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1.5” x 1.5” Acrylic Keychain - Engraved Kwikset KW10
w/ Riso-printed certificate
A fragment of fragments
Boot Shards are cut sections from a batch of “test tees”
Where serendipitous assemblages emerge during our production process.
Our intention is to have these special “test tees” into the world and jointly owned.
Fragments of a vessel which are to be glued together must match one another in the smallest details, although they need not be like one another. In the same way a translation, instead of resembling the meaning of the original, must lovingly and in detail incorporate the original's mode of signification, thus making both the original and the translation recognizable as fragments of a greater language, just as fragments are part of a vessel. - Walter Benjamin, “The Task of the Translator”
This opening text to the Tableaux Parisiens section of Charles Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal published by Walter Benjamin in 1923 is considered one of Benjamin’s earliest texts, though it shares concepts and ideas later developed in “The Work of Art in the Age of its Mechanical Reproducibility” (1939) and “A Short History of Photography” (1931)—specifically the relation between origin and its reproduction.
In all language and linguistic creations there remains in addition to what can be conveyed something that cannot be communicated; depending on the context in which it appears, it is something that symbolizes or something symbolized. It is the former only in the finite products of language, the latter in the evolving of the languages themselves. And that which seeks to represent, to produce itself in the evolving of languages, is that very nucleus of pure language. Though concealed and fragmentary, it is an active force in life as the symbolized thing itself, whereas it inhabits linguistic creations only in symbolized form.
Distriart NV was founded in 1987 in Ostend, Belgium, as an avant-garde art gallery in the form of a corporation. The idea was to have 1,000 owner shares of the company designed by 100 different international artists and to sell the share certificates as works of art.
16 artists who participated in this action, namely Roland Topor (France), Liliane Vertessen (Belgium), Ben Vautier (Switzerland), Roger Raveel (Belgium), Enrico Baj (Italy), Mark Kostabi (USA), Quik (USA), Jan Carlier (Congo), Jacques Charlier (Belgium), Antonio Segui (Argentina), Philippe Thomas/ Ready-Mades belong to everyone (France/ USA), A.R. Penck (Germany), Jenny Holzer (USA), Kriki (France), Raymond Pettibon (USA) and Claes Oldenburg (Sweden).
With these artists, the art project was implemented from 1992 to 1995. The artistically illustrated share certificates in Dutch with 30 coupons each were limited to 16 x 1000 pieces (dimension: 44 x 32 cm). On the back are the business statutes of Distriart NV. The share certificates are without par value.
NV (Naamloze VennootschapI) is a type of public company. The phrase literally means "nameless partnership" or "anonymous venture" and comes from the fact that the partners (the shareholders) are not directly known.
Vignettes are those miniature pictures printed on stock certificates. The New York Stock Exchange required the security certificates of listed companies to be printed with unique engraved vignettes. No two companies could share a vignette and the use of generic certificates was prohibited. The vignettes often depicted the industries that spawned them, like trains, planes and automobiles. Others included portraits of people, places and animals.
The 1953 NYSE Listed Company Manual stated:
The face of a listed security in definitive form must be printed, in its entirety, from at least two engraved steel plates—i.e., a border and tint plate, from which a printing in color is made of the border and portions underlying the face of the security; and a hand-engraved face plate containing the vignette and the descriptive or promissory portion of the security, printed in black. The combined impression of these plates must provide as effectual security as possible against counterfeiting. The printing of different classes and denominations of securities must be in distinctive colors, to make them readily distinguishable from each other.
The face text of all engraved listed securities should be in script lettering. If it is desired to use any other form of lettering, it is recommended that samples thereof be submitted in advance of engraving.
Translated into English what that means is: (1) stock certificates had to be printed in at least two colors – any color and black; (2) at least two steel- engraved plates had to be used (no lithography allowed); (3) the steel plate containing the vignette and description of the security had to be hand engraved (more difficult to counterfeit); (4) different denominations of certificates had to be printed in distinctly different colors; and (5) the text printed on the certificates had to be in a script-style font (again, more difficult to counterfeit).
