (a photograph by Alfred Stieglitz) accompanied by an anonymous commentary (‘The Richard Mutt Case’) that Fountain enters the history of art. Since then, Duchamp’s Fountain has generated countless comments and has become one of the most influential works of art of the twentieth century.

Saâdane Afif has turned the printed dissemination of Fountain into a monumental project. The Fountain Archives consists of three elements: the first, the ‘active’ part of the project, consists of the pages of publications, books, catalogues and magazines that reproduce a photograph of this iconic piece. The pages, taken from the collection of publications that the artist has been collecting since 2008, are torn out, framed and inventoried, creating a new readymade from one of the earliest and certainly the most iconic readymades in the history of art.

The second, the ‘passive’ part of the project, which Afif also calls the ‘mould’, is the library with the books from which the pages were taken. The shelves create an archive around Duchamp’s readymade, from which the common initiator has been removed: an archive without its object. This presentation of the library – complete for the first time in the installation at the Fundació Antoni Tàpies – by depriving the publications of their usual function, also gives it a sculptural character.

The third element, called Fountain Archives (Augmented), integrates the pages of publications with the comments generated over the years by Saâdane Afif’s work, illustrated with a reproduction of Fountain; the archive within the archive, in a kind of mise en abyme. These publications point to an evolution in the development and perception of The Fountain Archives as a work of art.

Appropriating inventory methodologies and playing with traditional museographic codes, Afif questions the production system, the status of the work of art, its reproducibility and the infinite field of its interpretations, as well as his formidable ability to produce narratives.

True to his way of doing things since 2004, Saâdane Afif has also commissioned several cultural producers to write lyrics based on Fountain for this project. A selection of these songs is part of the exhibition.

Saâdane Afif, FA.0400, 2014, turn out page from: Hall, Sean. « This Means This, This Means That: A User’s Guide to Semiotics ». London: Laurence King Publishing, 2012 – p. 145

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