Many are such fine art pieces that they deserve to be on display in galleries. Stock certificate vignettes were created to help prevent the counterfeiting of stock certificates. Just like the presidential portraits on our currency, their finely-etched detail was virtually impossible to duplicate by forgers. The vignettes were created by artists who painted in steel instead of on canvas. Ironically, it’s only now, on the death of the stock certificate, that these miniature masterpieces have been set free from their vaults to be admired by collectors. I suspect that if stock certificates had been printed without vignettes few individuals would collect them.
The certificate examination procedure was as much a physical process as a mental one: Did the texture of the certificate feel right? Were there any unusual marks or holes? Did the panel punch or any other aspect of the certificate appear to have been altered? Was the color correct? Did the Medallion Guarantee and broker stamps appear genuine? To experienced clerks the procedure became second nature. The actual document examination was conducted by experienced employees well versed in the laws governing the transfer of property. It took years of training and hands-on experience for an employee to earn the title “transfer agent.”
Duchamp’s Monte Carlo Bond
The Monte Carlo Bonds were a 1924 Marcel Duchamp work in the form of legal documents, created as bonds, originally intended to be produced in editions of 30. The creation of the work came out of Duchamp's repeated experiments at the Monte Carlo Casino, where he endlessly threw the dice in order to accumulate profit through an excruciatingly gradual process.
Duchamp first devised of the Monte Carlo Bonds at the Monte Carlo Casino after engaging with a system of his own that wagered in roulette, involving compulsive throwing of the dice in order to gain profit despite the process being excruciatingly slow. At one point, he increased the amount of money that was being wagered, leading to the eventual creation of the Bonds as profit-sealing legal documents that were still equally works of conceptual art that mockingly took advantage of both finance and gambling. They were intended to procure investors, but only the numbered versions of the Bonds entitled their owners to collect shares in the dividends of his company. The bonds prominently feature a photocollage portrait of Duchamp by Man Ray, with soapy hair shaped to resemble devilish horns. In the background, the phrase "moustiques domestiques demi-stock" (domestic mosquitoes half-stock) is looped in small green print.
A parody of a financial document in a system for playing roulette, this readymade revolves around the idea of monetary transactions. Giving himself the position of Administrator, Marcel Duchamp conceived of a joint stock company designed to raise 15,000 francs and thus "break the bank in Monte Carlo" (Sheets 38). It was to be divided into 30 numbered bonds for which Duchamp asked 500 francs each.
In the 1950s Italian artist and scientist Guiseppe Pinot-Gallizio produced a number of "industrial painting" rolls which were meant to be sold cheap by the meter and cut for the customer at the moment of buying. Ranging from 9 to 74 meters in length, they were produced in part by hand and in part with the aid of machines designed by Gallizio himself.
The purpose of his art can be seen as an attempt to abolish reproductions of art, to destroy metaphysical themes in art, to instead offer shares of art to everyone. In his Manifesto of Industrial Painting he writes: “when thousands of painters who today labor at the nonsense of detail will have the possibilities which machines offer, there will be no more giant stamps, called paintings to satisfy the investment of value, but thousands of kilometers of fabric offered in the streets, in markets, for barter, allowing millions of people to enjoy them and exciting the experience of arrangement.”
Despite mimicking other forms of work, Gallizio understood the industrial paintings as a way for art and painting specifically to ‘liberate antieconomic energies’ for a future age. Following this alternative mode of production, Gallizio’s paintings were sold by the metre in the street market of Alba as well as in commercial art galleries.
Gallizio, although central to the situationist operation, has largely been left out of recent Anglo-American SI scholarship. He officially joined the group in July 1957, when he was in his fifties and had already spent most of his life working as a professional scientist. He always presented himself not only as an artist but also as a chemist, botanist, and archaeologist. All of these fields were part of a unitary research platform that he hoped would defy disciplinary professionalization and help free modern science from its subservience to capitalism by reconnecting it to more “primordial” roots. Gallizio started to paint only toward the end of his life.
The Alba Experimental Laboratory, out of which grew the experiments with industrial painting, predates the SI. While it is an altogether different place, it has the same name as the extension of the Institute of Agriculture of Alba previously founded by Gallizio in 1946 to produce herbal medicines. According to Gallizio’s diary, the new experimental laboratory, which was in fact nothing more than his family residence, was founded in September 1955 as part of his collaboration with the Danish artist Asger Jorn, leader of the informal Mouvement International pour un Bauhaus Imaginiste (International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus, MIBI).
Jorn hoped to create, alongside his new allies, a popular institution (or “folk school”) in which they could conduct artistic, scientific, and technological research programs free from the demands of the industrial market. The cellar of Gallizio’s home was therefore renamed the Alba Experimental Laboratory in order to underline the relations that linked Gallizio’s current artistic production to his previous botanical and pharmaceutical research, all of which tried to mitigate the colonization of everyday life by what would soon be referred to as the military-industrial complex. Indeed, Jorn and Gallizio founded their experimental laboratory as a utopian project to develop new forms of creativity open to everyone and inextricably bound up with daily life so as to steer modern culture away from technocracy, militarism, and conspicuous consumption.
In the laboratory, Gallizio proclaimed that he and his friends were keeping alive a primordial spirit of communalism. Jorn, Gallizio, his son Giorgio (also known as Giors Melanotte), their friend Piero Simondo, and their assistant Glauco Wuerich discussed science, especially chemistry and quantum physics, along with aesthetics, philosophy, and politics. They called the collaborative paintings they produced in the laboratory, which were used mostly to decorate the walls, peintures d’ensemble (ensemble paintings). Local people and children were also encouraged to join them, to see their work on display, and to freely learn about Gallizio’s “anti-economic” experiments, supposedly the products of “pure working solidarity.” Occasionally joined by other artists from Italy or elsewhere around the world (such as the nuclearist artist Enrico Baj and the younger surrealist Roberto Matta), they worked collectively to produce a vast quantity of abstract-gestural paintings sometimes several meters in length in which they combined industrial and organic materials such as sand, oil paint, resins, metal filings, feathers, and egg shells. The informal collective of artists worked outdoors using instruments such as brushes, bottles, funnels, or agricultural sprayers. The artists worked in close proximity to one another, passing the paintings from hand to hand, either mocking or emulating workers exchanging pieces of equipment on an assembly line.
In early 1958—a few months after the founding of the SI in July 1957 in Cosio d’Arroscia, an event in which Gallizio and Jorn actively participated— the experiments with industrial painting continued. These first attempts were a direct continuation of the preliminary work produced during the Congress of Free Artists. However, the main difference is that the artists would produce one long roll— ultimately 68 meters long—of painting instead of several small canvases on a mock assembly line later to be cut into pieces.
At the Cavern of Antimatter (Caverne de l’anti-matière), an exhibition of Gallizio’s “industrial painting” presented at the Galerie Drouin, Paris, in May 1959, unfurled bolts of coated canvas lined the walls and ceiling in layers creating a total environment ready to be cut by the meter.
At the exhibition, cut strips of fabric were used as clothing, where the industrial paintings tried to renegotiate the traditional boundaries between architecture and the human body.
Such types of performative surrealist collaborations, argues Hal Foster, were bound up with social mechanization, but instead of trying to “cancel” it they are dialectically critical of it. Indeed, the collaborations “evaded the conscious control of the individual artist,” but they also consciously “mocked the rationalized order of mass pro- duction.” Much like its surrealist predecessor, industrial paintings were “critical perversions of the assembly line—a form of automatism that parodies the world of automatization.”
In Gallizio’s writing, destruction is always the precondition for construction: “My paintings/continuous destruction/ the only way to construct the gesture.”
In the Alba laboratory they were engaged in the search for a holistic rationality that would allow for the greater understanding of unexpected relationships and chance configurations, as well as for ecological concerns. This new rationality, which Gallizio liked to call “critical ignorance” (ignoranza critica) would also account for dreams and creative mistakes that make up a vast part of history and of daily life. In one of his undated diary entries, probably from 1958, Gallizio writes:
industrial painting technique
citizen of the anti-world
The principle of exchange in art
Pinot Gallizio, ‘Manifesto of Industrial Painting: For a Unitary Applied Art’, trans. by Mollie Klein, August 1959, http://www.notbored.org/gallizio.html